Monday, January 14, 2008


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C.F.M.I. /January 14, 2008
Twenty years ago this year I started Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill which is now a division of Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc. (formed in 1989). The other divisions of N.O.M.I., Inc. are Project Dream Again and Dream Again Press.
Soon after starting Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill, I conducted a survey of ministers and pastors about their thoughts on mental illness. To my surprise the number who returned the survey was far higher than could normally be expected, but the bigger surprise lay in the responses. Almost a third considered serious mental illness a moral issue rather than a medical one. A number of those considered it demon possession. I was devastated. At the time I wished I had never done the research.
How was I supposed to deal with the fact that my brain disease was seen by ministers and pastors as caused by a moral failure on my part? I am not claiming I was without sin, but my sins did not cause my bipolar disorder.
Then I read about and corresponded with H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor of Psychology, Department of Clinical Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary.
AB, Birmingham Southern College
MDiv, Yale Divinity School
MA, PhD, George Peabody College
Biographical Information:
Newt Malony has been active on the faculty of the seminary since joining the School of Psychology in 1969.
A prodigious scholar, Malony's most recent publications include Living with Paradox: Religious Leadership and the Genius of Double Vision (1998) and Christ in the Heart of Psychology: The Early Years of Fuller Seminary's School of Psychology (1996). A licensed psychologist and ordained United Methodist minister, Malony has also maintained professional involvement in the American Psychological Association, California Psychological Association, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and American College of Forensic Examiners.
Areas of Expertise, Research, Writing, and Teaching:
Transactional Analysis, Clinical psychology, Psychology of religion, Integration of psychology and theology, Religious tolerance.” [from Fuller’s website]
Dr. Malony gave me the encouragement to continue with Christian Friends and listed it in his book Religion and Mental Illness: A Directory of Programs Sponsored by Churches and Congregations.
Then I met Dr. John Baggett at that time Executive Director of NAMI NC. He was also a graduate of a seminary and also encouraged my work to get faith communities to reach out to those of us with serious mental illnesses and our families.
Then I got to meet and talk with Dr. Robert Coles, author of over fifty books, at a conference in Washington, DC. That chat and his book, The Call of Service, which he dedicated To the memory of Dorothy Day, confirmed in my mind that I was on the right road.
“There is a call to us, a call of service-that we join with others to try to make things better in this world.” Dorothy Day
Do you hear the still small voice inside you calling you to service?
You can reach me directly at
[An online community of The United Methodist Church]

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