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In this moving and intelligent book John Gillibrand, an Anglican priest, draws on his experience of caring for his non-verbal son, Adam, who has autism and is now a teenager. He reflects on how the experience has changed not just his life, but also his whole way of thinking about theology, politics and philosophy.

Illuminated by an account of his day to day experiences with Adam, and deeper reflection upon the meaning of that experience, John Gillibrand considers the challenges that autism – and disability in general – present to the western tradition of thought in theology and philosophy. His experiences lead him to consider the place of people with autism in relation to religion and philosophy, and how the difficulties in providing adequate public services for those with autism and their carers point to a need for radical transformation of western political structures.

This thoughtful and incisive book will be of interest to theologians, philosophers and sociologists, as well as to all those trying to integrate people with autism into society. Parents and carers will find much to reflect on.

Shortlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize for theological writing 2013.


Theologically, it provides the first substantive interrogation of the meaning (and meaninglessness!) of autism and the distinctive questions this disability raises for our consideration. I highly recommend it to all who live or work with people with autism and who have theological and philosophical interests.
Journal of Religion, Disability and Health
this work presents a significant contribution to the growing field of disability theology as well as to theological anthropology more broadly.
Modern Believing
this insights shine through his writing, as gems mined from a rich seam of live experience, a strong faith and a father's love for his child.
Church Times
At heart this book is a powerful personal testimony that reveals something of the nature of the brokenness that comes with suffering and at the same time the possibility of new hope... The Beauty of the book is that it runs across intellectual boundaries. Parents looking for the beginning of a language to express their pain, suffering, disappointment and joy will find something useful in this book. Academics and philosophers who, through reflection on the experience of autism, want to begin to rethink who God is and what the Church should be, will also find much sustenance. This book is an important contribution to the theology of disability.
The Way
Disabled church, disabled society is an ambitious book in which he discusses the implications of autism for state, society and church. I found his work moving, thoughtful and thought-provoking. The personal becomes not only political, but theological and philosophical.
"The Friend" The Quaker weekly
Combining poignant personal honesty with an extraordinarily wide range of theological and philosophical learning, John Gillibrand has written a book that takes us well beyond the usual boundaries of studies in autism to raise questions about our human identity, suggesting that we jeopardize human dignity most when we try to bind it to the characteristics we can recognize and value and understand as mirroring only our own faces.
from the Foreword by Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
This deeply moving book poses profound questions about people with severe learning difficulties in the life of the Church and wider culture... The book comprises several elements, including robust and fascinating accounts of the medical nature of autism and of its status in British law. Of especial interest to clergy, lay Christians and theological educators, however, will be Gillibrand's reflections on the spiritual implications of autism, both in terms of how biblical texts are read and understood and in terms of liturgy.
Theology, SPCK, Susannah Cornwall, University of Exeter
... a profoundly moving reflection on the life of one person, and a searching questioning of the traditional ways in which Christian theology has approached the lives of people whose identity is silenced by the condition under which they live. Within the broader body of the so-called theologies of disability, Disabled Church - Disabled Society is an important and substantial contribution, and to be recommended.
The Expository Times, Peter A Comensoli, School of Divinity, Edinburgh University
This book is an encouragement to engage in personal reflection and to create personal theology. It is apologetic, evangelical, passionate and deeply moving.
Pobl Dewi
The book explores autism and disability in general in terms of philosophy, theology and politics and I will never be the same again... I am so privileged in meeting with Adam, that I have heard his voice and the voice of a thousand others, a cry in the silence.
GoodBookstall Review