"Opponents said the amendments [to the SBC resolution] reduced mental illness to a solely spiritual issue. Following such suggestions to their logical conclusion, messenger Bob Cleveland of Pelham, Ala., said would make Southern Baptists like Christian Scientists when it comes to mental health."
While we applaud Ronnie Floyd’s effort to address mental health challenges affecting Southern Baptists, we are concerned about a few red flags in the resolution that was adopted. In case you missed Floyd's motion, he published it on his blog in this post – Mental Health Challenges and the Response of the Southern Baptist Convention. Floyd's motion ended with this admonition:
"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."
What did Floyd mean by the SBC being on the FRONT LINES of the mental health challenges? And how do we identify those challenges? Should Southern Baptists be putting schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and autism, for example, under the same mental health umbrella? If Southern Baptists have had difficulty in the past addressing these mental health issues, lumping them together could be a major misstep.
Furthermore, we are extremely concerned about the amendments that were tacked onto the SBC Resolution dealing with mental health challenges. Here is how those amendments were presented, as explained in an article in the Associated Baptist Press:
"While messengers did ultimately agree with Floyd by approving the resolution, the vote came after several minutes of debate on proposed amendments that sought to promote Scripture as the best source of mental health.
Opponents said the amendments reduced mental illness to a solely spiritual issue. Following such suggestions to their logical conclusion, messenger Bob Cleveland of Pelham, Ala., said would make Southern Baptists like Christian Scientists when it comes to mental health.
Only one of the amendments was approved – and with overwhelming support. Introduced by South Carolina messenger Steven Owensby, it added language encouraging churches to provide “godly, biblical counsel” for people with serious mental disorders.
Owensby told ABPnews his intent was to remind pastors they must be part of members’ psychological recovery, just as they must be available during physical health challenges.
'I know there are body problems and there are soul problems, and I want to make sure we’re focused on both of those,' said Owensby, pastor of Enoree First Baptist Church.
The resolution approved Wednesday urges Southern Baptists to 'oppose all stigmatization and prejudice' and supports 'the wise use of medical intervention for mental health concerns when appropriate.'
It also expresses support for 'research and treatment of mental health concerns when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview.'
Lastly, it calls on 'all Southern Baptists and our churches to look for and create opportunities to love and minister to… those who struggle with mental health concerns.' "
TWO ASPECTS OF THIS RESOLUTION GREATLY TROUBLE US…
(1) Churches are encouraged to provide “godly, biblical counsel” for people with serious mental disorders
Steven Owensby, the pastor who introduced this amendment, appears to be a true believer in Biblical Counseling. Over the last year he has been pursuing certification in biblical counseling through Redeemer Biblical Counseling Training Institute located in Moore, South Carolina according to his Curriculum Vitae. Once his certification is completed, he plans to pursue a Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Furthermore, we believe it's worth noting that Owensby has attended the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010 and 2012 and a 9Marks Weekender in 2011 (according to his C.V.).
In our attempt to gain an understanding of what Steven Owensby means by "godly, biblical counsel", we found his January 14, 2013 blog post somewhat revealing. Owensby wrote:
"Dr. [Jay] Adams [founder of the Biblical Counseling movement] seems to make clear that the observations of psychology should find use inside of Biblical Counseling. The conclusions and thus treatments of psychologists which we know as psychiatry deserve only the strident, fair-minded critique of Biblical Counselors. That said, let me quickly make note that while Adams’ position seems clear, far too many Biblical Counselors practically ignore or degrade psychology and psychiatry all together.
To that, I must scream guilty as charged. The greatest benefit of this class occurred as it helped me to chart a way out of the choppy waters of intellectual assent to psychology’s worth, but practical aversion to interaction with psychological knowledge. In essence the class helped me to develop an Apologetic for Biblical Counseling…"
While we're not absolutely certain what Owensby is saying in his post, we believe he means that psychology and psychiatry are inferior to Biblical Counseling; however, we could be wrong.
Perhaps now we have some insight into what he meant by "godly, biblical counsel"…
(2) Southern Baptists were encouraged to show support for “research and treatment of mental health concerns when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview”
What if effective treatment methods result from research conducted by atheists or researchers of other faiths? Do Southern Baptists really want to go down this path? If so, do they avoid those drugs and treatments that have been proven to be effective in treating serious mental disorders if the 'research is not undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview'?
What in the world does this amendment mean and where are Southern Baptists to draw the line in this regard?
One of our loyal readers attended the SBC Annual Meeting in Houston, and he shared the following comment in response to our previous post:
"I was at the meeting and voted against both amendments. Lemke said that the “sufficiency of Scripture” amendment was not appropriate because it ignored the medical aspects of mental illness. But then Lemke received the “biblical counsel” amendment as “friendly.”
I read both of these actions together. If one proposes to a group of sincere Southern Baptists that anyone in any situation should receive godly bibilical counseling, that is going to be warmly received.
Context is everything here. The messengers clearly and correctly perceived that the first suggested amendment was an attempt to deny the medical aspects of mental illness. The messengers were having none of that.
The second suggested amendment may have been trying to achieve the same thing, but was not perceived as such.
In the end, however, one has to go by the actual words of the amended resolution. So, we ended up with something that can be read to mean something that the messengers may not have intended.
This kind of thing happens. It’s regrettable, but it happens.
The people who believe in a “biblical counseling only” type of approach may try to use the Resolution toward their ends, but if the messengers are an indication of the people in the pews, I am hoping those efforts will not go far."
We have been concerned about Biblical Counseling for some time (see links below), and we are troubled by the direction the SBC appears to be moving in with regard to mental health challenges.
Rest assured that the SBC's Resolution Addressing Mental Health Challenges has alerted us that Biblical Counseling is a hot button topic and that it needs to be moved to the front burner here at TWW. We leave you with this clip which could be likened to a biblical counselor dissin' a psychiatrist who goes through YEARS and YEARS of specialized training.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 11:1-12:19 Acts 9:1-25 Psalm 131:1-3 Proverbs 17:4-5