At the Southern Baptist Convention yesterday, Pastor Ronnie Floyd introduced “A resolution on mental health concerns and the heart of God” with these words:
Mr. President and Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, I wanted to appeal to you for your overwhelming support of this motion. Jesus called us to care for the suffering, “the least of these.”
We often overlook them. At times, their lives are so disrupted and severe they require intervention. These people and their families are often isolated, stigmatized, and rejected. They are referred to as “the mentally ill.”
Our churches and communities are filled with people who need us to minister to them and their families. 58 million Americans and 450 million people globally meet criteria for a mental disorder. These are often chronic conditions that must be managed, not cured. One million of these individuals around the world die as the result of suicide annually.
In recent years and days, we have seen mass shootings and disturbing events that have left us stunned. Even some of our well-known Southern Baptist families have lost loved ones due to mental health challenges. Southern Baptist Pastor, Rick Warren tweeted recently: “Why is it…if any other organ in your body breaks you get sympathy, but if your brain breaks, you get secrecy and shame?”
The church must answer this question. We can no longer be silent about this issue and we must cease with stigmatizing those with mental health challenges. Pastors, church leaders, and all of our churches must become equipped to care for the least of these.
When that horrific EF5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were on the scene immediately. Baptist Press reported a powerful testimony of a woman who was led to Christ by one of our chaplains. She stated, “I was going to take my life today. But now I know God cares for me and people care.” When disasters occur, we do a phenomenal job as Southern Baptists in the middle of material and physical rubble.
Now it is time that we do as great of a job in our churches and our communities, demonstrating compassion in the emotional rubble that can be piled high in the people and their families who deal with mental health challenges. It is time NOW that the Southern Baptist Convention is on the FRONT LINES of the mental health challenges.
Therefore, I call upon the Southern Baptist Convention to rise up with compassion, letting America and the world know, that we will be there to walk with them, minister to them, and encourage them in the mental health challenge that plagues their lives and traps their families from the needed love and support they long for from the body of Christ.
This report says that “the resolution was debated for 15 minutes as two amendments were offered that sought to affirm the sufficiency of Scripture as the final authority on all mental health issues. Messengers defeated the amendments as discussion centered on the recognition that any mental illness, just as any other physical condition, needs medical care.” If anyone can supply me with the report of this part of the debate, I’d be very grateful.
I was so encouraged by the clear and compassionate Christian leadership in this resolution. Read down to the “resolved’s” below and hear the clarion call to Christ-like action.
The Final Resolution
WHEREAS, God made all things perfectly good in design for His glory and the good of humanity (Genesis 1–2); and
WHEREAS, Adam and Eve rebelled against Him, choosing their own way and the way of the Evil One, and consequently ushered sin and disorder into our world and the whole human race (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12–21; 8:22); and
WHEREAS, As a consequence of this Fall, humanity is subjected to many kinds of mental health problems including autism spectrum disorders; intellectual disability; mental health conditions like schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and eating disorders; and diseases of the aged such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; and
WHEREAS, God did not abandon fallen humanity but loved the world (John 3:16–17) and launched a plan of redemption—a restoration that is incomplete in this age but will be perfected in heaven (1 Peter 1:3–9); and
WHEREAS, Those with mental health concerns, like all people, are crowned with honor and dignity, being made in the image and likeness of God (Psalm 8:4–6; James 3:9); and
WHEREAS, Those with mental health concerns are disproportionately represented among the homeless and in our correctional systems, indicating a tragic neglect of these persons who are made in God’s image; and
WHEREAS, Those who are struggling with mental health concerns often feel isolated, stigmatized, and rejected, sometimes resorting to self-destructive behaviors, including suicide; and
WHEREAS, Suicide is a tragedy, leaving heartache, pain, and unanswered questions in its wake; and
WHEREAS, Recent events in our nation and among God’s people have underscored the tragedy of mental health concerns and their devastating toll within our families, our churches, and our culture; and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ spent time with and healed some of the most marginalized members of the culture of His day; and
WHEREAS, God has appointed His people to be the main representatives of His heart and values to the world; and
WHEREAS, God has called us to share the Gospel of Christ with all people, including those suffering various mental health concerns; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, on June 11–12, 2013, affirm that those with mental health concerns are of immeasurable value to God; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the mission Jesus described as His own in Luke 4:18-19 should also be the mission of His church, namely to proclaim liberty to those who are oppressed by means of godly biblical counsel; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we commit to affirm, support, and share God’s love and redemption with those with mental health concerns; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we oppose all stigmatization and prejudice against those who are suffering from mental health concerns; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we support the wise use of medical intervention for mental health concerns when appropriate; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we support research and treatment of mental health concerns when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview; and be it further
RESOLVED, That families who have lost a member to suicide deserve great care, concern, and compassion from Christians and their churches, including the assurance that those in Christ cannot be separated from the eternal love of God that is in Christ Jesus; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we call on all Southern Baptists and our churches to look for and create opportunities to love and minister to, and develop methods and resources to care for, those who struggle with mental health concerns and their families.