HOUSTON (ABP) — Compared to Southern Baptist Convention resolutions on the Boy Scouts and protection of children from sex predators, the one urging churches to develop intentional, compassionate ministries for the mentally ill got scant attention from local and national media.
But it wasn’t overlooked by 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.
Floyd, a former SBC Executive Committee chairman and Pastors Conference president, submitted a motion on mental health which was referred to SBC agencies and institutions for consideration. He was not the author of — but did support — the resolution overwhelmingly approved by messengers.
The vote on that resolution 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.
Floyd told ABPnews he has already begun pressing his ministry team at Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., to start looking for ways to reach out to people struggling with mental illness. Doing so is really just basic biblical principle, he said.
“Jesus told us to ‘minister to the least of these,’ and this is one of the most neglected groups in the church,” he said.