UMNS Photo by Barbara Dunlap-Berg
NACP PhotoNative American drummers accompany "Grandchildren of Cannonball" dancers at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. The dance was held during "Gathering 2010," a September 2010 event held in Bismarck, N.D., by the interfaith High Plains Initiative. Now Native American United Methodists have raised serious concerns about the denomination's proposed structure plan.
We, the Task Force of The Native American Comprehensive Plan share our position regarding the changes proposed by the IOT/CT in the structure of The United Methodist Church.
As a racial ethnic plan of our United Methodist Church, we feel there is much at stake for the voiceless constituency we are called to serve. We recognize change is necessary for the sake of God's kingdom and we also understand the need to continually look at ways the Church can be more effective in its mission to the world. We recognize change is necessary, given the present economic situation in this country and around the world. However, such sweeping and immediate changes will always produce "casualities." These "casualties" are persons or groups who experience some of the greatest negative consequences, and yet are left out of the decision-making process. We are greatly concerned that the proposed restructuring will limit or eliminate the voice of Native Americans. As the smallest ethnic minority in the denomination, we believe the proposed restructuring will also eliminate us from the decision making table.
We believe the work of the Native American Plan is of great importance to our faith communion. Without the presence and witness of Native nations, tribes and communities, our denomination will be incomplete and therefore, God's kingdom will be incomplete. We represent the first peoples evangelized in this country, often with disastrous results that still plague our lives and threaten our future. The Native American constituency of the United Methodist Church in the U.S. represents evangelism by our denomination that began with its founder, John Wesley. We believe we still have great contributions to make to our denomination and our presence is needed. The proposed restructuring almost ensures this participation will not continue as it has in the past.
One of the proposed actions of the legislation also impacts the matter of Native American Ministries Sunday. NACP wants to emphasize the importance of this special offering to ministry within the annual conferences of the United States. Half of the offering stays in the annual conference and provides crucial funding for the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries. This offering is instrumental in helping to facilitate Native American ministries in many annual conferences. The demise of this funding will hurt the promotion and existence of Native American ministries across the connection.
We feel this proposed restructuring of the church will make it difficult for Native American persons to continue to participate and feel included in the life of our Church. We sincerely hope and pray that intentional dialogue and consultation with Native persons will begin so that we can work together for the mission and future of our beloved denomination.