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Can Native Americans respect and preserve their own cultural traditions and also be Christian? Native American culture is multifaceted, with between 250 and 400 language groups among those Indigenous to North America. They share some basic values, Including love and concern for family and community, that long predated the arrival of Christianity. This essay seeks to demonstrate how Indians within the United Methodist Church have made choices that maintain their tribal heritage and culture and Incorporate them Into Christian worship. Missionizing of North American Indians was largely assimliationistic for a century-and-a-half, but Methodist leaders became concerned about Indian cultural Identity after the 1960's civil-rights movement. The Lawrence (KS) Indian United Methodist Church is used as a case study of how this mission church, chartered in 1963, reached a cultural awareness that flourished in the mld-1970's and continues today. The church's relationship with Indian youth and with the Haskell Indian Nat ions University is also examined.

We share our stories

Each of us brings a unique story and

gifts from the Creator

Our stories are about journeys of faith

We walk a path of righteousness

We share our path with all creation

We are all related

Eastern Cherokee prayer tradition1


Can Native Americans respect and preserve their own cultural traditions and be Christian? Native Americans have always had to face this question if they became Christian. The culture and heritage of these peoples are diverse. Between 250 and 400 language groups are indigenous to the North American continent, yet they share some basic universal values -- including love and concern for family, community, and their environment -- that existed among the Native Americans long before the arrival of Christianity. This essay will examine how Indians in the Lawrence (Kansas) United Methodist Church responded to the advent of Methodism into their world. It is important to note here that this essay does not aim to examine Native American resistance to Christianity or Methodism, as that is best left for another essay. It seeks to demonstrate how Indians within the United Methodist Church have made choices that helped maintain their tribal heritage and culture and incorporated them into Christian worship. It is an acculturation process that reciprocates between the dominant Christian institution that accommodated historically underrepresented members in American society and Native Americans whose values and ancient beliefs were seldom comprom ised in their acceptance of Christianity.

While the missionizing of Indians in North America historically has been one of assimilation, Indian cultural identity became a primary concern for the leaders of the United Methodist Church some time after the civil-rights movement of the 1960's and the rise of the American Indian Movement. The questions of paramount importance to leaders in the church were: (1) How much Indian culture and what types of Indian cultural practices should be incorporated into Christian worship? (2) What processes of inclusion would take place in the implementation of Indian culture into the United Methodist institution? (3) Would inclusion of Native Americans constitute a one-sided acculturation?

The Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church in Kansas will serve as a case study of how the early Lawrence Indian Mission Church, chartered in 1963, arrived at a cultural awareness at its conception that flourished in the mid- 1970's and still flourishes today. This study will also look at the church's ongoing relationship with Indian youth and Haskell Indian Nations University, which is vital to the church's outreach, and examine how the Lawrence Indian Mission Church decided how much of traditional Indian culture, beliefs, and values should be incorporated into their worship.

In his pastoral report of October 5, 1975, the Rev. Harry D. Folsom of the Lawrence Indian Mission Church announced what would be the first of four special services being planned to celebrate the four seasons of the year. [2] Beginning on October 19 of that year, the Lawrence Indian Mission Church held services that utilized tribal hymns and prayers in native languages, and the congregation was encouraged to attend worship dressed in tribal shirts and dresses. It was believed by the pastor and congregation that these "Heritage Sunday" worship services would continue to be a meaningful part of a worship tradition in the Lawrence Indian Mission Church. [3]

The recognition of Indian heritage was not new to the church, as the celebration of Indian culture and heritage occurred earlier in the history of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church. In the early years of the church's existence, native hymns and prayers in indigenous tongues were used and celebrated in the church. [4] This was somewhat surprising, considering the authoritative role that the eurocentric Christian church had played in the lives of the Indians. Throughout the history of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church, Native American symbols could be found on banners and blankets that decorated the church. Elements of Native American spirituality are incorporated into Christian symbols such as the medicine wheel with a cross in its center, which is found in the sanctuary. The use of Native American interments, Indian dances, and songs are also a part of the Christian experience for Native Americans at the Lawrence church.

The embodiment of Indian culture in Christian worship, especially during the late 1960's and the early 1970's, and the reciprocal consequence that Indian culture and Methodism have had on each other acted as a watershed for Indian Christian worship at the local-church and national-conference levels of the United Methodist Church in the United States. Native American culture and history are central to Indian beliefs and cognition of Christianity, and they continue to influence their relationships with each other and with others outside the Indian community. Religion, politics, education, and family dynamics are all encapsulated in Indian culture and heritage. Some might be surprised to know that most Native Americans in North America have become followers of Christianity. [5]

Yet, Christianity has not eliminated various elements of Indian religions in Christian worship. Indian spirituality has been and remains an intricate part of the lives of Christian Indians and their communities. [6] Achiel Peelman has argued that most scholars agree that Indians were not without a concept of a supreme being. [7] Anthropologists also contend that Indian religions were structured around monotheism well before contact with Christianity. [8] For the Indians of North America, God is everywhere and everything. For some Indian groups the naming of God is problematic, as is the case for the Lakota whose term "Wakan Tanka" translates generally as meaning "all-inclusive" but remains difficult to translate into Western languages. [9] For the Navajo, God is the Supreme Invisible Being that is always present in nature and refuses to be named and defined. [10]

The Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church

In 1959 at the annual session of the Indian Mission Conference of Oklahoma in Okemah, Oklahoma, the conference boundaries were realigned to include the states of Kansas and Texas. [11] The conference appointed the Rev. George Saumpty to the Potawatomi Indian Reservation in Horton, Kansas, and the Rev. Jessie Sullivan to the Indian church in Topeka, Kansas. Sullivan had a friend in Lawrence, Jewitt Jimboy. Jimboy and his wife, Cora Anderson Jimboy, felt a deep need to start an Indian Methodist church in Lawrence. Sullivan agreed to help them form a church and to serve the congregation at Lawrence. Jimboy formed a small congregation with his family and friends, sharing in traditional Indian hymns and teachings of Methodism. The newly formed Indian congregation held its first service at a church located at 1040 New Hampshire in Lawrence. [12] The congregation then moved to the basement of the Centenary Methodist Church in North Lawrence and received funding from the conference to secure a building they could ca ll their own. In 1961, the congregation secured the abandoned Midland school house just north of Lawrence. With the help of other churches and organizations in the area that donated pews, chairs, and a piano, the church found a temporary home, and the Rev. Kenneth Deere was appointed as minister to this congregation in 1962. On March 17, 1963, the church was chartered with nineteen members. The congregation stayed at the Midland building until November, 1970, when it moved to its current site at 950 East 21st Street in Lawrence. [13]

The members grew closer in fellowship and experienced revivals and visions. Like many small churches, the Lawrence church struggled to boost its membership and establish a financial base to maintain its campus and meet its apportionment to the Annual Conference. The church also served its Indian community by hosting District meetings, implementing the Wesley Foundation that functioned as a social and spiritual outreach for Indian students at Haskell Indian Nations University, and even aiding black colleges. [14] The Wesley Foundation at times struggled to engage Haskell students in a meaningful forum, but the church continued its outreach to the Haskell students by forming the Haskell Committee in 1972. [15]

In a recent interview, Brad DrowningBear of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church said that the mission of the Indian church is not to proselytize to the Indian students at Haskell but, rather, to serve in an ecumenical capacity, respecting the sociocultural and religious diversity of the Pan-Indianism that exists at Haskell. [16] In 1974 the Lawrence church reached fifty-five students who participated in programs and services that included the Alpha Omega fraternity and Chi Rho sorority. [17] The Lawrence Indian Mission Church provided disposable diapers for the Little Indian Day Care Center and supplied many of the provisions needed by married students and couples at Haskell. [18] Haskell reciprocated on numerous occasions by allowing the Indian church use of Haskell facilities for church-sponsored events and meetings. [19]

The church also reached out to Indian youth of high school age, involving them in recreation programs and exposing them to the Indian church. [20] Folsom met with officials at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, and at St. Paul School of Theology, as well as leaders of the Kansas City and Topeka Indian centers, to help create programs that allowed professors and staff from these institutions to work with Indian youth in leadership programs. [21] One program involved Indian students from the Lawrence Church in attending a senior high camp at Baker University that was funded by the Kansas East Conference. [22] The church grew and was filled with optimism and excitement during these years. Folsom was asked by Robert Newton to speak on Radio Station KLWN on "Looking Ahead at the Next 200 Years - Native Americans in the Next 200 Years." [23] In his Pastor's Report to the church in 1974 and 1975, Folsom shared his excitement and optimism about the current status of the Lawrence Indian Church:

This was an action-packed month for our church. It seems that more and more we are making an influence on the community as well as the campus ... With the opening of the fall semester at Haskell, things have really picked up in the community as well as in the church. Let us continue to pray that we might provide a meaningful ministry to the campus and the community. "Until you try the impossible, you don't test the resources of God." Grace and Peace, Harry D. Folsom, pastor. [24]

Native American traditions continued to be incorporated into Christian worship. Church services that interpreted the Nativity through Indian culture, banners with Native American symbols and images, Native American blankets and cloths, a medicine wheel in the sanctuary, and the use of shells and an eagle's feather during baptism ceremonies all were a part of worship at the Lawrence church, [25] as were the use of Native American flutes, cultural dance forms, calling on and praying to the four or seven directions in worship, and smudging. [26] This experience among the Christian Indians at the Lawrence church was unique when compared to earlier forms of Christian mission work among the Indians, as it did not reflect the traditional patterns of assimilation and acculturation.

The questions that arise are how and why the Lawrence Church was exempt from the dominance of the Anglo-American culture. Before the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, white members of the Methodist church attempted to maintain control over missionary and administrative functions among the Indian churches. It appears though that, at the local-church level, Indian churches were already experiencing greater autonomy and self-determination. Indians never felt as though they could not incorporate indigenous traditions into Christian worship.

There were other social factors involved that contributed to the Native American experience at the Lawrence church. Social transformations on the national scene that affected women and minorities during the civil-rights era of the late 1950's and 1960's regenerated Native American identity and self-determination. The cultural awareness of Native Americans did not begin with the civil-rights movement, as Native Americans have long manifested a desire to maintain their identity while adapting to their surrounding social and natural environment. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, great prophets such as Neolin (Delaware), Handsome Lake (Seneca), Tenskwatawa (Shawnee), and Wovoka (Paiute) all prophesied about returning to traditional Indian ways, maintaining the spiritual relationships with the cosmos. The messages that these prophets received reflected the various concerns of the Indians, including maintaining their communities, assimilation, alcohol, and the desacrilization of nature. In the case o f Wovoka, Christianity and a restoration of tribal life were meshed as his eschatological visions of the imminent coming of a new world where the living would be guided by a celestial spirit (Jesus) and would be reunited with the deceased in a state of eternal happiness. [27]

Other Indian leaders, such as the Cherokee Yonaguska or Chief Drowning Bear, who were born in the mid-eighteenth century, were suspicious of missionaries and responded to Christianity in similar ways, encouraging their people never to forsake their ancestry. When Yonaguska once examined the Bible, which had been translated into Sequoyan script, he was reported to have commented, "Well, it seems like a good book, strange that the white people are not better, after having had it so long." [28] Given the number of contradictions in the lives of the white Christian missionaries and their followers, such as seizing Cherokee lands, it is understandable why Yonaguska reacted as he did. [29]

During the decade of the 1960's Congressional committees, task forces, and interest groups once again took notice of the Native Americans and the social injustice they were experiencing. In 1961, two studies on Indian conditions by the Commission on Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian and the United States Commission on Civil Rights concluded that government policies that ensured Indians' social equality and self-determination were vital to progressive Indian policy. [30] Native Americans were also active in the fight for self-determination as organizations such as the Indian Land Rights Association created by the Sioux, the National Indian Youth Conference, and the National Congress of American Indians all organized demonstrations and protests that supported the prevailing interests of all Indians.

However, it was the actions of the more militant Indian activists from such groups as the Broken Treaties Caravan and the more notable American Indian Movement that brought to public attention the oppression and injustice that Indians continued to experience. The occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 and the takeover of Wounded Knee by Indian activists in 1973 reached the national spotlight and demonstrated the failure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to administer the laws that were promised for the betterment of living conditions and the redevelopment of Indian communities and culture. The rise of civil-rights groups for social change in American society was also evident in America's churches at the local and national level.

Changes in Church Policy

In 1968, the United Methodist Church came into existence during a period when America was torn apart by racial disharmony, political turmoil, and an unpopular war in Vietnam. The Methodist Church united with the Evangelical United Brethren, but issues and differences between the denominations were not immediately addressed. Instead, the United Methodist Church focused on establishing boards that eliminated bureaucracy. These boards consisted of Higher Education and Ministry, Global Ministries, Church and Society, and Discipleship. [31] In the new church, women and minorities were promised a voice in church policy, and white middle-aged male clergy had to learn to tolerate the sharing of authority. [32] Given the tumultuous period when the United Methodist Church was established, it is easy to understand why there were many socioeconomic, political, and religious issues that the church felt it must address. For example, the United Methodist Church sought to abolish discrimination in working with Native Americ ans. A resolution was referred to the National Division of the Board of Missions for study that stated:

Therefore be it resolved that the United Methodist Church take steps to abolish any discrimination that may still exist in the relationship of the church to its brethren of American Indian background. Let this begin by the elimination of the unfortunate practice of keeping our work among the Indian peoples on a mission basis and raise them to a status in keeping with their proud heritage and independence. [33]

This resolution was crucial in reinterpreting the meaning and goal of "mission" in the United Methodist Church. It was the first step in reconciling those within the church who viewed mission as a welfare program that could be taken away at any time from those in need and those who saw mission as sharing the gospel of spiritual and social enlightenment to be celebrated by all people regardless of their culture and heritage. The Rev. Brad DrowningBear of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church viewed this resolution as essential to the existence of Indian Methodist churches when he commented, "Our church wants to be a church that is missionary and not one that is missioned to." [34]

In February, 1968, the General Board of Global Ministries formed a committee to devise a way to empower Native American Methodists. The steering committee included the Revs. Raymond Baines (Tlingit), Adolph Dial (Lumbee), and Robert Pinezaddleby (Kiowa), who also served as the minister of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church from June, 1986, to June, 1992. In addition to those Indians elected to the steering committee, other Native Americans replaced committee members who resigned and, thus, began a drive for a more self-determined body within the church. [35] This revival of Indian culture in the United Methodist Church led to the formation within the church of the National American Indian Committee, later called the Native American International Caucus (NAIC). In 1970, delegates of the Oklahoma Indian Mission Conference were seated for the first time at the General Conference in St. Louis. However, the delegates from the Indian Mission Conference were not allowed to vote there. [36] Thus, the immedi ate goals of the caucus were to establish voting rights for Indians at the General Conference, raise educational standards and salaries for pastors, and establish a strong communication link among the Indian churches in the conference. [37]

When the United Methodist Church met at the General Conference in 1972, the Conference named the ethnic minority church and cultural pluralism as one of its highest priorities. [38] The momentum of the effort to promote Indian self-worth and distinction in the United Methodist Church continued to move forward. Indian hegemony in the church was no longer at the discretion of the whites in the church. The 1972 General Conference changed the name of the Indian Mission Conference to the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and encouraged the pastoral and lay leadership to play a more significant role in the administrative duties of the Indian Missionary Conference. At the 1976 General Conference the NAIC asked the General Conference to create a Native American study committee to examine Native American missions and suggest recommendations to the 1980 conference. The NAIC recommended the following:

1. There shall be a study committee on Native American Ministries, to be composed of twenty-one voting members, including one representative from the Council of Bishops. It is strongly recommended that 75 percent of the membership be Native American.

2. Functions

(a) To study and evaluate the basic network system of Native American ministries

(b) To study and evaluate how Native American ministries have been researched and developed

(c) To research the basic philosophical and social basis of Native American concepts in the United Methodist Church

(d) To study the role of NAIC and its function in the life of the church.

3. Staff shall be composed of three Native Americans: an executive director, an administrative assistant, and a secretary. The committee shall report its recommendations to the 1980 General Conference. [39]

The 1980 General Conference accepted the report for the formation of a General Commission on Native American Ministries but did not accept the remaining recommendations. The General Conference did, however, resolve not to be a party to any conference or jurisdiction that limited the development of resource programs of ministry among Native Americans. [40] Although this was a setback for the NAIC, the recognition of valid cultural distinctions among Native Americans in the United Methodist Church generated greater Native American awareness in the larger church.

In 1977, a report on theological education for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference was discussed at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. The report recognized major and minor differences among various tribes of Native Americans and the need to understand the importance of tribal customs. Folsom, who worked with Indians in Kansas and pastored the Lawrence Indian Mission Church from June, 1972, through June, 1977, reported that Indians who were not Christians practiced Indian traditions that were harmonious with Christian teaching. [41] It was acknowledged at this meeting that previous missionary work among Indians rejected many Indian traditions and that there was a strong trend among the youth to return to traditional Indian cultural practices. [42] A question was raised by one of the Perkins committee members asking if it was possible for Christian ministry to affirm cultural differences. A discussion ensued, centering around the Indian tradition of creation stories, which was acknowledged by the committee to have already been incorporated into Christian teaching in other denominations. It was then asked to what degree Christian bodies were tied into Indian tradition. The members of the committee suggested that a group of pastors accept an assignment to study a major Christian doctrine, such as creation, redemption, or incarnation. Each team would then interview the elders of the tribes associated with the church in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and evaluate, process, and incorporate Indian tradition and oral history into Christian tradition. [43] This was a milestone event in the direction that Native Americans were taking in the United Methodist Church.

The NAIC was already looking ahead to the 1988 General Conference with plans to establish a national forum on Native American theology, addressing issues faced by Native American women, protecting land bases, health care, and training more Native Americans to serve as clergy and staff in the United Methodist Church. [44] This comprehensive plan was accepted by the General Conference and titled "The Sacred Circle of Life: A Native American Vision." [45] The General Conference also created Native American Awareness Sunday to remind the United Methodist Church of contributions made by Native Americans. All offerings for this special day were to go to strengthen Native American ministries and provide scholarships for Native Americans attending United Methodist schools of theology. [46]

Two new hymnals were also approved by the 1988 General Conference. The hymnal used by the mainstream churches celebrated the ethnic diversity found in the United Methodist Church. The hymnal included hymns from African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American traditions. Prayers and other worship materials were also included in the hymnal that represented these ethnicities. [47] In 1992, the Native American hymnal and worship resource Voices was published. The materials for this hymnal were collected by Native Americans and represent approximately twenty different tribal groups. The goal of Voices was to gather hymns in the original language of the tribes as well as resources in English. It was hoped that these hymns could be taught in culturally diverse congregations and shared in different languages, reflecting a substantial range of theological significance. [48] The Indian appreciation of song and dance, so long a part of Indian identity, was finally accepted by the mainstream United Metho dist Church.

A New Day in the Indian Methodist Church

The noted American Indian author Vine Deloria wrote, "While the Christian mission was to save the individual Indian, its result was to shatter Indian societies and destroy the cohesiveness of Indian societies." [49] While there is ample evidence to support Deloria's observation, members of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church could argue that Indian identity in the United Methodist Church has been achieved. In 1990, the Lawrence Indian Mission Church was renamed the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church. [50] The church continues to serve and participate at the local, regional, and conference levels and to work within the East Kansas Conference, but it insists on being a separate church body. Despite significant gains in the cultural awareness of Native Americans in the United Methodist Church, distinct cultural, language, and generational differences among whites and Indians have created feelings among Indians of being recipients of a paternalistic order and have stirred feelings of alienation. [51 ] Brad DrowningBear believes that:

Most Native Americans would be swallowed up in a large Anglo or even multi-racial church. With such a small voice they would not be heard; they would be overwhelmed by all the differences. Keeping a separate church allows us to sing our own songs when we want to sing them, and we don't have to go to the choir director and try and fight for every little morsel of power and freedom to do what we want and need to do. It is not a forced segregation; it is a respect and understanding for the differences and exceptional character for the intended conference, the conference that desires to be in existence on its own. If we didn't have our own conference, we would probably disassociate ourselves from the United Methodist Church. [52]

In his survey of ethnic minorities in the United Methodist Church, Walter Vernon found that the abolition of an Indian conference and merger with a white conference brought the following response from the Native Americans: "We have tried that route already. We are already integrated -- we are a merger of many tribes, with many different languages, customs, and rites. What some whites seem to want is for everyone to follow their pattern of integration -- to 'become like us."' [53]

DrowningBear also believes there is a conservative element in the Lawrence church that shuns those who attend the traditional pow wow celebrations outside the church. Some of the pow wows rejected Christianity, and others had personality conflicts over leadership, which led to a split in the Lawrence church between more traditional nativists and conservatives. The conservatives are more fundamental from a theological standpoint, but, nonetheless, a real flow of Indian characteristics is evident in the conservatives' lives, as they "can't deny who they are." [54] DrowningBear continues, "The conservatives are somewhat resistant to indigenous, religious kinds of elements, but Indian culture and heritage is always going to be there." [55] There continue to be a number of members who both participate in the pow wows and attend the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church.

Despite theological differences, the Lawrence Indian Church works with the predominantly white First United Methodist Church of Lawrence on a number of ongoing ministries. Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church also works with the smaller but still predominately white Centenary United Methodist Church of Lawrence, participating in fund-raisers, gatherings of worship, and fellowship meals. [56] In addition, Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church continues its outreach to the students at Haskell Indian Nations University and has ministered, largely through the work of Pastor Virgil Yeahquo, to Indian inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility, reflecting its commitment to serve its community. [57]

In 1983, a survey of 226 individuals in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference was conducted to identify and improve various aspects of the Indian conference. One question in the survey asked how much native language was used in local-church activities and services. Surprisingly, ninety responses (forty percent) indicated that native language was used less than twenty-five percent of the time. Twenty-two people said that native language was used seventy-five percent of the time, and nine members of the Southeast District indicated that their church used tribal language in its church activities totally. [58]

DrowningBear believes that, because there are various Indian languages in any particular church, English is most often used as a common language. In addition, a number of church members do not speak an indigenous language. Indian languages are most often used in prayer and hymns, which accounts for about a quarter of the worship service. [59] Native Americans in the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church view their heritage with great pride. In a draft presented to the Administrative Council of the Lawrence Indian Mission Church proposing expansion of the church facilities in 1989, the finance committee reflected the character and spirit of the Lawrence church: "We are proud of our heritage. In our church we have people of seven different tribes in attendance ... We sing Native American hymns of nine different languages ... We could present a demonstration of the Native American dances in full Native dress ..., and we take pride in our Native American food." [60]

The Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church is cognizant of its sacred worth and dignity and continues to look at ways of self-empowerment. Like other churches in the Oklahoma Indian Mission Conference, the Indians of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church celebrate the inherent values of their life and culture. Diverse Native American hymns, the sharing of Indian stories, community outreach to Native Americans and non-Native Americans, and upholding the dignity of Native Americans and the earth are values and strengths that the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church holds. [61] Despite financial challenges at the local and conference level, many Indians are gaining representation in the national church body with the belief that Indians must maintain their own identity as a conference.

Attitudes about Methodism among Indians have changed as well. In 1975, Choctaw scholar and member of the United Methodist Church, Homer Noley, said that "Methodist ministry to the Indians has ended up trying to turn the Indian into a quasi-white person, whose social customs would conform to the dominant white culture." [62] Sixteen years later, in his study of the recognition and empowerment of Indians in the United Methodist Church, Noley concluded in his study of the church ministry in Phoenix that "it is intentional in its programming style so that it appeals to those Native American persons whose spirituality is primarily traditional. History is being made. Let the record show that it was a faithful effort." [63] Native Americans have always understood that they must look within their own traditions and heritage in order to keep alive their culture and spiritual beliefs. Acculturation has taken place, but it is the dominant United Methodist Church that has compromised its long-held theological dogmatism toward ethnic minorities. Many mistakes have been made, and financial woes continue in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. It has also been difficult for Indians to accept Christianity when Europeans came to North America and "killed Indians in the name of Jesus." [64] One example was the failure of missionaries to appreciate and learn from Indian culture and to institute a reciprocal relationship of cultural understanding between Indians and non-Indians.

Native Americans, while preserving ancestral values, have also adjusted to the institutions and posture of a modern society. However, any Indian practice or ritual that is "directed toward God and comes from the heart and conscience is biblically based." [65] The dichotomy of indigenous and Christian religions has witnessed a sociocultural transformation from hostility and conflict to one of integration established on Native American terms. It is yet another example of Native Americans' persevering in a imperious culture that has attempted to conform them.


On Sunday April 16, 1997, the United Methodist churches of Lawrence, Kansas, observed Native American Awareness Day. At the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church, the congregation gathered, dressed in traditional Native American attire. [66] At First United Methodist Church, a special offering was received for the Native American United Methodist Churches. [67] At Central United Methodist Church, members of the Haskell Indian Nations University Chorale sang traditional Native American songs during the service. [68] One week later, members of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church gathered in worship with the Centenary United Methodist Church in North Lawrence. A gift of song in Cherokee and Choctaw tongues was presented to the congregation of Centenary by the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church. The hymns were sung with great pride and reverence toward their Creator.

Leonard David Ortiz (United Methodist Church and Christian Church [Disciples of Christ]) has been a history instructor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, since 1995. In 1994-95 he taught high school in Cupertino, CA. He holds a B.A. in history from Santa Clara (CA) University and an M.A. in education (1995) from Stanford University. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas, specializing in the history of the American West and in Native American and Latin American history. He expects to defend his dissertation (on which this article is based) in August, 2000. His article, "La Voz de la Gente: Chicano Activist Publications in the Kansas City Area, 1968-1989," appeared in Kansas History (Autumn, 1999).

(*) L.K. 19:40; Hab. 2:11 (The Holy Bible New International Version [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1978]). The author gives special thanks to the Rev. Brad DrowningBear and Dr. Ray Hinger for their support and faith in this project.

(1.) Z. Susanne Aikman, "Eastern Cherokee Prayer," Voices (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1992), p. 67.

(2.) The Rev. Harry D. Folsom, "Pastor's Report," Lawrence Indian Mission Church, October 5, 1975.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) Quarterly Conference, December 20, 1970, "We began our meeting by singing page 106, Silent Night, followed by Jewitt Jimboy leading a Creek hymn ...," p. 53. Administrative Board Meeting, November 11, 1973, "December 2, Heritage service, special day-wear tribal costume ...," p. 124.

(5.) Achiel Peelman, Christ Is a Native American (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995), p. 15.

(6.) Ibid.

(7.) Ibid., p. 46.

(8.) Ibid.

(9.) Joseph Epes Brown, The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian (New York: Crossroad Books 1982), p. 70.

(10.) Peelman, Christ, p. 46.

(11.) "General Minutes of the Methodist Church," Indian Mission Conference of Oklahoma, 1959.

(12.) Church Archives, Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church.

(13.) The Indian Mission Church officially began searching for a place of worship in Lawrence in 1968. See "Minutes of Official Board Meeting," October 6, 1968, p.5. On October 8, 1969, the Building Committee reported the purchase of four lots on the corners of 21st Street and Haskell, which was approved by the church ("Church Conference Meeting," October 8,1969, p. 22). The official groundbreaking ceremonies were held on August 23, 1970. Representatives from local churches and the dean of Haskell Junior College were in attendance. Among the members who did the actual groundbreaking were Jewitt and Cora Jimboy (Church Archives, p.44).

(14.) Reported by the Rev. Daniel Sexton, Church Archives, September 26, 1971, p. 80. Lawrence Indian Mission Church, "discussion of contributing to Black colleges," Administrative Board and Council on Ministries meeting, January 7, 1973, p. 101.

(15.) Administrative Board Meeting, November 11, 1972, p.97.

(16.) Interview, Brad DrowningBear, May 12, 1997.

(17.) Administrative Board Meeting, May 19, 1974, PP. 153-154. See also Administrative Board Meeting, April 13, 1975, pp. 176-177.

(18.) United Methodist Women Report, April 13, 1975, p. 177.

(19.) Planning Committee Meeting, April 18, 1975. "District Conference to be held May 23-24 ... singing devotional by Reverend Floyd Blackbear. Haskell is going to let us use Powhattan Hall for those of us who can spend the flight" (p. 179).

(20.) Administrative Board Meeting, February 4, 1973, pp. 107-108.

(21.) "Pastor's Report," Administrative Board Meeting, March 3, 1974, pp. 135-136.

(22.) Pastor's Report," Administrative Board Meeting, August 13, 1975, p. 189.

(23.) "Pastor's Report," April 22, 1976, p. 217.

(24.) "Pastor's Report," May 19, 1974, p. 149. See also "Pastor's Report," September 16, 1975, p. 194.

(25.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14, 1997.

(26.) Smudging involves the use and lighting of cedar, ceremonial charcoal, and sweetgrass where the smoke, as told in the Hebrew Bible, rises, and the prayers of the people are rising to God, so the smoke and smudging in the Native American tradition is a directed purification where Indians take an eagle feather and fan a person or home, blessing them. This is an ancient Indian tradition. Praying in the four and seven directions (North, South, East, West, and semi-cardinal directions) is largely ceremonial, where each direction represents a specific natural element; e.g., the south is where warmth comes from and causes the plants to grow. The pastor takes the cedar and collects the prayers from the different directions and blesses the congregations" (Brad DrowningBear interview, April 14, 1997).

(27.) Peelman, Christ, p. 71. See also James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965; orig., 1896). Messianic traditions are also discussed in Arrel Morgan Gibson, The American Indian: Prehistory to the Present (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Co., 1980), pp. 464-482.

(28.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14, 1997. See also James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Heritage Books, 1982 [1900]), p. 163; and Ronald Wright, Stolen Continents: The "New World" through Indian Eyes (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1992), p. 306.

(29.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, a descendent of Yonaguska, April 14, 1997.

(30.) Gibson, American Indian, p. 556. See also William A Brophy and Sophie D. Aberle, The Indian--America's Unfinished Business: Report of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966); Justice: 1961 United States Commission on Civil Rights Report, Book 5 (Washington, DC: Commission on Civil Rights, 1961); and Civil Rights: Excerpts from the 1961 United States Commission on Civil Rights Report (Washington, DC: Commission on Civil Rights, 1961).

(31.) John G. McEllhenney, ed., United Methodism in America: A Compact History (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1992), p. 125.

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) "Abolish Discrimination in Work with Indian Americans," in Robert Patterson, ed., The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1968 (Nashville, TN: The Methodist Publishing House, 1968), p. 74.

(34.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14,1997.

(35.) Homer Noley, First White Frost: Native Americans and Methodism (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991), p. 225.

(36.) "Report of the Resolution Committee, Resolution No. 2," in Lindy Waters, secretary-editor, 1971 Official Journal of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, The United Methodist Church -- The Fourth Annual Session, Northeast District Center, Preston, Oklahoma, June 3-6, 1971, p. 39.

(37.) McEllhenney, United Methodism in America, p. 130.

(38.) The Program Council (predecessor agency of the General Council of Ministries), ed., The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1972 (Nashville, TN: The Methodist Publishing House, 1972), p. 74.

(39.) "Study Committee on Native American Ministries," in Emory Stevens Bucke, ed., The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1976, Section XV of the Quadrennial Committee, Item 2201 (Nashville, TN; The United Methodist Publishing House, 1976), P. 527.

(40.) "General Board of Global Ministries," The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1980 (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1980), p. 186.

(41.) Harry D. Folsom, "Report of Ad Hoc Committee on Theological Education for Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference," Southern Methodist University, June 10, 1977, p. 1.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) Ibid., p.3.

(44.) Noley, First White Frost, p. 228.

(45.) "Development of a Comprehensive Approach to Native American Ministries," in The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1988, SP72.A (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1988), pp. 176-177. Also see McEllhenney, United Methodism in America, p. 150.

(46.) "General Provisions regarding Churchwide Special Sundays with Offerings," in Ronald Patterson, ed., The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1988 (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 186.

(47.) E.g., a phonetic transcription of Cherokee, Kiowa, Navajo, Creek, and Choctaw is used to translate "Amazing Grace," in Carlton R. Young, ed., The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), p. 378.

(48.) Marilyn M. Hofstra, Voices: Native American Hymns and Worship Resources (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1992), p. xiii.

(49.) Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 115.

(50.) "Minutes of the Charge Conference," District Superintendent Bob Pinezaddlby presiding, Item 3, "motion to change the name of the church," by Barbara Goddard, November 9, 1988.

(51.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14, 1997.

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) Walter N. Vernon, "Indian Methodists in South Central States," in Walter N. Vernon, ed., One in the Lord: A History of Ethnic Minorities in the South Central Jurisdiction, The United Methodist Church (Oklahoma City, OK: Commission on Archives and History, South Central Jurisdiction, The United Methodist Church, 1977), p.44.

(54.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14, 1997.

(55.) Ibid.

(56.) Ibid. Also see Planning Meeting, "Rev. Virgil Brady of 1st UMC to speak at revival," October 2, 1987, p. 1.

(57.) For reports of Prison Fellowship see Church Report, December, 1983, and Administrative Council Meeting, February 8, 1989, p. 21. The work at Haskell as well as in other Indian outreach programs, including pow wows and All Tribes Fellowship Days, are documented throughout the administrative minutes of the Church Archives, 1962 to the present.

(58.) "Analysis of Survey of Pastors, Laity Members, President of United Methodist Women and Youth of the OIMC, October 23, 1983, through December 11, 1983, question 62, p. 18," Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

(59.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, April 14, 1997

(60.) "Draft Submitted to the Administrative Council," February 5, 1989, p. 1.

(61.) Brad DrowningBear, "Goals and Mission of the Lawrence UMC," April 14, 1997.

(62.) Homer Noley, "Indians Missions: A Perspective," The Interpreter, February, 1975.

(63.) Noley, First White Frost, p. 230.

(64.) Interview with Brad DrowningBear, May 12, 1997.

(65.) Ibid.

(66.) Interview with Brad Drowning Bear, April 19, 1997.

(67.) Interview with Judy Patch, May 12, 1997.

(68.) Lawrence Journal, April 18, 1997, p. 10.
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Author:Ortiz, Leonard David
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 1999

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