Remembering the Act of Repentance
Earlier this year the Upper New York (UNY) Conference Committee on Native American Ministries wrote a letter to the Council of Bishops endorsing the Native American International Caucus’ (NAIC) call for the United Methodist Church to observe Oct. 6, 2021, as a day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children to begin a process of healing, justice, and reconciliation for families and communities. On that day in 1879, General Richard Pratt took children from First Nations and opened the boarding school in Carlisle, PA. The United Methodist Church went on to support at least 12 Indian Boarding Schools and has never accepted responsibility for its role in supporting these schools, which severed these children’s connections to their families and cruelly punished them.
We encourage all churches in UNY to consider observing Oct. 6 on the Sunday after, Sunday Oct. 10.
As we begin providing resources and information about why Oct. 6 is so important, we will begin by reminding you of the Act of Repentance that the United Methodist Church committed to in 2012.
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.
This charge is recognized in Resolution 3324(Trail of Repentance and Healing).
This resolution called on The United Methodist Church to begin a process of healing relationships with indigenous persons, including such activities as:
- Using study guides and resources
- Discovering the ongoing impact of historical trauma
- Confessing our participation in the continuing effects of that trauma
- Building relationships through listening and being present with indigenous persons
- Working beside indigenous persons to seek solutions to current problems
- Advocating and resourcing programs which are self-determined by native persons to be part of the healing process
- Holding an Act of Repentance Service for the Healing of Relationships with Indigenous Persons in each Conference (which UNY held in 2015—click here to see a video).
This resolution also called for every Conference and every local congregation of The UMC to:
- Develop and nurture relationships with the indigenous populations in their Conference.
- Encourage and resource the education and training of indigenous leadership including laity and pastors, by providing culturally sensitive learning environments.
- Wherever the church is holding land and/or property in trust, consider transferring a portion of that land and/or property or its income to indigenous persons’ projects.
- Whenever a Conference entity is closing a charge or holds excess land, consider transferring any land and property to an indigenous community.
Lastly, his resolution also called for that full implementation of the recommendations in the resolution be proposed to the Council of Bishops for consideration, and that Bishops of The United Methodist Church provide spiritual leadership and pastoral guidance for the fulfillment of this essential work to heal the soul of our church, our people and the land.