Encouraging those in attendance to adopt a “theology of life,” Frank S. Page delivered the keynote address during a Christian counseling conf. that focused on depression.
Ouachita Baptist University’s Pruet School of Christian Studies hosted the sixth annual Conference on Issues in Christian Counseling at OBU on Feb. 26. Sponsored by Ouachita, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the one-day conference brought together a total of 160 mental health professionals — counselors, nurses and social workers — and pastors from around the state to examine the issue of depression.
A Christian theology on mental illness, mental health and suicide is needed, said Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There are many people who are not darkening the doors of your church because of depression,” he said. “Some feel like people in the church don’t understand. Guess what? Many don’t.”
Page shared his family’s personal experience with both depression and suicide. Page is the author of several books, including “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide” that he wrote after his daughter took her own life in 2009. He also appointed a Mental Health Advisory Group in response to a motion on mental health ministry and a resolution on mental health concerns introduced at the 2013 SBC annual meeting.
“We know suicide is a horrible experience,” he said. “The pain that is left behind for family and friends is a pain that may deaden over time but never heals completely.”
Stating that the Bible deals with depression and suicide, Page referenced depression in Psalm 42and seven biblical examples of suicide: Abimelek (Judges 9), Samson (Judges 16), King Saul and his armor bearer (1 Samuel 31), Ahithophell (2 Samuel 17), Zimri (1 Kings 16) and Judas (Matthew 27).
Citing 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Page said, “The theology of life begins with a recognition that we do not belong to us. In our culture today, everyone teaches, ‘You belong to you.’ Well, that’s not what we believe. A Christian theology promotes a stewardship of God’s ownership of everything, including our own lives.”
Page also stressed the need to confront negative responses and bad theology and challenged mental health professionals and pastors to “minister the Word of God and God’s comfort to those who are depressed and hurting.”
“Practice the ministry of presence,” Page said. “Our Lord does not leave us, but sometimes that ministry is best performed by those in the helping community — in church and in the medical professions and psychological professions. You are the hands and feet and heart of Jesus reaching out to those around you.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press