United Methodist Native-American Ministries
by Cynthia Abrams
These five examples are a glimpse into the diversity of Native-American ministry in The United Methodist Church. Here are major program emphases that are enhancing ministry among Native-American communities:
Native American Comprehensive Plan
The United Methodist General Conference first adopted the Native American Comprehensive Plan in 1988 and has continued into the 2001-2005 quadrennium. The plan provides programming in four areas:
Native-American United Methodist local-church members and pastors participated in strategic planning and have created models for ministry. Activities in the past four years include such things as:
National United Methodist Native American Center
The National United Methodist Native American Center was established in 1981 to address the critical need for Native-American clergy within The United Methodist Church. It has evolved so that the centerís current mission is "to establish programs that will recruit, train and support Native-American persons in ordained and licensed ministries with The United Methodist Church; initiate programs that will strengthen local Native-American congregations through spiritual-formation activities and leadership development; assist the General Church in its response to the self-identified needs of Native Peoples in ministry in The United Methodist Church."
Since its inception, the center has assisted clergy, seminary students and laity to be in ministry with Native-American local churches and to establish careers and/or leadership within the denomination.
The center sponsors Native-American theological forums, clergy training, conferences for seminary students, youth leadership programs, emergency scholarship assistance, and technical assistance to prospective and current seminary students.
Native American International Caucus
The Native American International Caucus is the advocacy arm representing Native Americans in The United Methodist Church. Its visionary leaders have created programs such as the Native American Comprehensive Plan, National United Methodist Native American Center and Southeast Jurisdiction Native American Ministry Agency.
The caucus is divided into regions by geography and population of Native-American churches. There are five regions: Northeast, Southeast, South Central, Northwest and Southwest. Each region has as its members at least two representatives from each Native-American local church in the region. These regions elect voting members to the national caucus.
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference serves Native-American local churches in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. The pastors and lay leadership carry on the historic traditions of local churches in tribal and urban areas. The conference is known for its powerful and passionate tribal singing and worship traditions, strong youth ministry and United Methodist Women, and leadership development.
The conference has provided clergy and lay leadership to the denomination. For example, staff of the Native American Comprehensive Plan, the Native American International Caucus and two of the denominationís program agencies, and board members of the National United Methodist Native American Center are from Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
Southeast Jurisdiction Agency for Native American Ministry
The Southeast Jurisdiction Agency for Native American Ministry was created to serve the needs and concerns of Native Americans in Southeast Jurisdiction, home to the largest Native-American United Methodist Church in the country. The agency addresses the needs of Native Americans in the Southeast Jurisdiction through leadership-development conferences, spiritual gatherings, youth conventions, mission-outreach teams, and technical support and advocacy to each of the ministries within the jurisdiction.
The Rev. Cynthia Abrams is executive director of the National United Methodist Native American Center.