Saturday, April 28, 2012 | TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS)
A delegate picks up and holds a stone in the center aisle during an April 27 "Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples" at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
Delegates relived some painful chapters in the lives of Native
peoples during an April 27 “Act of Repentance toward Healing
Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.”
“There’s a lot of history that has been concealed; you have to go and
dig it up,” said the Rev. George Tinker, a citizen of the Osage Nation
and a professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
Tinker began that excavation by recalling the 1864 massacre at Sand
Creek, where John Chivington, a Methodist pastor, led 700 Colorado
territory militia in the killing and mutilating of some 165 peaceful
Cheyenne men, women and children.
Tinker also told a lesser-known Methodist chapter of that tragic event.
After refusing to meet with Cheyenne leaders, John Evans, a
Methodist serving as governor of the Colorado territory, ordered the
In spite of that action, Evans is celebrated as the founder of the
University of Denver, Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical
Theological Seminary in Evanston, a city named for the Methodist leader.
Tinker also recalled that 30 years earlier, the Tennessee Annual
Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South voted to recall
missionaries who resisted the removal of Cherokee Indians from their
native land in North Carolina. “The removal had one goal,” said Tinker,
“to open fertile farmland for white Christians.”
“It’s way too early to talk about reconciliation,” said Tinker. “It’s
like asking an abused spouse to live with (the) abuser without any
change. … Apologies don’t do anything.”
Tinker said repentance is not something done once. It is a way of
life. “We have to give up some of the things Americans hold dear (and)
make sure all have genuinely equal access to the riches of the world.
“I respect The United Methodist Church for beginning this process,”
said Tinker, “because it is fraught with danger, it takes a great deal
of courage and it is difficult and complex.”
A closing litany confessed that “while some in the church protested
its transgressions against indigenous people, the dominant pattern has
been one whereby both its silence and its active support the church has
participated in the violation, the exploitation and even the killing of
indigenous people. Our congregations and ministries benefited from
Native lands acquired unjustly when it was not a result of outright
As the service concluded, participants were encouraged to pick up
symbolic stones from the “river of life” scattered in the worship area
and take them back to their own communities “as a covenant to continue
to listen and to walk the journey of healing with one another.”