Friday, May 3, 2013

Tragic, high profile Baptist suicides

In widely reported news Rick Warren's son committed suicide last month. Because of the high profile of his father, the tragic death of Matthew Warren triggered a considerable discussion among both church and secular observers.

There is a book coming out soon authored by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page about his daughter's suicide back in 2009.

Nashville reporter Bob Smeitana has an article on the subject that focuses on Frank Page:

Suicides, assaults drive Southern Baptists to focus on mental illness

Page and several other Baptist leaders plan to meet in Dallas, Texas, this spring to address mental illness. The meeting was prompted by the Newtown, Conn., shooting and has gained more urgency since the suicide of Matthew Warren, 27-year-old son of California megachurch pastor the Rev. Rick Warren.

The publicity and action of such a meeting of high profile Baptist leaders can only help an area in which we are relatively weak, and silent. 

Although suicide has touched every church I have ever pastored and every community that I have lived in has a story about a pastor suicide, the subject is somewhat taboo among the brethren.

In the article linked LifeWay's Ed Stetzer is quoted:

In a blog post after learning of Matthew’s suicide, Stetzer wrote about how mental illness has affected his own family. Several of his relatives have taken their lives, as did a parishioner in a church that he served as a young pastor.

“We need to stop hiding mental illness,” Stetzer said.
Stetzer said some evangelical Christians think that if they pray enough or become more spiritual, then their mental illness will go away. But they don’t look at other health issues the same way.

“People who become a Christian and have a broken leg will still have a broken leg,” he said. “We tend to think that Jesus fixes what is in our heads, and medicine fixes what is in our body. Sometimes what is in our heads needs medicine.”

Stetzer is right and the sooner SBC pastors and others understand that, the better off we will be. We tend to believe we (and our families) are bulletproof. We are not.

Frank Page said,“I do not want you to imagine what that is like [to have a child commit suicide],” he said.

I have sons and a daughter and do not want to imagine what this is like.


Anonymous said...

Much needed dialogue William. I am grateful it is being addressed. Depression, panic, anxiety is very real and it is very cruel.

Stuart Houston

Jack Wolford said...

It's particularly important for pastors that know mental illness is a major part of one person or both who want to get married and come to him for his advice . Some of these things can be inherited and aren't nice and the consequences need to be discussed openly so the correct choice is made .

Blake said...

Baptists are unfortunately also silent on gun control. Of the many Christian blogs that noted Matthew's suicide not many also mentioned the method of his suicide. I had to find that out in the secular media. Friends don't let mentally ill friends keep guns.