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Study gives snapshot of Native American ministries in The United Methodist Church

The Native American Comprehensive Plan, in partnership with Path One/New Church Starts of Discipleship Ministries, conducted a research study on the "state of Native American ministries and churches" in the U.S. The goals of the first phase of the study were to gain an understanding of the current state of Native ministries and to make informed recommendations on how to strengthen and grow Native American churches, ministries and fellowships in the future.

According to GCFA statistics, The United Methodist Church has 31,867 congregations in the U.S. The total number of Native American churches is 157 (+/-4), which is 0.47 percent. Of the 157 Native American churches, 87 are located within the OIMC. The findings show 53 of the 56 annual conferences have a Committee on Native American Ministries as designated by the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Your gifts on Native American Ministries Sunday helps support the ministries of the Committee on Native American Ministries in their annual conferences. This offering serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society.

"The data that exists on Native ministries in The United Methodist Church is very limited," said Anita Phillips, executive director of the denomination's NACP. "We wanted to get a current look at where Native ministries are today [and] the total number of churches, fellowships and congregations, and identify areas that the NACP can work to help them grow."

"We know many of our Native American brothers and sisters are in crisis," said Phillips. "We hope that this data will encourage and inspire annual conferences and others to really evaluate how they can begin to build new relationships with Native peoples in their area."

An emerging theme in the report is the current impact of historic trauma on Native peoples. During the boarding school era, launched in 1887, Native students were taught that their culture and traditional practices were wrong. At that time, thousands of Native students studied at 150 government and church-run boarding schools. Methodists ran 14 agencies in the Pacific Northwest, with 54,743 Native students and the most schools compared to other denominations, the study stated.

Today, pockets of Native churches and communities completely shun Native practices in worship.

The study also looked at the impact of the denomination's 2012 "Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples" service. Six years later, 26 of the 56 annual conferences have either held an Act of Repentance service or have begun to engage with Native communities in some way. The OIMC reported a positive impact of the service through giving in 2016 and 2017 via The Advance, the denomination's second-mile giving program.

The NACP board of directors received the first draft of the study in April 2018 and plans to make the findings available online at The NACP staff is starting the second phase of the study, which will be geared toward further analysis of GCFA data and identifying areas ready to launch new Native churches.

Native American Comprehensive Plan website

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Native American Ministries Sunday serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society. The special offering supports Native American outreach within annual conferences and across the United States and provides seminary scholarships for Native Americans.

When you give generously on Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations to find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ's love. Give now

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