From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Native Americans want 'act of repentance' in 2004

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 3 Dec 2001 15:09:28 -0600

Dec. 3, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: A sidebar, UMNS story #565, and photographs are available with this

By Charles Cole*

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church's international
Indian caucus is encouraging the denomination to perform an act of
repentance for atrocities committed against Native Americans.

The Native American International Caucus (NAIC) wants the 2004 General
Conference to hold a repentance and reconciliation service for the Sand
Creek Massacre and other acts of violence against American Indians.

In 2000, United Methodists confessed to the sin of racism within the
denomination and held an act of repentance ceremony, together with a call
for reconciliation. Racism in the church's predecessor bodies drove some
African Americans to leave in the 18th and 19th centuries and form their own

The NAIC wants a similar act of repentance at the 2004 legislative meeting
in Pittsburgh. The caucus will ask the Commission on General Conference to
plan "acts of repentance" for Sand Creek. Members noted that the 1996
General Conference apologized for the Sand Creek Massacre but never followed
through with its intended "acts of repentance." 

In 1864, Col. John Chivington, a Methodist layman, launched a pre-dawn
attack on the Black Kettle village, killing and mutilating the Cheyenne at
the banks of Sand Creek. For the killing of more than 200 Native Americans,
mostly women and children, Chivington was hailed as a hero.

During its Nov. 29-30 meeting, the NAIC also called for a national day of
prayer against the use of Native American names for mascots of athletic

Caucus members voted to join together in praying on Dec. 16 for an end to
the use of Indian names as mascots. The NAIC members will pray at 12:30 p.m.
Eastern time that day, and they are encouraging Native Americans and the
entire church to do the same. The caucus is requesting continued prayers
every third Sunday of each month until next October's annual meeting.

The call for common prayer arises out of the NAIC board's concern that
others in the church do not understand the anger and shame felt by Native
Americans at the use of Indian symbols and names by sports teams.

As a way to help educate the church and other Native Americans about Indian
history, caucus members voted to create "the Untold Story," a traveling
museum that would be moved around the connection. The exhibit would help the
church engage in reconciliation with Native Americans and educate people
through photographs, stories, biblical references and simulated
re-enactments. A task force, chaired Shirley Montoya of Kayenta, Ariz., was
appointed to develop the project.

NAIC members also celebrated the recent formation of a Native American
congregation in the denomination and supported two others that are being
considered for development. A new congregation was started in Raleigh, N.C.,
last January. Board members asked the Rev. Alvin Deer, executive director of
the caucus, to write Bishop William Morris of the Tennessee and Memphis
annual (regional) conferences in support of the organization of an Indian
congregation in his area.

The third native church may be in Albuquerque. The Rev. James Large,
director of missions and administration for the New Mexico Conference,
informed the caucus that conference Bishop Max Whitfield intended to appoint
a pastor for a new Native American congregation in Albuquerque next year.
Albuquerque has no native United Methodist congregations, and the new church
will possibly be named the "All Nations United Methodist Church."

In his report to the board, Deer stated that the denomination has 17,000
Native American United Methodists serving in 180 ministries and local
churches. The 17,000 are less than 1 percent of the 8.4 million United
Methodists in the United States, he said.

The NAIC encouraged Deer to write the Council of Bishops and the churchwide
commissions, asking for their assistance in increasing Native American
membership on boards and agencies. Several caucus members expressed concern
over the denomination's failure to elect a Native American bishop.

In other action, the Rev. Raymond Dunton of Wings of Freedom in Ignacio,
Colo., talked about making the gospel culturally relevant. "Our differences
are not the cause of disunity, and opportunities to serve are endless," he
said. Ministries among Native Americans mean "sharing the salvation message
with a people who already have a belief system intact," he said.

Dunton, who has Hopi and Navajo tribal background, said, "God made me an
Indian to glorify him. God doesn't make mistakes."

Caucus members also approved "A Circle of Healing for Our Land and Our
People" as the theme for the July 2002 family camp. The location is still to
be determined.

NAIC's next meeting will be Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Green Bay, Wis.
# # #
*Cole, a free-lance writer, is a retired staff member of the churchwide
Board of Global Ministries living in Albuquerque, N.M.

United Methodist News Service
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