Suicide In the Church
Our hearts go out to Rick and Kay Warren as they now walk through the valley of the shadow of death in a way that is unimaginable for any parent who has not been there. Our prayers go up to the heavenly Father who is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Cor 1:3-5). May the Warren family know the sufficiency of the grace of Christ in ways they have not known before.
In response to Matthew’s death, the Internet is a flurry with articles about the subject of mental illness, depression, and suicide and, specifically, how the church should interact with these realities of living in a fallen world. One particularly cautious, careful article is one that may not get much attention. Therefore, I encourage you to read Suicide in the Church by Dr. Ab Abercrombie of the Biblical Counseling Institute. Dr. Abercrombie writes from the perspective of one who has been involved in counseling ministry for over 30 years, holds a M.S.W. degree in Clinical Social Work and a Ph.D. in Human Services with a major in Psychology. He is licensed to practice in both Alabama and Florida as a professional counselor and family therapist, and is a Southern Baptist pastor.
Practically everyone in the Christian community has been affected by the suicide of Rick Warren’s son Matthew. The Body grieves with this influential pastor and his family as they face the unfathomable process of coping with this unimaginable loss.
Matthew’s death has also prompted the Church to examine our views on mental illness, psychiatric/psychological treatment, and medication. Many prominent Christian leaders have not only offered public statements of support for the Warrens, but are taking this opportunity to express opinions about an extremely sensitive subject that impacts a growing number of believers.
Most leaders are encouraging the Church to acknowledge that matters of depression and suicide are medical in nature and should be addressed no differently than other physical illnesses. They imply that to do otherwise promotes stigma and shame and restricts the believer’s access to appropriate care. [After mentioning recent articles from Ed Stetzer and Samuel Rodriguez, he continues…]
The statements made by Stetzer and Rodriquez seem impulsive at best, and potentially dangerous. Both esteemed leaders make very definitive statements that many in the Christian community will embrace as factual, when in fact they are not. In reality these matters are questions requiring study and biblical discourse. To suggest that these matters have been settled in Scripture, or even in science, is absolutely untrue.