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What Pastors Need to Know About Mental Health, Ministry, and Liability
What Pastors Need to Know About Mental Health, Ministry, and Liability
How both legal experts and ministry leaders approach mental health issues in the church.
  1. Both the individual's mother and father had been informed by several physicians and psychologists that he needed acute psychiatric care and should commit himself or be committed. The parents rejected this advice.
  2. The church actually arranged several visits to physicians or psychologists in addition to encouraging the individual to continue to see and cooperate with the physicians and psychiatrists he was already seeing.

“Although the California Supreme Court rejected the Court of Appeal’s imposition of a duty to refer on pastoral counselors, the facts surrounding the case cannot be overlooked,” says Runquist. “In fact, a concurring opinion found that there was a duty [on the part of the church], but that it was not breached in this case” (emphasis added).

This means that churches may indeed be taking on some legal duty by offering counseling—even if the counseling is solely spiritual in nature and that spiritual nature is made explicit. How much liability they take on, however, depends on the church and what it communicates to its counselees and community.

Pastors need to weigh carefully the help they offer to those dealing with mental illness and how that help is conveyed. This is especially true given the scope of the issue—and the inadequate preparation for it on the part of most pastors.

Pastors have ‘next to zero’ training

The reality of mental illness is larger than has been historically acknowledged in our culture—both in Christian circles and outside of them.

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Posted:
May 30, 2017
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