June 13, 2022

Signs of Faith

The Session experience of a deaf delegate.

Debbie Michel, Adventist Review
Photo by James Bokovoy

In a moment worth noting, Jeffrey Jordan stood at the microphone to advocate for making churches a more welcoming place for people with disabilities. Speaking as the first Deaf delegate at a General Conference (GC) Session, Jordan made an impassioned case for inclusivity because, as he sees it, “every person has a possibility that God can use.”

Jordan is pushing to remove the stigma of identifying individuals solely through their disability and seeing them instead as people with their own passions, interests, and unique personalities.

When the Session vote was taken to create opportunities and recommend ways to “assist in the discovery of roles or ministries that bring a sense of meaning and fulfillment,” Jordan was happy to see his church stand with a group that  often remains at the margins.

Role Model

As the first Deaf delegate, Jordan says, he’s honored to serve as a representative for the millions of Deaf across the globe.

Born and raised in California, he was the only Deaf person in his hearing family. While a student at California State University at Northridge, he was involved in lay ministry to the Deaf at the Northridge Seventh-​day Adventist Church. Other Deaf students attended and were blessed to have their own church service, where he’d preach from time to time. During this time, he met his future wife, who was pursuing studies for a career in sign language interpreting.

[Photo by James Bokovoy]

He was impressed to go into ministry and enrolled at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. The university provided sign language interpreters for his class lectures, and he eventually graduated with his Master of Divinity degree.

Jordan went on to become pastor of the Southern Deaf Fellowship congregation in Tennessee, which has 77 members today, with others watching online each week. In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he is the associate coordinator for the GC’s Adventist Possibility Ministries.

Removing the Stigma

Jordan says he hopes to continue raising awareness about the Deaf community of faith, that they are a people group with a specific language and a specific culture who can assist in the running and the functioning of the church.

“I want hearing people to understand that my church, their church, includes Deaf members,” he says. “They can run and function just like a hearing church, whether it be [special] services — marriages, funerals — or regular church services.”

Life as a Deaf Delegate

Most delegates can move around the floor while still keeping up with what’s happening on the stage. But that’s a challenge for someone who gets all their information through their eyes.

“Other people have an advantage that they can multitask, they can write, or they can do other things as they’re still listening,” he says. “It’s different for me, because I have to rely on the interpreter.”

But, he says, “I will be honest with you; while it is tiring, I have thoroughly enjoyed the time.”