L’Arche Resources

Disability, Religion, and Spirituality Database

Database website: https://sites.baylor.edu/disabilitytheology/

The “Disability, Theology, and Spirituality Database” is a collection of data covering topics in the field of religion and its intersection with disability. Here, you will find journal articles, books, manuals, pamphlets, movies, songs, documentaries, and many other publications that discuss such topics as Autism, Dementia, emotional or behavioral disorders, intellectual and learning disabilities, inclusion, worship, education, etc. within the framework of religion and spirituality.  

L’Arche Syracuse decided to create this searchable online database to assist not only L’Arche, but also the range of individuals and organizations who seek such information. After communicating in 2021 with a few scholars and authors in the field about this idea, Bill Gaventa [1] put L’Arche Syracuse Executive Director John Knechtle [2] in touch with Professor Devan Stahl [3] at Baylor University who, as part of her involvement with the Institute on Theology and Disability (which Bill founded), was also thinking of creating such a database. They agreed to collaborate and welcomed Baylor University library’s offer to host the database on its website. 

John advertised for a Research Assistant and selected Iuri Piovezan, an undergraduate student at Temple University who has since gone on to graduate school at Villanova University. Iuri was and is the primary person inputting information into the database.  

To help guide the development of the database, an editorial board was formed which consists of Professor Devan Stahl, Bill Gaventa, Professor Erik Carter [4], and John Knechtle.  

[1] Rev. Bill Gaventa is Chair of the National Collaborative on Faith and Disability and Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. He is past Editor of the Journal of Disability and Religion and served as President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD). He was the Director of Community and Congregational Supports at Rutgers University’s Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, and Associate Professor, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Among his many publications is the book, Disability and Spirituality, Recovering Wholeness2018, Baylor University Press.

[2] Before coming to L’Arche Syracuse, John Knechtle was a law professor for 23 years teaching constitutional law, environmental law, jurisprudence, and international human rights courses, most recently at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad. While teaching in Florida he created international criminal law internships at international tribunals in The Hague, Sarajevo, and Phnom Penh. He co-founded the American & Caribbean Law Initiative (ACLI) which is a consortium of U.S. and Caribbean law schools and faculties running programs on U.S. and Commonwealth Caribbean law. He served as a Fulbright Scholar in Uzbekistan and as an international environmental law consultant in the Caribbean on projects funded by United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank and the Organization of American States (OAS). He has authored or co-authored six books, chapters for five books, and fifteen journal articles. John learned about L’Arche when his church in Washington, D.C., Church of the Saviour, helped found L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. He served as treasurer on its board and then went on to become the president of the board of L’Arche USA, a member of the board of L’Arche International, and president of the board of the L’Arche USA Foundation. After volunteering for L’Arche for over 30 years, he gladly accepted the offer to join the community of L’Arche Syracuse.

[3] Devan Stahl joined the Religion department at Baylor in the fall of 2019 after four years as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Ethics at Michigan State University. She has experience teaching bioethics and medical humanities to undergraduates, medical students and residents, nursing students, and veterinary students. She has also worked as a clinical ethicist in tertiary hospitals and has trained as a hospital chaplain. Dr. Stahl’s latest book, Imaging and Imagining Illness: Becoming Whole in a Broken Body is an edited volume examining the power of medical images and their impact on patients and the wider culture.

[4] Dr. Erik Carter, Ph.D., is Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities at Baylor University. His research and writing focus on principle-driven and research-based strategies for promoting full participation, relationships, and valued roles for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). He serves as Executive Director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities, which aims to promote the thriving of people with disabilities and their families. He joined the Baylor faculty in 2023. One strand of his research addresses the intersections of faith and disability. Dr. Carter’s work in this area addresses the spiritual lives and flourishing of people with IDD and their families, the practices and postures of inclusive churches, and faith-based partnerships with disability service systems. A second strand explores the pathways to inclusion and belonging for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). He is particularly interested in capturing the reciprocal and lasting benefits that come through friendships and life lived together in community.