Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Fall board meeting to focus on Native American ministries

By Christie R. House*

The grounding theme for Global Ministries’ 2018 fall board of directors meeting will be The United Methodist Church and Native American ministries. Most events and activities of the Oct. 11-13 gathering in Atlanta will be led by Native American Methodists as they guide directors to consider the shared history of the church and Native American communities.

One of the motivations for the Global Ministries’ founding predecessor was the possibility of work with Native Americans. Mission outreach to Native American peoples predates the creation of the U.S. Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society in 1819, commemorated by the upcoming bicentennial anniversary of Methodist mission next year. Methodist outreach to the Wyandot people in Sandusky, Ohio, began with the work of John Stewart in 1816.

Global Ministries also made a commitment to ministries with indigenous people when it relocated its headquarters to Atlanta. Native American constituents and other United Methodist Church members expressed concern about cities with sports teams that co-opt Native American names and use Native American images as mascots and sacred symbols as logos. The Rev. G. Chebon Kernell, Global Ministries’ executive secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries, said progress has been made in raising awareness and helping people to understand the issue and why it matters. He mentioned a developing program for the DeKalb County School District of Georgia and other efforts. Kernell, a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, is an ordained elder of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Opening worship, titled NAKEN ETEMOCĒT FULLET OWĒYA? in the Muscogee Creek language (“What do we have for one another?”), will be led by the Rev. David Wilson, a director from the OIMC, and Marcus Briggs-Cloud. Wilson, a Choctaw Nation member, will preach the sermon, and Briggs-Cloud, a Maskoke Nation member, will serve as worship director. The service, in part, commemorates the indigenous people that lived in the area before the city of Atlanta was built. Standing Peachtree Park, about a mile from Global Ministries’ headquarters, was once a village of the Creek Nation. “Often people ask where they can find Native American heritage sites,” Kernell noted. “In many cases, a modern city is sitting right on top of them.”

Kernell will moderate a public film screening of “More Than a Word” by filmmakers Kenn Little and John Little on Thursday evening, Oct. 11. The film delves into the issue of team names and the deeper layers of identity they symbolize. After the showing, audience members are encouraged to stay for a panel discussion with Little. He will be joined on the panel by Briggs-Cloud and the Rev. Anita Phillips, director of the United Methodist Native American Comprehensive Plan and co-author of the book “On This Spirit Walk: The Voices of Native American and Indigenous Peoples.” Little is enrolled in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and Phillips is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Other events during this board meeting include a service of commissioning for eight missionaries, conversation on the called General Conference set for February 2019, and a celebration of the United Methodist Development Fund as its administration transitions from Global Ministries to the Texas Methodist Foundation. Both opening worship and the service of commissioning will be livestreamed.

*Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine.