SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has named a volunteer advisory body of local church leaders and professionals in the mental health field. The advisory group will advise him on possible ways of better communicating with Southern Baptists about mental health ministry needs in their churches and communities and the availability of ministry resources to address those needs.
During its February 17–18 meeting in Nashville, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee concurred with the spirit of a motion referred from the 2013 SBC annual meeting regarding mental health ministry and voted to amend an annual ministry report form it solicits from the SBC's entities to include questions asking appropriate entities what they are doing to assist Southern Baptist churches in equipping and ministering to people with mental health challenges.
The Executive Committee also voted to "continue to seek ways to work in cooperation with SBC entities and others to address the severe challenges imposed by mental illness."
The Executive Committee was responding to a motion by Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, at last year's annual meeting in Houston.
Floyd's motion asked "that the messengers of the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention . . . request that the Executive Committee and the Bylaw 14 entities of the Southern Baptist Convention work in cooperation to assist our churches in the challenge of ministry to those suffering from mental health issues, and that each entity in their written annual ministry report inform the messengers what they have done, are doing, and will do annually to assist our churches in equipping and ministering to the people in our churches and communities who suffer with mental health challenges."
Bylaw 14 of the SBC constitution names as entities the International and North American mission boards, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources, the Ethics and Liberty Commission, and the SBC's six seminaries.
Messengers to the 2013 SBC annual meeting also approved a resolution on "Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God," affirming the "immeasurable value to God" of those with mental health concerns, committing to "affirm, support and share God's love and redemption with those with mental health concerns" and opposing "all stigmatization and prejudice against those who are suffering from mental health concerns."
The resolution affirmed messengers' support for "the wise use of medical intervention for mental health concerns when appropriate" and "research and treatment of mental health concerns when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview."
The resolution affirmed that "those in Christ cannot be separated from the eternal love of God that is in Christ Jesus" and asked Southern Baptists and their 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."
In keeping with the advisory nature of other advisory groups named by the EC president, the mental health advisory group is designed to assist him and other SBC entity leaders by (1) reviewing current mental health ministries offered through SBC ministry entity, state convention, associational, and local church initiatives; (2) assessing the best practices of such ministry initiatives; and (3) suggesting ways in which these ministry initiatives can or should be formalized through other means. The group's goal is to consider ways to assist SBC entity leaders and local church leaders in their common task of reaching all people with the transformative Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The advisory group will neither launch nor execute official SBC ministries, although individual members may develop their own ministry affinity networks to further engage churches in ministries to individuals and families with mental health needs. Its role is to provide information, insight, and counsel to EC staff concerning the special needs and concerns of persons and families experiencing mental health issues in the Southern Baptist network of churches.
Since the advisory group is not an official committee of the Convention, no budgetary funds have been allocated for its meetings. It is comprised of a representative set of mental health providers, local church practitioners, and other ministry specialists who have agreed to serve as part of the advisory group and to meet at their own expense.
The advisory group will issue a report to the EC president to assist him in framing these ideas into a presentation model for discussions about mental health needs with members of the SBC Great Commission Council and ministry leaders in state conventions, associations, and local churches, with a goal to leverage such discussions toward a more comprehensive mental health ministry strategy.
Mental Health Advisory Council Members:
- Tony Rose, chairman; LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Kentucky;
- Debby Akerman, Ocean View Baptist Church, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina;
- Danny Akin, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina;
- Kay Arnold, Village Chapel, Nashville, Tennessee;
- Will Bacon, Dogwood Church, Tyrone, Georgia;
- Kelly Campbell, The People's Church, Franklin, Tennessee;
- Doug Carver, First Baptist Church, Matthews, North Carolina;
- Kent Choate, The Church at Battle Creek, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma;
- Ray Cleek, First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee;
- Daniel Darling, First Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, Tennessee;
- Ronnie Floyd, Cross Church, Springdale, Arkansas;
- Brad Hambrick, The Summit Church, Durham, North Carolina;
- Chuck Hannaford, Germantown Baptist Church, Germantown, Tennessee;
- Eric L. Johnson, LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Kentucky;
- Ian Jones, First Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana;
- John R. Jones, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas;
- Pepper Pratt, Englewood Baptist Church, Jackson, Tennessee;
- Shannon Royce, Columbia Baptist Church, Falls Church, Virginia;
- Ken Sartain, First Baptist Church, Hughson, California;
- Matthew S. Stanford, Antioch Community Church, Waco, Texas;
- Belva Weathersby, Simeon Baptist Church, Antioch, Tennessee;
- Sam Williams, North Wake Church, Wake Forest, North Carolina;
- Lennox Zamore, Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church; Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands.
This story was adapted by SBC LIFE from a Baptist Press news article written by Diana Chandler.