As the health and social service general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the NBA takes seriously its call to create communities of compassion and care. In doing so, the NBA has been called to engage in dialogue and action centered on issues related to mental health.
In response to General Assembly Resolution GA-1523, which calls the church to become a “welcome and support to people with mental health illness and disorders,” the NBA, in partnership with Disciples Home Missions, launched the Mental Health Initiative. Throughout the fall and winter of 2015-16, a Research and Design Team met regularly to define the purpose and goals of this group. Formally launched in May 2016, the Mental Health and Congregational Care Affinity Group was the first part of the overall strategy developed by the Research and Design Team, who continue to serve as an Advisory Team for the Mental Health Initiative. In 2017, the affinity group expanded to a full initiative lead by Angela Whitenhill, who transitioned from convener of the affinity group to manager of the Mental Health Initiative to oversee the breadth and depth of the expansion.
With hopes to support the prioritization of mental health and wellness in the life of the church, the Mental Health Initiative aims to establish the necessary awareness and understanding required to counter stigma and change the landscape of conversation regarding mental illness and disorders within the church. The Mental Health Initiative has four main vision areas to do this work:
- Cultivate welcoming, educated, and inclusive congregations by countering stigma of mental illness and raising awareness of mental health
- Provide resources and educational support for Disciples congregations, clergy, seminarians, and community members
- Collaborate and connect with existing ministries, social service agencies, organizations, and initiatives
- Encourage the sustainability and innovation of mental health ministries in congregations, regions, and the general Disciples community
Mental Health Affinity Group
As part of the Mental Health Initiative, the Mental Health Affinity Group (MHAG) aims to support ministries of the church in becoming adept at identifying and addressing issues related to mental health and congregational life through two Task Teams.
- The Liturgical/Theological Resource Task team gathers, creates, and inspires mental health-focused liturgical resources and theological reflections for congregational worship and education.
- The Mental Health and Justice Task Team works to address issues of injustice related to mental health services and policies through an advocacy team that will work in collaboration with other NBA Affinity Groups pursuing justice work.
Sign up for one of these MHAG task teams by completing the interest form below!
Stories and Resources
As the Mental Health Initiative expands this year, you can continue engaging with us in a variety of ways, including:
- A blog series, featuring guest authors exploring topics such as the stigma of mental illness in the church, holding a Mental Health Sunday in your congregation, working with youth with mental health challenges or cognitive differences, mental health challenges in immigrant communities, and more.
- A webinar series, including several webinars offered in partnership with the NBA Prison and Jail Ministries Affinity Group.
- Video resources, including our 2015 "Mental Health for the Holidays" and 2017 "Hope for the Holidays and Winter Seasons of Our Lives" series.
- NBA's "Called to Care" eNewsletter, a monthly email featuring stories across Disciples health and social service ministries - sign up here!
“So often we celebrate the many layers of diversity within our denomination, while centering our witness in encouraging the multitude to gather at the table in one spirit. And now, with the leadership of this group, I am excited that we can deepen this articulation of diversity to incorporate the more complex aspects of our humanity, and expand our celebration to lift up the fullness of our testimonies without shame or stigma." --Angela Whitenhill, Mental Health Initiative Manager
- Rev. Monica Wedlock Kilpatrick, Director of Connect Ministries
- Angela Whitenhill, Manager, Mental Health Initiative
The Mental Health Initiative is a shared effort with Disciples Home Missions, in response to the adoption of Resolution GA-1523 “Becoming A People of Welcome and Support to People with Mental Illness and/or Mental Health Issues” by the 2015 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Stay tuned for more information as the Initiative expands. We look forward to deepening our partnerships and shared work moving forward!
To learn more and get involved, please contact Angela Whitenhill, Mental Health Initiative Manager, or fill out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!