Anglican Bishop Makes Strong Statement on Generation Z and Mental Health
Speaking at a conference in Christ Church, England, The Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge in the United Kingdom, recently made a strong statement about mental illness, Generation Z, and the church.
After reading a report from Britain's National Health Service, Bishop Burton-Jones said, “We know something is not right and it appears to be getting worse for both young women and young men, and symptoms are presenting at an earlier age.”
Burton-Jones called on the church to cease criticism of the “so-called Snowflake Generation” and to be aware of the social pressures faced by Gen Zers, who have been “born into a world where the boundary lines between public and private have more or less been extinguished.”
Burton-Jones noted that the pressures Gen Z faces have been created and maintained by previous generations, who have set harmful expectations for “physical perfection.”
Burton-Jones contended that “churches have the capacity to offer care across the generations and to use the sizeable local spaces we have to bless those who have no safe space."
In recent years churches have been called upon to play a more active role in destigmatizing mental illness and providing care and support for those suffering from depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Ed Stetzer addressed mental health concerns and the church's response in August at The Exchange, a blog hosted by Christianity Today.
Overall, our call as Christians in the midst of a suicide crisis comes from Jesus. When Jesus saw hurting people, he drew close to them, cared for them, and sent his disciples to care for them. Our call, then, is clear. We must seek out the broken even when it is messy and difficult. The church without the broken is a broken church. We are the agents of ministry led by the Holy Spirit to share the love of Jesus with the hurting and point them to a Savior who loves them dearly.
Bishop Burton-Jones models for us a first step: knowing the research findings and voicing concern. Stetzer outlines next steps, which include destigmatizing mental illness, seeking out those who suffer, remaining persistent in care, training congregants to recognize mental illness and to be of help, and to partner with healthcare professionals in helping people to receive treatment.
Every generation faces unique challenges. Generation Z has given us reasons for a high level of concern in the area of mental health.
If you are a pastor or church leader, educate yourself, speak out, and demonstrate the love of Jesus.