Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, January/February 2006
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
I have decided to write a second column on depression in keeping with the magazine's theme. Last time I addressed the phenomenon in individuals. This time I want to talk about depressed symptoms within this church as a corporate organism.
Depressed people are less hopeful and see themselves as less capable of coping than others do. This often results in withdrawal and distancing on the part of the sufferer. The depressed look for systems of security, but it doesn't take much to raise a new sense of threat because the insecurity comes from within—a matter of perception rather than objective data.
Depressed people lack the ability to adapt. They become fixated on the negatives in their environment and fail to rise to the challenge of alternatives. They are the 'blamers' in many offices. This depressive perception can be very convincing and can drag down an entire organization. The story of Chicken Little exists to tell a recurring truth about societies. Every time there is conflict in a congregation or a church jurisdiction, you can be sure there is a Chicken Little somewhere in the barnyard convincing people that nothing but doom awaits them.
The trouble with a depressed view of life is its failure to trust in God. It becomes preoccupied with its own efforts to find security. When God offers a renewed promise to the failed efforts of the people, (Isaiah 43 and Jeremiah 31), the people do not perceive it. In response to morbid anxiety, Jesus taught that we should not fear those who can destroy the body but not the soul. When the people of Jesus' day were negative to his radical message of grace, Jesus (Luke 11) cited the story of Jonah. Running away, even attempting suicide, does not stop God's relentless intention to bring about the redemption of the sinner. God plucks Jonah out of the belly of death and accomplishes a new thing.
Nobody deliberately sets out to be depressed, but when symptoms of depression appear, it is important not to be drawn into the pessimism they project. Decline of the church does not imply failure. It only looks that way in a society obsessed with endless expansion and dominance of the market. Openness to sinners is not a sign of immorality. It only looks that way in a society afraid of its own failure to trust God's self-giving mission.
Depression can have an aggressive side to it. Aggressive depressives can drag a lot of people down with them. The important thing is not to let imagined fear dominate a real opportunity to engage in love of the whole of creation. Depression is a self-centring disease and induces its sufferers to reject the intention of this church to be In Mission for Others.
To be depressed is to live behind a curtain of darkness. That darkness is not real; it is only a smoke screen that hides the true light of God having come into the world.
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, March 2006