The United Methodist Church has sought to acknowledge a history of racism and work toward healing at three General Conferences since the year 2000. Preparations for the GC2012 Act of Repentance included listening sessions with indigenous peoples in Norway, the Philippines, and the U.S.
For generations, indigenous peoples all over the world have faced removal from their homelands, and a loss of cultural traditions.
Participants in the 2012 United Methodist General Conference set out to right injustices --through an Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sidorak, General Secretary, General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns: “There are many people who have expressed themselves to say, ‘We don’t think The United Methodist Church is ready to repent. We don’t believe The United Methodist Church will ever be sincere in its repentance.’ I just hope the church realizes that its credibility is at stake.”
(Native American music)
Blenda Smith served on the planning committee.
Blenda Smith, Act of Repentance Task Force: “I certainly worry that many white people will say, ‘It’s history. Why should I be apologizing for anything? I didn’t do anything wrong.’ That’s white privilege, of course. And I just pray that they’ll open their hearts enough to at least hear the stories.”
Courtesy: National Park Service
Those stories include the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre-- led by a Methodist minister.
Col. John Chivington was an ordained clergyman turned military man. His troops attacked an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho, killing 165-- mostly women and children. This incident and others perpetrated by church members have left an open wound.
The Rev. George Tinker, Osage Nation: “An apology is not going to cut it. How would that work? Y’all would come to Indian people and say, ‘We’re sorry our great grandparents and stole the land. We’re really sorry. Now can we keep your land?’ Well that doesn’t cut it either. We’ve got to find a whole other way of being in the world and repentance is about that other way of being in the world.”
Blenda Smith: “We actually did about two dozen listening sessions with different indigenous populations and they told us what repentance would look like. They said, ‘It’ won’t be this service you do at General Conference. It will be what you do when you get back. Things like develop personal relationships with us, get to know us, get to share meals with us.’”
The Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin helped develop resources that churches can use to educate and engage members in this healing process.
The Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin, Act of Repentance Task Force:
“An apology is present within this but there’s no expectation that people have to respond to us in a certain way. It’s okay if other people don’t receive what we’re saying and doing. We understand their pain, we understand their distrust. What is important is that we get ourselves right with God, whether we’re majority culture or whether we’re indigenous.”
The Rev. George Tinker: “It’s about plowing the ground, removing the rocks, pulling up the thorns together, so we can live in that harmony, live in balance.”
(Marcia McFee leads worship service)
“Tonight in a ritual of commitment to continue this journey, we will come to the river… to the river of tears, to the river of life and we will get a stone. Stones that were once hurled in ways that hurt can become listening stones to life.”
The Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin: “I want people to know that indigenous people are not all gone. And that wherever you live in the world, you have neighbors who were first peoples. Maybe they live in your neighborhood, maybe they live on a reservation, maybe they’ve been completely removed geographically. But there are people who call the land on which you live home.”
The Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People is the fourth in a series of Acts of Repentance.
For more information, visit the website for the United Methodist General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
Posted: August 6, 2012