When it comes to mental illness and the church, no one really talks about the reality of mental illness within the church.  Just like sex, drugs, and other maladies that are realities in the church, mental illness is a taboo topic.  Especially within the pentecostal and charismatic ranks, it is commonly taught and believed that if you are believed to be ‘saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost filled,’ that you cannot and will not suffer from mental illness.  That you will not have breakdowns.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

I have often wondered why leaders in the I.C. would stay away from teaching the people about mental illness.  They treat it like it’s not there.  They may dabble with preaching on depression, but depression is only a symptom of much deeper issues.

Then it began to occur to me that the reason why leaders stayed away from this topic was possibly because they are dealing with the exact same thing-mental illness-as the flock, and therefore, didn’t feel comfortable teaching on it…because they were in need of deliverance themselves.

If you research, you will be amazed at the number of denominational and church leaders and preachers who, in fact, suffered from some sort of mental illness themselves…and, for some, it even cost their lives.

Aimee Semple McPherson

‘Sister Aimee’ was a very famous evangelist who founded the Foursquare Church, opened the Angelus Temple in 1923 and is singlehandedly responsible for being one of the first people to ‘spread the gospel’ across the airwaves via the radio, suffered a mental breakdown in 1930.  She later died in 1944 from an accidental overdose of prescription barbituates.

A. A. Allen

Asa A. Allen was a healing and faith pentecostal evangelist that traveled across the country running healing lines and having very exuberant church services.  Allen, who started out in the Assemblies of God denomination, opened a TV ministry that continued to grow up until his death in 1971 from liver failure due to acute alcoholism.  Allen had been an alcoholic for  years and fellow preachers often stated that they had to cover for Allen because sometimes he was too drunk to minister.

C. H. Mason

COGIC founder Charles Harrison Mason founded the denomination in 1897.  COGIC, the 4th largest denomination and claiming millions of followers today, was one of the many (pentecostal) denominations that sprung out of the Azusa Street ‘revival’ in 1906.  It has been reported that Mason suffered from some sort of mental illness; one instance, he was said to be walking the streets of Tennessee naked, preaching to the air.  In an audio clip here (fast forward to 2:37), you can hear Mason ‘preach.’ In listening to this clip, one has to wonder if it was the Holy Ghost moving on him to speak, or was it ‘another spirit.’ Mason died of natural causes in 1961 at the age of 95.

Zachary Tims

Many of us know of Zachary Tims.  He was a regular host of the ‘Praise The Lord’ program and founded New Destiny Christian Center in 1996.  He battled drug addiction and had claimed he was delivered from drugs.  But on August 12 of last year, Tims was found dead in a hotel room with an envelope containing cocaine.  Tims’ autopsy results have been sealed by request of his mother from the general public.  Listen here (fast forward to 9:19) as Tims almost prophesies his own death a little over a month before he died.

Barry Keldie

Barry Keldie was the pastor of Providence Church (with ties to the Acts 29 Network and the Southern Baptist Convention) in 2005 in Frisco, TX.  To many, he seemed like a happy, well-adjusted father, pastor, husband, and friend.  But he battled chronic insomnia, that led to an addiction to sleeping pills during his pastorate.  At 31 years of age in 2010, Keldie accidentally overdosed on Tylenol PM.

Paul Morton

Having to his credit the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship, Morton oversees thousands of full gospel churches nationwide.  He is also the founder of two churches, one based in New Orleans, the other in Atlanta.  Paul Morton is very popular among the pentecostal and charismatic ranks, often asked to preach (and sing) at many conferences.  Yet, at the height of his ministerial career, Morton describes in his book ‘Why Kingdoms Fall’ his mental breakdown.  Click here (fast forward to 3:57) to hear him testify about his mental breakdown. Morton is still the Presiding Prelate of the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship today and claims to have been ‘delivered’ from bipolar disorder.  In his book, Morton claims he sought medical help. He credits prayer, love and support and supernatural healing for his deliverance.

George Bloomer

George Bloomer is known in the church world as an expert on demons and deliverance.  He is the founder and pastor of Bethel Family Worship Center in Durham, NC.  He is also a very popular preacher in christendom, much sought after and highly recommended by those who advocate and believe in deliverance.  Bloomer testifies about his life pre-salvation, which included drug addiction.  Bloomer claims he suffered a mental breakdown and became addicted to Prozac, all while preaching across the nation.  Click here (fast forward to 7:34) to see Bloomer ask the question ‘if a preacher can be crazy?’  Click here for Bloomer’s full testimony on his addiction to the prescription drug Prozac.

Juanita Bynum

Juanita Bynum is a household name.  There is no one who doesn’t know what she has done in the church world.  She first came on the scene when she preached at TD Jakes’ conference for women ‘Woman, Thou Art Loosed’ in 1997 a sermon series called ‘No More Sheets,’ chronicling her struggle with sexual purity.  In that series, she briefly talked about her struggles with mental illness.  But her ‘spiritual mother,’ Apostle Veter Nichols, goes into detail about Bynums’ struggles in her book, ‘Birthing of A Prophet.’  Nichols tells of Bynum having a nervous breakdown, her numerous suicide attempts due to relationship troubles and breakups, her struggles with anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia-all while ‘in ministry.’  When Bynum and her ex-husband Thomas Weeks got in a physical altercation on August 21, 2007, Bynum confessed that she had to seek therapy.  She is reportedly doing well and still ministering across the world.

Sam Kinison

Samuel B. Kinison is known to the world as the loud, brass comedian who became infamous for his ‘in-your-face’ style, controversial topics and how could you forget ‘the scream?’ What most don’t realize is that before becoming a famous comedian, Kinison was a pentecostal preacher out of an unknown pentecostal denomination.  He was known for his ‘fire and brimstone’ type of preaching. Click here to hear a sample of his preaching.  His ‘act’ changed drastically when he left the church.  I won’t post clips from his comedy act in that most of his comedy  was raunchy and replete with cursing…and may seem extremely blasphemous to most.  What I hear is was someone who didnt seek healing and deliverance after leaving the I.C.  After leaving the ministry and the I.C., unfortunately, Kinison did not maintain or seek a relationship with God and, as a result- even though he enjoyed much success as an actor and a much-sought-after comedian-he battled depression and drug addiction pretty much until his untimely death in 1992.

I have highlighted these who were and some still are active in ministry to bring up some points about how real mental illness is in the ministry.  It is not talked about, and it should be.

Stay tuned to part 2…