United Methodists Hold Service to Repent for Persecution of Native Americans

Act of Repentance Communion
Mary T Newman taking communion with District Superintendents Allen Black and Harriet Bryan.

The Tennessee and Memphis Conferences of the Methodist Church held an Act of Repentance to acknowledge the church’s wrongs against Native Americans and other first peoples on November 12 at Forest Hills UMC in Brentwood, Tenn.

In 2012, the United Methodist General Conference — the church’s top legislative body — held an “Act of Repentance Toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People” service. At that meeting, the body also charged the denomination’s Council of Bishops with carrying out an ongoing process to improve relations with indigenous individuals including local or regional acts of repentance.

Act of Repentance Ray Buckley
Ray Buckley delivering his message.

Perpetuating the Act of Repentance in our community, Forest Hills UMC hosted the conference-wide service to acknowledge the church’s wrongs against Native Americans and other first peoples.

During the afternoon service, Bishop Bill McAlilly spoke about how the church is seeking to repent for the persecution of innocent, indigenous people. Ray Buckley, a Native American of Lakota/Tlingit/Scots descent serving as Interim Director of the Center for Native American Spirituality and Christian Study, was the guest speaker with a message entitled “Holy Ground.”

Citing the Book of Joshua, Buckley offered a message of healing. “So many times we say – are you for us? Are you against them?” In doing so, said Buckley, “We miss the message of God, which is ‘No’.” We must get beyond pettiness and take the action that defines us as people of God.

Native American music with flute and drums was incorporated into the service. Sacred elements were also infused, including a presentation of a tribal dancing staff and traditional prayers offered in Cherokee.

Act of Repentance Procession
The service procession

Mayor Megan Barry’s office presented an official proclamation for the service, acknowledging November 12, 2016 as The United Methodist Church Act of Repentance Day and encouraged all citizens to join in recognizing this important and worthy observance.

Native Prayer Bundles being tied to a tree at Kellytown.

The Act of Repentance closed with communion and a prayer bundle offering at nearby Kellytown, one of the last remaining sacred Native American sites in this region.

Mary T Newman, Tennessee UMC Conference Coordinator of Native American & Ethnic Ministries, said “We are blessed to have this support in Tennessee. It was a powerful day.”

A video of the event will soon be available at tnumc.org/act-of-repentance.