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Bill, indeed, many fetuses are spontaneously aborted, but to say that a soul enters a fetus when the fetus becomes viable outside the womb is arbitrary, and that point has been shifting downward as neonatal medicine has advanced. In fact, there will come a day when artificial wombs will be a reality, and fertilized eggs will be viable outside a human womb, though probably not in my lifetime.

The point of my article is to emphasize that couples need not give up hope about their child or their marriage if they have a child with a disability. People and marriages can flourish even when circumstances are very difficult! 

As far as I can determine, the CRC has no opinion as to the origin and/or timing of the human soul.  If we have an official opinion or discussion, I would very much like to read it. The topic is important to discussing this essay.


" . . .   Within the range of heathenism, creationism was the old Italian view. Contrary to what one might have expected, the ancient Latin Church abandoned it. . . ."

I confess this article is at or beyond my limit of understanding.  Considering present knowledge of DNA and that over half of all conceptions are spontaneously aborted . . . I have concluded that God creates the soul when the fetus is technically/medically able to live outside the womb.  Why would God create a soul that God knows that God would abort? What constitutes the "personality" of a collection of undifferentiated cells? if "only God knows" then arguing about birth control pills and such is silly. 


Another resource that's available on the topic of moral injury and "soul repair" is this webinar recording (which includes slides and a handout) called "Helping Veterans Suffering Moral Injury After War."

Thanks Michele. I found the article online too: Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots

Hi Michele, our newsletter, Breaking Barriers, follows themes, so it might be years again before we publish an edition featuring people's stories about mental health challenges; however, we have a page called Stories of Grace and Truth in which we have encouraged people to share their own stories, poems, and works of art. I'd really appreciate your sending us what you have written. The guidelines for submission are at the top of the Grace and Truth page

Interesting.  I'll watch the video later, but I wanted to say that I got my latest issue of Scientific American Mind in the mail today and there is an article about schizophrenia in it.  "Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots" in November/December 2014. p. 13.

I have some poems I wrote in the mid-1990s before and after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was one of the most stressful periods of my life.  One of them is on this computer ; its title is "Mountains".  Unfortunately I can't get it in this window.  I don't know how to, but I could send it to Disability concerns to publish in your newsletter along with the others.


Right, their journey with mental health issues. Unfortunately, comments can't be edited so my error will have to stay. Thanks for the catch. 

@ Mark,

I will look into the resources you mentioned and share them with my pastor.  In one of the sentences you wrote about the poems and stories you mentioned a journal. Perhaps you meant a journey?  Thanks for these resources.  I'll get back to you.

Michele, I agree that you should follow where God is leading in terms of your time, attention, and energy. I thank God to hear that you are hoping to start a support group for people with mental health issues. I hope and pray that goes well. We have a couple resources that may be helpful. We produced a four-part Bible study a few years ago called Let's Talk! Breaking the Silence around Mental Illness in Our Communities of Faith. This includes a leader's guide and may be helpful to get your group started. Also, we invited people to share their stories and poems about their journal with mental health issues which we titled Stories of Grace and Truth; perhaps you or others would feel moved to contribute something for this page. Mental Health Ministries and Pathways to Promise also have a lot of good, free resources that are worth checking out; their Mental Health Ministry Toolkit for Congregations is hard to find but has some really good ideas and resources. Blessings, Mark

Hi Michele, We close captioned the brief videos we created that can be found on our homepage. I assume you are talking about the new children and youth ministry videos we just put on our website. Thanks for this suggestion. I hope that someday we will have the budget to pay for this in addition to the cost of producing the videos themselves. Mark

On another subject. I am somewhat hard of hearing and the loud speakers of my computer are weak.  Could you or would you make your videos close captioned in the future, so that I can hear what people are saying without straining and trying to boost the volume beyond the computer's capacity?  I already have an extra set of loud speakers and even with them I had such a hard time hearing the video that I gave up.  Thank you.

That is NOT a job I'd see myself doing, but I do forward your posts to people in my congregation whom I think might be interested because I know that their child or other relative has a disability. Yesterday we had a one-day retreat in which we discussed the future of our congregation and classis, and where we felt our church was in the life-cycle of a congregation, and at the check-out stage I presented my desire to set up a support group for people with mental health issues and their close relatives, while someone else said we should also set up a Friendship group.  I do NOT feel qualified or interested in doing both, but I would be interested in getting further training to become a peer counselor;  we already have a social worker in our congregation and the pastor is sensitive to the problem of mental illnesses because one of his daughters also suffers from schizophrenia.


It's a beautiful vision, Mark.  Keep up the good work!


Hi Michele, thanks for the comment. Yeah, it should be a given nowadays that some people need medications for their mental health issues just as some people need medication for high blood pressure. Sadly, some Christians still believe that mental illnesses are spiritual issues that should be handled by strictly spiritual means. Thanks for speaking up against this attitude which is not only out of touch with the realities of mental illnesses but also not loving. 

I'm not sure if I commented on this post already or not, but to me point 3 falls in the duh! category.  The medications exist because they were found to meet a need, and while I can see that some depressions could be managed without medication, nobody could do that with major mental illnesses like schizophrenia unless they're anti-psychiatry but that's another horse.  And even depressions nowadays are not what they used to be.  In a program I saw on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin during Mental Health Week a few years ago, three psychiatrists were saying that depression in many cases had become a chronic illness, so even there it might be unrealistic to expect people to get over it on their own strength, so what's the big problem with church members taking meds for mental illnesses? Is it yet another preconceived idea based on an assumption that mental illnesses are moral failures on the part of those who suffer from these illnesses?  Welcome to the 21st Century. 

Man, I'm tired of seeing those old prejudices having to be re-addressed time and time again.  Can we move on to the next level in helping people with mental illnesses than repeating the same arguments?  In Hebrews, when the author wrote to the congregation about their maturity level, he said that although by that time they should have been teaching others they still needed to be taught the basics, and you know why? Because people who don't grow in the faith don't do their homework, and it's the same about ministering to people in the church that have special needs.  Some Christians should know better than to still be stuck at the level of changing their attitude toward other Christians with mental illnesses, but we're going around in circles because those who still need posts like the one above are not growing.  This should be a non-issue for followers of Christ Who never bothered to consider if people who were sick and needed His help were deserving of it.  Who in the Church of Christ is deluded enough to think they have the right to judge other believers because they're mentally ill?

Amen to that. The church would be a long ways toward true community if everyone treated each other as people first!

Oh, I didn't mean stupidity in that sense, but to avoid talking to people because they have a visible handicap, or to talk down to them as though being blind or walking with a stick or having a mental illness equals being intellectually handicapped, that's what I find stupid. Whether we have a visible handicap or not, we are people first and foremost.

HI Michele, I appreciate what you are saying, but I think we who do not have disabilities do need a little coaching. People tend to feel anxious around someone who is different from them (for whatever reason), and getting a little instruction about what to do and not do can help. For example, I just heard a blind mind say that recently he was walking down the street, using his cane, and came to a post which he detected with his cane. Just as he was about to go around the post, a man grabbed him by the shoulders and said "Stop." Obviously, the blind man was surprised and upset and said, "Don't grab me." The other man thought he was trying to help, but only startled the blind man who knew what he was doing. So a little guidance like knowing to ask, "Can I help you in any way?" is really good. Or another, if you are going to talk with a person in a wheelchair for longer than a few seconds, pull up a chair so that she doesn't have to strain her neck. Maybe not knowing to do these things is stupidity on the part of us nondisabled people, but I would prefer to call it lack of knowledge. And that's easy to correct with a simple tool like this document if only people would be willing to read and apply it.  

I don't see why communicating with us is such a big deal.  Most of us are normal people who happen to have a handicap, so the problem is really in their heads; they're the ones tagging us with the word "disabled", so they just need to stop thinking of people with handicaps as disabled and the hurdle will be gone.  Another thing that might help them would be to keep in mind that we're all limited in some way or other because of the effects of sin in our lives, and for some people it's more obvious than for others.  Nobody has the word disabled written on their forehead, and you're not abnormal because you walk with a stick or get around in a wheelchair.  Some people are really stupid and maybe that's their handicap.

Michele, I pray that God will surprise you with an opportunity you never expected.

Shannon, yes, they are alarming statistics. I would guess that in most societies, disability is part of the lives of many if not most of that society's members who live in poverty. In addition, many people with disabilities are put to death against their will, either through abortion, or infant exposure, or neglect, or euthanasia. 

These statistics are alarming, but I appreciate your sharing them. Thank you for all of the work you do advocating on behalf of those whose voices many of us in the church ignore. 

These statistics would likely be the same in Canada.  I know that I live on a disability income well below the poverty level.  I am now well enough to start looking for work but I'm almost 56, so I wonder who will hire me.

This article on paralympic athletes in Ghana demonstrates that stigma doesn't have the last word!

Thanks to all of you for the kudos.

Kevin McDermott, yes, it's particularly sad and painful when people feel the need to hide their loved ones out of shame created by community stigma. Although this shame may be more prominent in countries outside of North America, stigma is alive and well here too. For example, I had a conversation recently with a man I've known since childhood. He told me that his mother was in psychiatric hospitals much of his youth, and I never knew. 

   Awesome Mark! And so timely. My wife & I served in S.E.Asia for awhile & the families there kept any children that had special needs out of sight. There was a stigma there that was cultural & so sad to see. Great to see that back here in the States, denominations like the CRC are engaged in reaching out to this population rather than shunning them.

This is a great story. Thanks for sharing!

Congratulations Mark! 

Beautifully written, Mark!  Thank you, and congratulations!

Wow Mark! What a wonderful honor to receive this award! It is certainly well deserved - congratulations!!

Thank you for shedding light on a dark but pressing issue for God's people.  Wherever the light shines, the darkness will not overcome - God bless your ministry in His light.

Two resources specifically for pastors:
Christian Reformed Disability Concerns has been a member of Pathways to Promise* since its beginning. One of the pillars of this organization, Rev. Bob Dell wrote a response to Williams suicide specifically as a resource for pastors with some ideas for responding in a way that is helpful for congregations. Dell reminds pastors that the very public nature of Williams' suicide will touch many people in painful ways including people dealing with depression and people who have lost a loved one to suicide. 

Also, the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness produced a series of short videos, posted on the Caring Clergy Project website, that were written "specifically for clergy and staff of faith communities. Learn how to recognize risk factors and warning signs of suicide, how to tell if a person is considering suicide and how to respond if you discover they are. You'll also learn how to respond to families after a suicide and how to plan a memorial service for someone who has died by suicide.”

*Pathways to Promise is an interfaith cooperative of many faith groups. We provide assistance and are a resource center which offers liturgical and education materials, program models, caring ministry with people experiencing a mental illness and their families. The resources are used by people at all levels of faith group structures from local congregations to regional and national staff.

Michele, I appreciate your point that no one is immune to challenges and struggles. The difference between each of us is that the struggles we have are different. I hope that others will respond similarly by starting support groups in their own churches.

Thanks too for sharing a bit of your own journey. Your comment reminds me that readers may be interested in hearing from others who also have been affected by mental illness. Disability Concerns created Stories of Grace and Truth ( so that people could share prose, poetry, and visual art that arises out of their own journeys with mental illness. 

I saw a picture of Robin Williams on a people's magazine today in the grocery store where I often shop and the sadness in his eyes was obvious. He really made me think about the saying that the clowns that make us laugh are crying when nobody's looking.  "Un clown triste," is how we sum it up in French.  It isn't weak to feel depressed, anymore than it's weak to have diabetes or arthritis.  If it were, then we'd all be weak, and truth be told, we all are because nobody's immune to illness in this world, and there is nowhere in the Bible where you can find the words, : "The brain of Christians is immune to disease."  So then why do some people who claim to be Christians condemn those who suffer from brain diseases?  Count yourself fortunate if that is not your particular cross, but don't add to the burden of those for whom it is. 

I am a suicide survivor. I thought about it. I even walked to the edge of a river with the intent of throwing myself in it to end the pain.  Mental illness was pretty much a taboo back then. Even worse than now.  The reason I'm still alive is that God convinced me not to give up on life just yet, so I didn't and walked back home. And never went back to that particular spot, though I have walked again along a river's bank but not with suicide in mind.  I have found relief, and I know I'm fortunate in this, so I've made it my life's goal to help other people who suffer from mental illnesses. One way I'm planning to do this is to set up a Friends for Mental Health support group in the church I attend, and the pastor is supporting me in this.  Maybe it's something you could do too if the cause is close to your heart.

Thanks so much for this blog entry Mark. I especially appreciate the link to Anne Lamott's FB posting - powerful words.

What an awful disease ALS must be!  Mind you, schizophrenia is not exactly a picnic at the beach but things could be worse.  For example I'm well enough to be looking for work part-time now.  I would have  been well enough sooner, but I wasn't ready for it psychologically then. I was hoping I'd earn enough money from the sale of my paintings to manage that way, but it didn't materialize so I decided to get back into the workforce, and the director of the day center on whose board I sit has offered to help me out with my job search, but he and the staff person who will be helping me out have gone on vacation for three weeks, so I figured I may as well enjoy some more time off as well.  This isn't a very good time to look for work anyway.  My mom often says we can always find people who are in worse shape than us, and it's true.  Look around and you'll see them.

I imagine the disease factored in a lot. But mostly he talked about how his son, Kent, had gone to Israel to study Hebrew and Ed was inspired by his son's passion. Dr. Williams gave Ed an opportunity to address our class about how much he felt he had missed by not paying more attention to the original languages. It was quite inspiring and contributed a lot to my passion for the Bible languages. Anyway, how inspiring to see his "Yogi Berra" Christianity still being lived out a decade later! 

Scott, interesting. So soon after his diagnosis, he began retooling for the next chapter in his life. I assume the Hebrew class was prep for his year of living biblically book. Not a lot of people use the diagnosis of a degenerative disease as a prompt for setting new life goals!

Thanks for sharing this Mark. Ed took (re-took, really) Hebrew with me and others at CTS in 2004 - not so long after he had been diagnosed with ALS.

Well, I can't complain of having experienced that sort of rejection in my congregation, but then the Montreal CRC is the only one in Québec, so maybe they couldn't be too picky.  Especially now that our numbers have dwindled siginificantly.  Still, I think that some congregations are more hospitable than others, because a lot of people who walk into our church for the first time come back for more, and we have a microcosm of the United Nations attending our services, not just ethnically but all sorts of handicaps as well.  We have an elevator for those who can't climb stairs ; we have people with intellectual deficiencies and varying forms of mental illness, yet others with food allergies or Native background and to my knowledge no one has complained of being ostracized in our community.

Michelle, thanks for your note. Most Friendship groups minister not only with members of the congregation but also with people in the community. That's why Friendship is such a wonderful outreach ministry. In fact, I know of a church plant that started with a Friendship group, then expanded from there. 

How wonderful that your feel welcome at your church! I know many people living with mental illnesses who do not. What is your church doing that helps you and others integrate into the life of the congregation? 

To my knowledge we have only one person with an intellectual handicap--hardly enough to start a group--but we have more people with mental illnesses, and as far as I know we are as integrated in the life of the congregation as anyone could wish to be.  For my part, I can't complain of being left out, but maybe you should ask the others.


A resource you might be interested in is Key Ministry's blog, Church4EveryChild, written by Dr. Steve Grcevich. He regularly writes about how the church can include families and individuals impacted by mental illness. 

Thanks for shedding light on this import topic!


Shirley, thanks for your comment. Having served on church councils for nearly 20 years, I understand that they have a lot on their plate, and most of them are volunteers. What I have found in the past is that it's really helpful if someone invests the time and energy to investigate the needs and come to them with a well-thought-out plan. That puts most of the responsibility on you, but I think that's the best answer to your question - how does one interest the council? Get a couple of interested people from your church, find out what in your mind would be best for your church, then come to the council with a good plan that the can comment on and, one hopes, approve. Blessings!

These principles I would like to see enacted at my church, with consideration to help the largish senior  population with preparedness. There is a lot of information from the provincial gov't for 72 hr, preparedness, and from the Salvation Army on how to be ready to participate in a community emergency. And to be ready to handle a medical emergency when there are a lot of people in the building--worship service, etc., incl.  evacuation of the sanctuary etc. How does one interest the Council in the importance of this. Disabilites vary among the folk, of course, yo br included in the planning.

"If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem"

Hi Steve,

This is true, but the end result often creates a stronger, richer church community. We've found people are surprised at how simple steps toward inclusion can make a significant difference. I hope you find those resources helpful! 




Thank you for your response and suggestions. I will check out the resources you mentioned. New situations like this require people to step out of their comfort zone. This includes existing members as well as the new people attending. 


You have asked some excellent questions. I checked in with some of my colleagues in the Church Services division here at CLC Network on their advice for you; below are some of their suggestions for you and your church as you strive to be an example of God’s Body.  

For worship—If someone is nonverbal, or likes to move around, a great way for them to worship is to have wrist ribbons. These ribbons can be put around the wrist and moved around during singing.  Flags can also be available for people who are able to use their hands and grip objects. Instruments can be another option, such as a maraca or finger symbols. Instruments can even be as easy as putting rice inside of a container to shake! Lastly, when thinking about song selections, you may want to incorporate songs that have been previously sung in Friendship class.  

In terms of learning more about Jesus and the Bible, specifically during sermons, the pastor could use a few pictures or symbols to portray the main points. It could be projected or put at the front of the sanctuary for everyone to see. It could also be printed in the bulletin. Since you have Friendship class before church, the mentors and mentees could work through the meaning of the symbols together, preparing them for the sermon.

My colleague Barbara Newman wrote a blog about “Sharing Jesus with a Child with Down Syndrome”, which you may find helpful. Also, Barbara has published several materials about including those with disabilities in churches, and there are two in particular that might be useful. The first is the G.L.U.E. Training DVD and Manual, which helps churches implement a planning process to better include individuals with disabilities in the church (you can even apply to get it for free for your church!). The second, Inclusion Tool Box: 52 Practical Ideas to Include Individuals with Disabilities is a DVD that gives churches practical strategies to better include those with disabilities in the church. These resources can be found here. 

Please let me know if you have any other questions. Blessings to you as you continue to model God’s body in your church! 



Thanks for placing these on the network.