"Jesus called us to care for the suffering, to care for 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 isolated, stigmatized and rejected…It's time for the SBC to be on the front lines of mental health challenges."
Senior Pastor at Cross Church, Arkansas
Southern Baptist messengers have just returned home from Houston, where they gathered for the denomination's Annual Meeting. During the two-day event, some interesting business was conducted, which captured the attention of the media – both Christian and secular. Christianity Today, on its Gleanings website, broke the news as follows:
"Within an hour, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) approved three interesting resolutions today at the denomination's annual meeting in Houston, Texas.
Just after 10 a.m., convention attendees approved a resolution that calls "on all Southern Baptists to report allegations of child abuse to authorities." The resolution, filed more or less in response to the high-profile lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), was amended to ask that "SBC leaders and employees practice the highest level of discernment in affiliating with groups or individuals that possess 'questionable' policies and practices in protecting children against sexual abuse," according to Baptist Press (BP), which live-blogged the morning's votes.
Fifteen minutes later, SBC members weighed in on mental illness…
Finally, SBC members expressed their dissatisfaction with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and its recent decision to allow gay youths as members."
Our previous post highlighted the resolution concerning the protection of children against abuse, with which we were extremely pleased, and next week we hope to address the resolution involving the Boy Scouts. The focus of today's post is the resolution regarding mental illness.
Jeff Brumley of the Associated Baptist Press shared this overview of what transpired on the convention floor:
"Ronnie Floyd, an Arkansas pastor who’s become a passionate advocate for mental health in the wake of national and personal tragedies involving psychological disorders.
“It’s a massive issue,” Floyd said, citing the Sandy Hook massacre and suicides by children of two friends: Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page.
It’s not enough for Southern Baptists to respond to such situations after the fact, Floyd told ABPnews Wednesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
“My plea is, let’s be proactive on this issue,” he said…
In passionate remarks presenting the motion on Tuesday, Floyd said churches must not be silent on the subject and must combat the stigma of mental illness. Most churches, he added, do a fine job meeting the spiritual and physical needs of people, and must now learn to address emotional needs.
“It’s time for the Southern Baptist Convention … to rise up with compassion” to let those afflicted with mental illnesses know “that we walk with them,” Floyd said."
Thanks to live streaming, I saw Floyd present this motion and later discuss it at length before all of the messengers. I was so grateful that he addressed this important matter in such an eloquent way.
In its article Mental Health Issues Garner SBC Attention, the Baptist Press provided these details:
"The resolution offered by the SBC Committee on Resolutions sought to "affirm, support and share God's love and redemption" while opposing "all stigmatization and prejudice" to those with mental health challenges.
The resolution identified such mental health issues as autism disorders, intellectual disability, mental health conditions like schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety orders, bipolar disorders and diseases of the aged including dementia and Alzheimer's…
Specifically addressing suicide as "a tragedy, leaving heartache, pain and unanswered questions in its wake," the resolution urged that families of victims be treated with "great care, concern and compassion" from Christians and churches. Included in this is the "assurance that those in Christ cannot be separated from the eternal love of God in Christ Jesus."
And it called for churches to find ways to love, minister and develop methods and resources to those who struggle with these challenges and their families."
The Baptist Press piece discussed additional amendments that were offered with regard to the proposed resolution on mental illness. According to the BP article:
"…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.
A third amendment was offered by Steven Owensby, pastor of First Baptist Church in Enoree, S.C. — 'that the mission of 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 with godly biblical counsel.'
Resolutions Committee chair Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, regarded the amendment as 'friendly,' adding that 'affirming biblical, godly, pastoral counsel is an essential in local church ministry.' "
Perhaps those who read our previous posts on biblical counseling saw the same RED FLAGS we did in those amendments — "sufficiency of Scripture as the final authority on all mental health issues" (which was defeated) and "godly biblical counsel" (which was affirmed).
In our upcoming post, we will expound on our concerns about 'biblical counseling' when used to treat mental illness. We are greatly concerned that phrases like 'biblical counseling' and 'godly biblical counsel' squeaked (sneaked) into the resolution approved by the SBC messengers. We have learned quite a bit about biblical / nouthetic counseling, and we are troubled that Christian counselors are implementing it.
Until then, you may also want to read an article featured in The Christian Post entitled "Suicide, Mental Health at Forefront of Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting".
As we conclude today's post, we want to honor a brother in Christ – Todd Wilhelm – who left the following comment on our blog:
"I made this video today because I was happy that the SBC passed the amendment put forth by Peter Lumpkins. I wish to thank him, Dee and Deb and the hundreds of others who have seen fit to enter the fray and fight for those without a voice. I know the battle can be wearisome at times, but the Lord hears our cry. God bless all of you."
We know that Todd has sacrificed much to fight against child sex abuse in the church, and we greatly admire his courage and convictions.
God bless you, Todd!
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 9:1-10:29 Acts 8:14-40 Psalm 130:1-8 Proverbs 17:2-3