2013 SBC ANNUAL MEETING
HOUSTON (BP)–Messengers offered 12 motions June 11 during the opening day of the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston, the fewest number in recent years.
Only one of the 12 sparked discussion, a motion that brought an impassioned plea from its presenter, Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor and messenger from Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
In a motion on mental health, Floyd called on SBC entities to work cooperatively to create and identify resources available to individuals and churches that minister to those who suffer from mental health challenges.
“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,” Floyd said.
He cited statistics that 58 million Americans and 450 million persons worldwide suffer from mental disorders and 1 million die from suicide annually. These chronic conditions must be managed, not cured, he explained.
Churches and communities are filled with people who need Southern Baptists to minister to them and their families, he said.
Floyd referred to recent mass shootings, “disturbing events left us stunned,” and suicides within the Southern Baptist family. He recalled a recent Twitter feed by California pastor Rick Warren, who lost his own son to suicide. Warren tweeted: “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, Floyd said. “We can no longer be silent about this issue. We must cease in stigmatizing those with mental health challenges.”
He noted that when disasters occur, Southern Baptists do a “phenomenal job” in relieving the suffering.
“Now is the time we do as great a job in our churches and communities demonstrating compassion to the emotional level that can be piled high in the people and families that deal with mental health challenges.
“It’s time for the SBC to be on the front lines of mental health challenges.”
After Floyd addressed the convention, SBC President Fred Luter said “mental health is an issue that has affected all of us, someone in our family or local church.”
The motion was referred to the SBC Executive Committee and all SBC entities for study, with their reports to provided to messengers at the 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore.
In an interview with Baptist Press after making the motion, Floyd said he was compelled to action after attending a symposium of Christian professionals on the heels of the Newton, Conn., shootings and “matters within our own SBC leadership.” The group discussed how to “mobilize the church and SBC around this issue,” he said.
After making the motion, Floyd said he had been stopped by fellow pastors telling him they had lost children to suicide; were dealing with some form of mental illness in their family; or were suffering from depression themselves.
Many Southern Baptist entities have resources, but need to inform churches of their availability, he added. “We need to look at the issue and formulate some action plans.”
Other resolutions referred to the Executive Committee for study to be reported back to the SBC in 2014 were:
► that the Executive Committee publish a theological position paper on Southern Baptists’ use of gender-neutral Bibles, reconsidering the three SBC resolutions opposing the use of such translations, and consult the “scholarly work found in the CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) article, ‘An Evaluation of Gender Language in the 2011 Edition of the NIV Bible,’” offered by Tim Overton, Halteman Village Baptist Church, Muncie, Ind.
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