People struggling with mental illness shouldn’t be in church leadership, Jarrid Wilson’s friend says
Dale Partridge, a pastor and house church planter and “true” friend of late California Pastor Jarrid Wilson, says Wilson had expressed a desire to step down from his high pressure role as associate pastor prior to his suicide.
Wilson was a pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, before his late-night suicide two Mondays ago.
Partridge also argued that it is “reckless” and unbiblical for churches to put someone in a position of leadership who is struggling mentally or has serious doubts about their faith.
“As we all have watched, men who are placed in shepherding roles at churches are committing suicide and public apostasy at an alarming frequency. These men did not have secret struggles, either. Nearly all of these recent tragedies were carried out by men who openly confessed their mental illness and doubts of doctrine. The million dollar question is this: Why are churches placing men, who are so candid about their current brokenness, in positions of leadership?” Partridge asked.
“The Bible gives us very clear instructions regarding the qualifications of a shepherd in the church (1 Tim 3 and Titus 1). They call for a man to be sober-minded, self-controlled, doctrinally sound, disciplined, tested, holy (the list goes on). Church, it is not accepting or tolerant or understanding or compassionate to hire a man to shepherd a flock of God’s people who is openly struggling with mental illness. It’s unbiblical, it’s reckless, it’s dangerous, and as we’re seeing, it’s an easy target for the enemy to [rain] down national tragedy on the church,” he continued.
“If your pastor has admitted to a state of mental illness he needs to be discipled not discipling others. He needs physical rest not intense spiritual labor. He needs privacy not publicity. He needs diligent prayer not overwhelming pressure. He needs to step down not be lifted up. When an officer falls many fall below. It brings confusion, doubt, fear and a litany of concerns to those beneath. God has given us clear instructions in Scripture that offer protection to His church. Every time we decide to break His commands, we only break ourselves. A pastor is not simply someone who is willing. A pastor is not simply someone who is gifted. A pastor is not simply someone who is educated. He is a man who meets all God’s qualifications. This is not legalism or biblical militancy. This is safety for God’s church. It’s time to wake up,” he said.
Partridge’s post, which has been liked nearly 7,000 times on Instagram alone as of Wednesday morning, quickly set off an ongoing debate on social media with many opposing and supportive responses.
“I’ve known JW since he was briefly on staff at High Point in Memphis. I hope your words encourage and prevent those from making this same choice,” replied Jamie Parker.
Dr. Therese, a licensed Christian clinical psychologist, self-care and personal development guru with Exploring Therapy in California, argued however that Partridge’s comments were coming from “a place of ignorance.”
“Dale, as a clinical psychologist and Christian who also served in ministry, I have to say that I think this post comes from a place of ignorance and furthers mental health stigma. In the US, almost half of all adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. That is because we live in a broken world. The church doesn’t need perfect pastors (they don’t exist) they need Pastors who are connected to God, love people, do the work needed to be healthy including getting help, and who recognize their own humanness and imperfection,” she wrote.
“I implore you to gain more wisdom in the area of mental health and consider how detrimental your false teaching is for the church. With all due respect, safety for the church means acknowledging that you and your judgmental, shaming, stigmatizing words are wrong,” she added.
In a follow-up statement to give more clarity to his comments, Partridge explained that “Jarrid was a true friend for many years” and he wasn’t attempting to be insensitive or unwise with his warning.
“We spoke just seven days prior to his death. I wept the day I heard. I wept the morning after. There hasn’t been a day since where his death has not consumed my mind. Our home has gathered together every morning to pray for his wife and children in this difficult season. Ultimately, I want you to know, I am truly heart-broken,” he said.
After working at Harvest Christian Fellowship for just 18 months however, Partridge said Wilson was overwhelmed by the workload which included officiating the funeral of a young woman who took her own life on the very day he took his own.
“Due to my and Jarrid’s last conversation, my heartbreak quickly turned to anger. In our call, while Jarrid loved his ministry he expressed the intensity and overwhelm he was experiencing in his position as a pastor over the young adults at Harvest. As a pastor, I am fully empathetic to the incredible physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual demands of pastoral ministry. Pastoring is one of the hardest callings of human life,” Partridge said. “Jarrid was hurting and he was very open about it. But more than that, he told me he was ready to step back from full-time pastoral ministry. What he really wanted was to spend his time on his true passion—helping people heal from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts through his non-profit Anthem of Hope. His phone call to me last week was centralized on this transition. He wanted my help to move from where he was to where we wanted to be. He needed rest and he knew it.”
Partridge explained, however, that because of how faithful and passionate Wilson was about his work, he would never quit.
“He’s a good soldier. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. No complaining. Just pure faithfulness,” Partridge wrote.
Allowing Wilson to officiate the funeral of a person who committed suicide, Partridge further argued, was a bad idea.
“When I heard that Jarrid performed a funeral for a person who committed suicide just 24 hours prior to his own suicide, it added fire to my frustration. While I don’t know if the church requested him to do this duty or if he volunteered on his own, I believe it is, at the very least, a wakeup call for more wisdom, accountability, and a process to identify and help eliminate trigger points for those who are serving, hurting and don’t quit,” he said.
“My post is simply a call for church reform according to Scripture. It’s my opinion and experience that today’s audience-centric churches will run pastors raw. Serve, labor, love, perform, and sacrifice until you can’t do it any longer. Over the years, I have heard many pastors (who are grossly underpaid) talk about their desperate need for a break yet have no financial way of achieving it. In other words, we have built an institutional church machine that doesn’t accommodate but actually compromises the health the Bible requires for New Testament pastors,” Partridge added.