The 2012 General Conference left its connectional members with challenges for uncovering creative possibilities; it also created new situations. The question is, how have these challenges and situations changed our ethical and theological consciousness? Our relationships and motivation? Specifically, is our compassion toward socially marginalized people an act of charity, or an act of justice?
The General Conference experienced the Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationship with Indigenous People. To start the healing process, can we listen and do a turnaround in order to live in dialogue with one another? Will The United Methodist Church live out its call to compassion to be brothers and sisters together in ministry? Or will it avoid justice and continue doing acts of charity rather than having a genuine love for the indigenous person’s being?
I love The United Methodist Church for what it can be, yet dislike it for its lack of compassion toward Native people, seeing them as “objects” rather than being in ministry with them. And instead of continuing to enable everyone to be at the table, we seem to be ensuring that those at the table will be ones who have paid their “fair share” of apportionments, salary support, and the administrative overhead. Whose absence will be missed?
The values of “connectionalism and conferencing” have given meaning to inclusion as brothers and sisters in ministry together. Jointly, these ideas have given identity and have been the only beam of light on partnership and being resurrected to new life. I am afraid that when we stop talking and sharing solutions—which is inevitable if only the “select” are given a voice—there will be a loss of connectional relationships and open spaces at the table. We will not care for one another. Who is going to speak up?
The Abraham of the Bible and the Native American people of the 1800s had one thing in common. Both were on the move. Some U.S. citizens are familiar with American history’s “Trail of Tears,” when the government of the United States forced its Native population to evacuate the southeastern part of the country and relocate to what is now Oklahoma, or “Indian Country.” Like Abraham, they left their homeland without knowing the future, yet continued to trust in God leading the family to a new homeland. When Native people were forced to leave their homelands, they left to rebuild their community in a new, different location, offering new days for the children and those yet to be born. There was no time for a “defeatist” attitude . . . only the dire necessity to survive and to live again. It was hope for a better future that kept the people walking. It was the songs that were sung to strengthen the spirit and to give energy to bear light and witness to the fact that “the strength is in the ability to haunt.” May the haunt continue in the name of justice so that we may live in harmony with one another.
With changes in policies and support of the Native Ministry, The United Methodist Church is facing a question from the Native American congregation in the United States. There will always be an Indian church. The question is, will it be United Methodist?
The Creating Spirit