"And the Stones Shall Cry Out": Native American Identity in the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church [*]
Ortiz, Leonard David, Journal of Ecumenical Studies
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. …