It is estimated that somewhere between 10% and 20% of people are to some extent dyslexic. For some, their dyslexia is something very mild and can go unnoticed; for others, it makes life much more difficult. This means that we will all be engaging with dyslexic people on a daily basis, and that there are dyslexic people in our congregations and among our clergy.

So, what if we told you almost everything you think you know about dyslexia is probably wrong? Dyslexia is often thought of as a learning difficulty – we want to set the record straight on that. Dyslexia is a learning difference.

Many dyslexic people struggle with educational structures that are considered ‘normal’, such as reading, spelling, grammar, numbers etc. These struggles will be different for each individual with dyslexia. But it is less often recognised that people living with dyslexia also have great strengths in creativity, problem-solving and seeing a bigger picture. Take, for example, people like Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Keira Knightly, Sir Richard Branson, Lewis Hamilton and the Rt Revd Sarah Mulally, Bishop of London – all highly successful and creative people in their fields.

In 2018, a small group of clergy in Buckinghamshire got together to form the Bucks Clergy Dyslexia Forum as a place of mutual support. It soon became clear that the group would also be about raising the profile of dyslexia within ministry and offering support to churches who want to understand and explore the issues further.

Since then, some Forum members have left the diocese, and the rest of us have been joined by clergy from other parts of the diocese to form the Clergy Dyslexia Forum. If you would like to join the Forum, or to know more about how we can support you in understanding and exploring in more depth the different aspects of living with dyslexia, please contact Gill Lovell.

Dyslexic strengths

As dyslexic clergy, we believe that not only is dyslexic thinking a positive for the church, but in the fast-changing world we live in, dyslexic thinking is essential. Where more and more is able to be handled by artificial intelligence, dyslexic thinking is vital to the survival of any organisation or body. Within the church that goes from parish level to diocesan, and even global. We have the gifts and strengths to see the bigger picture and to be able to envision the path that leads us forward.

The organisation Made by Dyslexia have put forward this 21st-century definition of dyslexia:

Dyslexia influences as many as 1 in 5 people and is a genetic difference in an individual’s ability to learn and process information. As a result, dyslexic individuals have differing abilities, with strengths in creative, problem-solving and communication skills and challenges with spelling, reading and memorising facts.

Generally, a dyslexic cognitive profile will be uneven when compared to a neurotypical cognitive profile. This means that dyslexic individuals really do think differently. Traditional benchmarking disadvantages dyslexics, measuring them against the very things they find challenging.

Dyslexic in the pulpit

Dyslexic in the Pulpit is a Facebook group for people involved in Church leadership who are dyslexic.

It is open to anyone involved in the leadership of a church, such as vicars, lay readers, worship leaders, youth workers, bishops, those in training or exploring God’s call, and more – and although primarily Anglican, all Christian denominations are welcome.

It is about supporting and encouraging one another in our dyslexic strengths and weaknesses (trying to primarily focus on encouraging our strengths) but also a place for advice and to share our frustrations.

Apply to join the group.