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..
— that a special task force be appointed to explore youth programs to teach leadership skills and moral standards once offered by the Boy Scouts of America “seeing they have lost their way and lost their moral compass, the Bible,” submitted by Harold M. Phillips, messenger from Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md.
— that the SBC withdraw fellowship from Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, due to their support of the “abortion provider Planned Parenthood,” as indicated on their website, submitted by Steven Ball, messenger and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Childress, Texas.
— that the SBC reevaluate Article III of the Constitution, particularly subpoints 1 and 2 to update minimal standards used to define participating churches and messengers, offered by John Mark Yeats, pastor of Normandale Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Yeats noted that the base gift of $250 required to send each additional messenger to the SBC has not changed since 1888, “a sacrificial amount then, but a token amount today.”
One motion, referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, asked that individuals speaking in an official Southern Baptist capacity refrain from stating a “supposed unified” or official position of Southern Baptist on immigration amnesty or pathway to citizenship. The motion was offered by Channing Kilgore, messenger from South Whitwell Baptist Church in Whitwell, Tenn.
A motion by Paul Cunningham, a messenger from Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, asked that reserved seating at the front of the auditorium be open to all messengers and not reserved for groups other than the handicapped. The Committee on Order of Business reported that the motion “was well received” and will be implemented.
Another motion that a list of all convention elected trustees (including the name, church, state and term) be made available through the Southern Baptist Convention’s website, (www.sbc.net), submitted by Jay Adkins, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Westwego, La., was ruled as an internal matter and referred to the Executive Committee.
Four motions were ruled out of order by President Fred Luter acting on the recommendation of the Committee on Order of Business.
Two of the motions presented by Wiley Drake, messenger from First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., were ruled out of order because they expressed an opinion best accomplished through a resolution and sought to give responsibility to the SBC President not in the scope of his work:
— that the SBC president lead the convention to observe the “Biblical Celebration of the Saturday Sabbath, along with our Lord’s Day on Sunday.”
— that the SBC president lead the convention to follow the www.call2fall.com project with the 1.5 million people of the Family Research Council from Washington, D.C., and designate Call 2 Fall in June 2013.
A motion presented by Kenneth Reiter, a messenger from Live Oak Baptist Church in Jacksboro, Texas, asking the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to “investigate the American Cancer Society’s stand on stem cell research,” was ruled out of order because it directed the work of a SBC entity.
Another motion ruled out of order asked for SBC entities to refrain from using commercial advertisements to solicit funding from sources other than from the churches, presented by Phillip Senn, a messenger from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Troy, Tenn.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.