What if preventing suicide was simple? What if it really was just “three easy steps?” What if there was something you could do right now that would save someone’s life? As a survivor of suicide loss, I wish every day for the power to go back in time and prevent my loved one’s suicide. This, too, is the work of the church: to help prevent suicide. As seen in the life and teachings of Jesus, the most transformative gifts we have as the Body of Christ is the power to work together to change the world and to save lives.
In just a few weeks the United Church of Christ will gather for our national General Synod where we conduct the business of the church, worship together, learn together, play together, and imagine together who God is calling us to be in the world. From July 11-18 delegates, guests, visitors, and staff will join virtually to discern God’s Spirit for us today. One important part of this gathering will be the presentation, discussion, and vote on a resolution to ban conversion therapy coming from two HUGS (Historically Underrepresented Groups) in the UCC: The Open and Affirming Coalition and the Mental Health Network. To read the resolution in full, click here: https://www.generalsynod.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Conversion-Therapy.pdf.
In speaking to General Synod delegates recently about the prophetic witness of the church represented by this resolution, I said, “when you think of banning conversion therapy, think about suicide prevention, think about saving lives.” I asked them to think about this for a few minutes in silence. I shared how people I dearly love have thought about suicide because of the harmful, homophobic and transphobic beliefs backing up the rationale for conversion therapy. It is suicide prevention to affirm God’s image created in LGBTQ+ people and it is suicide prevention to end toxic, traumatic, and harmful “therapies” that distort this Gospel truth.
The 33rd General Synod is the first General Synod that the UCC Mental Health Network will have voting delegates since becoming a HUG in 2019. It is no accident that as a HUG the UCC MHN has partnered with the Coalition to bring forth this resolution to ban conversation therapy. After all, that’s what happens when people living with mental illness, mental health challenges, brain disorders, and addictions are represented as part of the Body of Christ and given voice and vote. We show up in solidarity with our siblings in Christ, calling for the Church to “follow in the still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Here’s a recent article about this historic resolution by the UCC News highlighting the power of banning conversion therapy as suicide prevention: https://www.ucc.org/advocates-ask-synod-to-back-ban-on-conversion-therapy-and-its-demonstrable-harm/
The work of mental health justice is intersectional, deeply interconnected to the work of racial justice, LGBTQ+ justice, gender justice, economic justice, disability justice, environmental justice, and more. Join us for General Synod by registering here: https://www.generalsynod.org/ and be a part of this work of God’s Spirit. I invite you to pray for the delegates who will engage in discussion and vote of this resolution.
Most of all, pray for us as we seek to live out the call of the resolution to, “advocate for state and federal laws protecting adults, youth and children from ‘conversion therapy’ by banning the practice” and to strengthen our efforts “to reach their LGBTQ+ neighbors, especially youth, with the Good News that their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression are gifts from God.”
May we be sustained by the Suicide Prevention Loving God and the LGBTQ+ Loving God, knowing, as Emna Lazarus said, “until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Never underestimate the power of a network of people coming together to advocate for freedom.
Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund (she/her/hers)
Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund (she/her/hers) serves on the national staff of the United Church of Christ as Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice. She also serves as senior pastor of First Congregational UCC of Indianapolis, IN. Sarah is the author of the acclaimed and best selling books “Blessed Are The Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family and the Church“ (Chalice Press, 2014) and “Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage (Chalice Press, 2021). She blogs at www.sarahgriffithlund.com.