In the spring of 2005, my friend on the Conference Board of Church and Society and I were disappointed to hear a conference level committee had rejected a Conference Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries petition. I asked him to find a way to rescue this and he did.
The rest of this e-mail is about how this was done and the great news about a very good outcome.
In June of 2005, a lay member reminded the Conference of a motion submitted to the 2004 Annual Conference and referred to the Spiritual Formation and Leadership Circle for study which called for the establishment of a conference coordinator of mental illness ministries. It was rejected by the Circle. He described the need for ministry to the mentally ill and made the following motion:
"This N.C. Annual Conference asks our Bishop to appoint a task force on mental illness ministries which shall be charged to identify our mental health needs within the state and conference, including both clergy and laity; develop a workable but comprehensive strategy for meeting those needs; and from that submit to the Bishop and next conference a specific plan for action and ministries - with reasonable financial estimates and timetables - appropriate for the conference, the districts, and the local congregations. The size of the task force is left to the Bishop's discretion but should at least include volunteer representatives from the Spiritual Formation and Leadership Circle, Church and Society, incapacity and insurance committees, CJAM, CFA, and any other appropriate agency or board involved in health issues or conference finances."
The outcome of this motion being passed was the formation of The Committee on Disability Concerns thanks to the efforts of the Executive Director of Conference Connectional Ministries who is very concerned about mental health issues. This fall, he made sure that our conference media center order the whole set of training videos recently made to help train churches to be caring congregations.
Since such a committee is mandated by the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2004 for every Conference of The UMC to have, this will be a permanent committee with annual funding and will have as its portfolio awareness of and advocacy for persons with both physical and mental disabilities. Clergy and laity are to be included. Persons with physical and mental disabilities are to be included in the committee's membership. The committee is to help develop programs within the annual conference, and by implication within its local congregations, that meet the needs of persons with disabilities.
Work is underway to have this committee put in the 2008 budget. Also, a request is being presented for a Supplemental Appropriation to fund the committee this year and will be in next year to fund it for 2007. Results of additional efforts are forthcoming about who will actually be on that committee so we can get it working before Annual Conference meets in June.
So, after asking for a Conference Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries and loosing that, we asked for a task force and got a committee mandated by the denomination's book of church order and thus requiring funding. This has taken a lot of work and needed the support of several key people. For everyone who has helped us assistance we are very glad.
The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC has a similar committee with a subcommittee on mental illness. If you are interested, take a look at their site http://www.bwcumc.org/page.asp?PKValue=181.