Healing and Mental Illness

Last week I was at Bethel Church in Redding, California, which has achieved fame for healing. Overall I had a positive reaction to their ministry, which is warm, down-to-earth and excited. One event did give me pause, however.

In the Saturday morning Healing Rooms, where trained teams pray for physical healing, there were a few announcements as we waited our turn for prayer. One announcement had to do with a woman who had been prayed for over Skype a week or so before. Evidently she had called in again and said she had been completely healed of schizophrenia. She said she had been completely level for the whole week and she had stopped taking her medicine.

This was announced as a triumph, and a happy cheer went up.  I was quite troubled, however. Anybody who works with the mentally ill can tell you that they are subject to personal delusions. They don’t want to believe they are sick, and when they convince themselves they aren’t, the first thing they always want to do is quit their meds. This is often disastrous for them. They stand a very good chance of doing a great deal of brain damage to themselves.

Can it be that Bethel doesn’t train their healing teams in mental illness? Maybe more information about this case would mitigate my alarm, but no matter what the facts are you shouldn’t broadcast a “healing” that can encourage mentally ill people to quit their meds.

I suspect it’s a case where people of faith want to live as though they’re immune to human frailty. Churches don’t need auditors, charities don’t need independent boards, pastors don’t need oversight, and counselors don’t need to learn from psychiatrists.

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