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Suicide of prominent pastor Jarrid Wilson forces church leaders to confront mental health

CLOSE Health reporter Jayne O’Donnell interviews Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. USA TODAYThe first time he thought about killing himself, Adrian Crawford was wracked with fear, shame and guilt. He believed deeply in God but couldn’t shake the darkness that surrounded him. Did being plagued with depression and anxiety…

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Suicide of prominent pastor Jarrid Wilson forces church leaders to confront mental health

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Health reporter Jayne O’Donnell interviews Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
USA TODAYThe first time he thought about killing himself, Adrian Crawford was wracked with fear, shame and guilt. He believed deeply in God but couldn’t shake the darkness that surrounded him. Did being plagued with depression and anxiety make him an inadequate Christian? He had tried everything he’d been taught in church – praying, reading his Bible, being anointed so many times “you could have deep-fried me in holy water.”Nothing helped. But a part of him hesitated: If he killed himself, was he condemned to eternal torment in hell? That was more than two decades ago, when Crawford, now 41, was a freshman at the University of Tulsa. Now, as the lead pastor of Engage Church in Tallahassee, Florida, Crawford speaks openly about his mental health struggles, including sharing them with his congregation. Adrian Crawford, 41, lead pastor of Engage Church in Tallahassee, Florida, preaches regularly about mental health, including sharing his own struggles. (Photo: Colin Hackley, for USA TODAY)After the suicide Monday of Jarrid Wilson, a well-known pastor in the evangelical community, Christian leaders across the country are grappling with how to address and help believers struggling with depression and anxiety – including when those struggling are the ones leading the church. Recent decades have seen more churches embrace compassion and turn away from longtime teachings about suicide and the afterlife. Suicide prevention experts: What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s lifeSuicide is a growing problem in the United States. In 2016, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that suicide had increased 30% since 1999 and that nearly 45,000 people took their own lives that year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34, and one in five adults experience mental illness each year. Just 43.3% of adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018. Wilson, most recently an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a megachurch in Riverside, California, had been transparent about his own mental health struggles, passionately advocating for churches to help those who were hurting. He co-founded a mental health nonprofit, Anthem of Hope, and frequently posted on social media about his own experiences. He is not the first prominent pastor to kill himself: In August 2018, Andrew Stoecklein, lead pastor of the Chino, California, megachurch Inland Hills Church, took his own life a few days after preaching a sermon about his struggles with mental health. Both Wilson and Stoecklein were married with young sons when they died by suicide.Tommy Givens, an associate professor of New Testament studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, sees progress around the mental health conversation within faith communities, particularly with the inclusion of psychology courses for those studying ministry. “To Jarrid’s credit, despite how his life ended, him being honest about his struggles, especially for people from places of prominence, it changed the atmosphere around this conversation,” Givens says. Givens says there’s evidence all over Scripture of people dealing with depression, hopelessness, a sense of defeat and doubting the existence of God. People suffering from mental illness need to know “this is part of the canon” and they’re not alone, he says. Crawford put it this way: “The entire book of Psalms is basically the songs of a manic-depressive person, if you read it closely.”Debating what happens after we dieMany Christian leaders say they are eager to bring mental health into sermons, but they worry about what they call “toxic theology” that can surround conversations about suicide, especially when that theology condemns people to hell. For a long time, that was the teaching, according to James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University’s divinity school in Nashville, Tennessee.For centuries, suicide was treated as a moral sin, Hudnut-Beumler says. The ancient Catholic Church, for example, took a two-pronged view: First, those who die by suicide have thrown away the soul that was given to them by God. Second, by killing themselves, they have taken away the opportunity that would otherwise be available to confess that sin and ask for forgiveness. More: Michigan couple: Priest, ‘bully’ coach ruined our son’s funeralHudnut-Beumler says many churches held on to this “well into the 20th century because they didn’t want to give anyone a nod or a wink that suicide is OK. They wanted people to work it out. However, with society’s growing understanding of mental illness and the terrible places that people’s minds can lead them, there is a growing pattern of theological reflection that says perhaps God can and will forgive what human beings will not understand.” There’s more compassion for people suffering from severe mental illness, too, particularly as Christianity moved away from the belief that mental illness was caused by demons or evil spirits. Hudnut-Beumler says that while young ministers were often taught that suicide is a permanent solution to a short-term problem, there’s now an understanding that “for people inside the problem, it feels insurmountable.” Pastors relate to Jarrid WilsonFor years, Steve Austin, a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, buried feelings of anxiety, depression and suicide. Sexually abused as a preschooler, he started to recover memories as a senior in high school, which led to severe panic attacks. He told no one of his past trauma. “I had big dreams of pastoring a megachurch, and saving the world for Jesus,” he says. “How could I ever share my brokenness?” Seven years ago, at age 29, he attempted suicide. It was not, he says, a cry for attention. When he woke up, “I was mad as hell. I was furious to be alive.” Jarrid Wilson, an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship who founded the mental health nonprofit Anthem of Hope, died by suicide Sept. 9. (Photo: Vitaly Manzuk, AP)But now he tries to walk others through hopelessness. Austin got out of formal ministry and no longer pastors a church, but he still speaks to congregations around the South. He describes himself as part life coach, part spiritual companion. He wrote a book about his journey, “From Pastor to A Psych Ward,” available free on his website for anyone struggling.And while he sees progress in the evangelical community when it comes to speaking frankly about mental health, “I long for the day when I can talk about my anti-anxiety medication like my dad talks about this cholesterol medication.” Six years ago, Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, commissioned a study with LifeWay Research, an organization that helps church leaders conduct surveys. It found that 48% of Evangelical Christians believe mental illness, including depression and anxiety, can be cured purely by reading the Bible and praying more. Those numbers startled Stetzer. “I think we need to talk about mental health like we talk about diabetes – it’s an illness,” he said. “What makes it unique is that pastors are supposed to be the helpers, not need help. They’re supposed to speak about the glory of life, not take their own lives. “We have to get people to understand: It’s OK if your pastor struggles with depression, it’s OK if he or she has to be on medication. We have to get to a point where pastors feel like they can come out of the medicine cabinet and be honest.” More: Son’s death by suicide in college prompts mom’s activismAs evangelical leaders try to create a safe space for everyone – especially other leaders – to share their struggles, they’re also cognizant of gender and racial barriers. Stetzer says every marriage book, Christian or not, talks about how men have a harder time than women expressing fears and pain. That means that part of faith leaders’ responsibility in leading the conversation around depression and anxiety involves acknowledging the gendered expectations placed on men and the problems that can bubble up because of that, he says. For Crawford, who is a black man, having frank discussions about mental health first involves stripping away decades of stigma that have existed in communities of color.“You have to understand that my father is a baby boomer who lived through the civil rights era and Jim Crow laws,” Crawford says. “In his world, you couldn’t show emotions as a black man or you could get killed. For black people in our country, it was just about survival. In church you’d hear so much about heaven because black people were already living through hell on Earth.” As a result of that, Crawford says that from a young age, he and other African Americans were taught that depression and suicide were “white people problems”; they were not issues discussed within black families or black churches. There was a certain pride, almost, in being able to “tough it out,” which is what black people did every day in every aspect of their lives, Crawford says.In 2019, a whole host of pressures can collapse on a person, including social media. U.S. deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide hit highest level since record-keeping beganIt’s easy to look at someone’s life on social media and play the comparison game. Pastors are guilty of that, too, Crawford says, and it can spiral quickly for a pastor already struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Acknowledging that social media has been crucial in spreading the Gospel, he believes it’s key to also recognize its pitfalls.Stetzer is planning a summit in early 2020 where evangelical leaders can talk about how to better help their congregations and other pastors struggling with mental health. He says those problems also need to be discussed more from the pulpit. “We need more sermons, because sermons break stigmas – and they’re happening,” he says. “The bottom line is that the uniqueness of the pastoral role in this forces us to answer the question: ‘Why is this happening and how do we respond better?’ We’ve got a lot of work to do.” If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/09/14/jarrid-wilsons-suicide-forces-churches-confront-mental-health/2313458001/
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B.C. voters heading to the polls as snap election called for Oct. 24 | CBC News

After weeks of speculation, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has made official the worst-kept secret in the province: British Columbians are heading to the polls.  Horgan said Monday he had called an election for Oct. 24 after meeting with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and asking her to dissolve the legislature.”I’ve struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easily to me,” said…

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B.C. voters heading to the polls as snap election called for Oct. 24 | CBC News

After weeks of speculation, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has made official the worst-kept secret in the province: British Columbians are heading to the polls.  Horgan said Monday he had called an election for Oct. 24 after meeting with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and asking her to dissolve the legislature.”I’ve struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easily to me,” said Horgan, acknowledging the controversy of calling an early election during a pandemic.  But he said that, with COVID-19 expected to be a fact of life for the next year, an election made sense now.  “We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instability over the 12 months … or we can do what I believe is always the right thing and ask British Columbians what they think.” The announcement comes after weeks of speculation that Horgan would call an election just over three years into his mandate, and it comes after six cabinet ministers announced their retirements in the past seven days. The NDP currently have 41 seats in the legislature, as do the opposition Liberal Party, while the Green Party has two. WATCH | B.C. premier announces Oct. 24 election: British Columbia voters will head to the polls on Oct 24. Some are criticizing the premier for moving forward early, but John Horgan says COVID-19 would have been a factor no matter when he called an election. 1:59 How did we get here? Horgan has led a minority government since July 2017 after his New Democratic Party and the Greens teamed up to defeat the Liberals in a confidence vote following a May election with no clear decision.  Since that time, he has led the province with the support of the Green Party — under a unique and formal agreement — and passed legislation setting a fixed election date for October 2021. The agreement also stipulated Horgan “will not request a dissolution of the legislature … except following the defeat of a motion of confidence.”   But, in calling the election, Horgan argued the province found itself in unique circumstances because of the pandemic and that the Green Party had also broken a rule of the agreement by introducing an amendment to a government bill without notification. “The issues of 2017 are not the issues of 2020,” said Horgan.  “What we did in the past is one thing, and what we need to do in the future is quite another matter.”  Horgan also repeatedly argued that an election would create more certainty for the province if one party had a majority government and the ability to make decisions without consulting other parties. “We need a stable government,” he said.  Up in the polls Horgan will attempt to become the first two-term NDP premier in B.C. history and heads into the campaign with his party up in the polls and with the highest personal approval rating of any premier in Canada, according to recent surveys by Angus Reid. In recent weeks, the B.C. Liberal Party and the Green Party have criticized Horgan for considering an election during a global pandemic. While British Columbia received plaudits for its initial containment of the virus, cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent months, and the effects of students returning to class are still not fully known.  The opposition parties quickly attacked Horgan for calling an election.  “Today, John Horgan chose politics over people,” said Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who said his party will announce its platform and full list of candidates in the coming weeks. “The only reason for this general election is to try and secure the jobs of the NDP … it’s not necessary.” Horgan is seen after the news conference in Langford, B.C., where he announced the election. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press) Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she spoke with Horgan on Friday, and told him she and fellow Green MLA Adam Olsen would continue to support the NDP on legislation if an election was not called.  “When people are worried about their kids being back in school, when people are worried about their jobs, when people are worried about their housing, this is not a time where we put the interest of a political party ahead of British Columbians,” she said.   A number of longtime MLAs have said they won’t be seeking re-election, including NDP cabinet ministers Carole James, Judy Darcy, Shane Simpson, Michelle Mungall, Doug Donaldson, Claire Trevena and Scott Fraser. Liberals Rich Coleman and Linda Reid, and former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver have also said they will not run again.
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First man to climb Everest 10 times dies at 72

All the ascents to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit of the world’s tallest mountain between 1983 and 1996 by Ang Rita, who went by his first name, like many Sherpas, were made without bottled oxygen.The 72-year-old, who had suffered brain and liver ailments for a long time, died at his home in the Nepali capital of…

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First man to climb Everest 10 times dies at 72

All the ascents to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit of the world’s tallest mountain between 1983 and 1996 by Ang Rita, who went by his first name, like many Sherpas, were made without bottled oxygen.The 72-year-old, who had suffered brain and liver ailments for a long time, died at his home in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, his grandson, Phurba Tshering, said.Ang Rita was also known as the “snow leopard” for his climbing skills.”He was a climbing star and his death is a major loss for the country and for the climbing fraternity,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, a former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.The body will be placed at a Sherpa Gomba, or holy site, in Kathmandu, and cremated on Wednesday according to sherpa tradition, Ang Tshering said.Many other climbers have since surpassed Ang Rita’s feat, with one member of the community setting a record of 24 ascents.

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U.S. Justice Department threatens to strip federal funds from cities it says allow ‘anarchy’ | CBC News

World·NewThe U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets.New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have been identified as 3 cities that could lose fundingThomson Reuters · Posted: Sep 21, 2020 4:22…

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U.S. Justice Department threatens to strip federal funds from cities it says allow ‘anarchy’ | CBC News

World·NewThe U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets.New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have been identified as 3 cities that could lose fundingThomson Reuters · Posted: Sep 21, 2020 4:22 PM ET | Last Updated: September 21Police and protesters square off Saturday, July 25, 2020, near Seattle’s Central Community College. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for cities such as Seattle, which it claimed has allowed anarchy and violence on the streets. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press )The U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.In a joint statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler accused the Trump administration of playing politics and said withholding federal funds would be illegal. “This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The president is playing cheap political games with congressionally directed funds,” the statement said. “Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House.” Many cities across the United States have experienced unrest since the May death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. In some cases the protests have escalated into violence and looting, but the majority have been largely peaceful.  Protesters march in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Last week, the DOJ urged federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges against protesters who have burned buildings and engaged in other violent activity in American cities. (Mark Graves /The Oregonian via The Associated Press) The federal government has mounted a campaign to disperse the racial justice protests, including by sending federal agents into Portland and Seattle and encouraging federal prosecutors to bring charges. Last week, the Justice Department urged federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges against protesters who have burned buildings and engaged in other violent activity. Monday’s threat to revoke federal funds was the government’s latest escalation in its quest to curb the protests. It comes after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month issued a memo laying out criteria to consider when reviewing funding for states and cities that are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities.” The criteria include things such as whether a city forbids the police from intervening or if it defunds its police force. In all three cities, the Justice Department said, leadership has rejected efforts to allow federal law enforcement officials to intervene and restore order, among other things. In a press briefing earlier on Monday, New York City Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson promised a court battle if the Trump administration proceeds to cut off the funds. “The president does not have the authority to change the will of Congress,” he said. “We are preparing to fight this in court if, ultimately, he actually takes concrete steps to withdraw federal funds.”With files from The Associated Press
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