Mental Health Initiative Manager
Rev. Angela Whitenhill-Shields serves as the Mental Health Initiative Manager of the National Benevolent Association, the health and social service general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). 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. Before beginning full time as manager, Angela lead the research and design team that created the initiative’s five focus areas, and created the program designed to be carried across the life of the church.
A graduate of the University of Denver and Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Angela holds two master's degrees—a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work—and earned a Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute, where she also served as a psychotherapist at the institute’s community clinic.
As a licensed clinical social worker, Angela specializes in spirituality integrated psychotherapy, religious trauma, children’s trauma and attachment issues, identity issues, life transitions, and clinician, clergy and leadership mental health and wellness. With proven success in interdisciplinary program development, intercultural bridge building, and organizational leadership, Angela served as a chaplain and a therapist at Tennyson Center for Children, where she helped create one of the nation’s few spiritually integrated residential treatment programs. She has created and facilitated multiple training workshops on therapeutic intervention and cultural competence within the social work field, and has developed curriculum for the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, where she serves as an adjunct faculty member.
Angela was recently ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) North Carolina region. She is a clergy activist and faith community justice educator, and is known for organizing in such a way that pays close attention to the nuanced intersections of social identity, religious belief, and mental health. Active in her congregation, Covenant Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Angela co-leads racial justice efforts through Community in the Heart of Christ, as well as co-leads an affirming LGBTQ+ Christian Support Group through Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that helps churches and individuals welcome LGBTQ+ community through conversations, worship and story.
Getting to Know Angela
Why do you feel "called to care" about Disciples health and social service ministry?
I’ve always seen myself as a mediator, someone who is a “go-between,” who sees the points of connection between what others might perceive as two disparate realities. So being a part of one of the most tangible threads that connects the church to the community around it, Disciples Health and Social Service ministry, seemed like a perfect way to live out my hope for wholeness in a fragmented world.
Who is a hero of yours, and why?
I’d have to say my parents and people like them. Specifically, people who’ve experienced childhood traumas and heartache, yet found the strength, motivation, and heart to find healing, in order to create a life for their own children, or others, to live free of such pain. The power of their determination and perseverance is something I am humbled by, knowing that I may never understand it, thanks to them, but I will always benefit from it. This motivated by career path, and has served as the foundation for the work I do as a mental health professional and minister.
If I tried to find you in a supermarket, what aisle would you be in?
I love the fruit and veggie section! The colors, the little rain storms, the guacamole ingredient stands… I can’t imagine life without it. I know some people hate grocery shopping, but it’s sort of a highlight of my week. I sometimes play a grocery shopping playlist while I peruse the aisles. Weird, I know, but oooh so satisfying! Don’t knock it until you try it. ☺