Native American Churchwide Policy Statement
The exploring companies of England sought charters from the Crown. In almost all of their charters they stoutly avowed that evangelization of the Indians was a major and chief purpose of British exploration and colonization. Similar charters were drawn up by other countries. Most were designed to secure the wealth and land from the New World. The original great seal of Massachusetts shows and Indian shouting the Macedonian call, "Come over and help us!" The last mention of evangelization in a charter occurred in the case of Pennsylvania.
Indian work by the Protestants began with Thomas Mayhew, Jr., in 1643. American Protestant home missions to the Indians were a precursor to the global evangelistic enterprise. Most of the inspiration, theory and models were first developed in an attempt to evangelize Indians, then exported as mission policy and program overseas.
Evangelization and civilization were considered inseparable the Europeans. The church and federal policy were so intertwined that it is extremely difficult to separate them, and not to recognize this with respect to Indian history is to create a large gap of misunderstanding in the history of federal-Indian relationships.
The federal governments responsibility for Indian affairs after the inauguration of the Constitution rested in the War Department. General Henry Knox, first Secretary of War, decided that civilization was the only alternative to extinction of the red man. He believed that Christian missionaries, or persons so motivated, were best able to undertake such a program as he recommended to President Washington in 1789.
Earlier, in 1706 near Philadelphia, the first presbytery has been organized by Francis Makemie. There were only seven non-Indian ministers and "certain elders" present. The first official non-Indian missionary among Indian people was probably Azariah Horton, who commenced his work on Long Island. The work at Shinnecock on Long Island began in 1741. This work still continues within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In 1722, Gideon Blackburn (a Presbyterian) was given a commission to work among the Cherokees. This is what his commission said:
The standing committee on missions, acting under the authority and order of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, confiding very much in your piety, prudence, indulgence and zeal, have appointed, and by these present do appoint you, the Reverend Gideon Blackburn, their mission to the Cherokee Nation of Indians for the purpose of carrying them gospel and the arts of civilized life to them: in which service you are to spend two months at the season you may find most convenient and to be governed by such instructions as shall be given you by this committee from time to time.
Blackburn, in the spirit of John Calvin, started a school for Indian people in Tennessee. The federal government paid the salaries of the teachers and missionaries. The House of Representatives, responding to President Madison's annual message to Congress in 1818, recommended that the Indians be "moralized" rather than exterminated and established a permanent "civilization fund" by an act of March, 1819. It provided a major appropriation of $10,000, but it worked wonders in calling the churches to action. The subsidy was available for schools of agriculture and mechanical and domestic crafts for tribes near the borders of settlements. The fact that the federal government provided funds for mission endeavors is apparent. On several occasions the General Assembly expressed appreciation to the government of the United States for its attempt to civilize the Indian people. In the General Assembly's report of 1820, it is reported
"Resolved that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the
United States are highly gratified in observing the civilization of the
Indian tribes within its territories by supportive schools and by introducing among them the arts of social life. The Assembly feel confident that the general government, adopting these measures, act in accordance with the wishes of a large proportion of the American people. The Assembly sincerely pray that the Supreme Being may bless these exertions to reclaim the aborigines of our continent from the darkness and ferocity of their savage state, the privileges and enjoyments of Christian civilization." (Minutes, 1789-1820, p.734).
The second large increase in mission activity with Indian people during the nineteenth century was caused by President U. S. Grants "peace policy." The Bureau of Indian Affairs had become corrupt at every level of administration. Agents and suppliers made fortunes out of jobs and contracts. Concerned persons called for a reformation and suggested enlisting the help of the churches. The Quakers were the first group of church people asked to become Indian agents. After that other denominations followed. It is unfortunate, however, that many of the agents recommended by the churches similarly fell prey to their own avarice. Persons, through graft and favors shown to real estate people and mineral development people, were able to retire after five years of employment.
In 1887 the churches supported the Dawes Act, which ostensibly would have made Indian people citizens within 25 years if they displayed any responsibility. The plan was to make Indian people farmers and to allot them acreage they could own and develop. Any unused or unclaimed land therefore went into the landholding of the United States. As a consequence of the Dawes Act, the Indian people actually lost 90 million acres of land. The great experiment of making Indians farmers, and therefore civilized, did not work. For these many reasons Indian people view the church and the federal government as the two primary institutions on reservations that have regulated the lives of Indian people.
In more recent times, the population movement and the concurrent demand for the land have demonstrated that the movement to wrest lands from Indian ownership will continue. This occurs whenever federal bureaucracies permit diverting of river beds, building dams to flood Indian land, and reducing water rights, which sometimes result in the outright negating of treaties, all in the name of "progress." States may attempt to take over jurisdiction of Indian lands, introduce taxation, and thus cause land loss. This will occur in spite of the fact that many tribes have had solemn treaties with the federal government and not with the state governments. Smaller tribes do not have adequate funds to test the legality of any of these actions in the courts.
In 1964, the churches established a 22 person committee representing eleven denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, to begin the Indian Goals Study. (See Minutes, 1963, Part I, pp.237 ff.) This study was not completes until 1968.The study came out with a strong stand for self-determination for Indian people. It was recommended that each denomination establish an Indian board that would aid mission development. It also recommended that Indian executives be employed as staff persons within mission boards. Despite the long history of the church's involvement with Indian people, employment of Indian staff did not occur until 1970.
During this same time, the 181st General Assembly (1969) of the United Presbyterian Church provided $100,000 seed money to be used for creative projects on Indian reservations. An ad hoc committee was set up to validate the proposals generated by this fund. This committee was known as the Indian Consulting Panel. The next year, the 182nd General Assembly (1970) provided a similar amount of $100,000 to expand program development, primarily for youth ministries since the Indian population was very young. Fifty percent were under 17, 65 percent were under 21, and 75 percent were under 25 years of age. This action extended the life and activity of the Indian Consulting Panel.
During these years the Board of National Missions had five of their board members relate to and serve with the Indian Consulting Panel in developing policy and program. It must be understood that this was an ad hoc committee only for the purpose of validating proposals. However, during this time Indian members began to become more familiar and acquainted with the policies, personnel and structure of the United Presbyterian Church. Consequently, recommendations were made for changes in structure and in policy and new funds were sought to support these programmatic ideas.
Lastly, in the fall of 1971, restructure was moving toward its eventual conclusion and the Indian Consulting Panel developed a position paper entitled, "We May Be Brothers After All" in which it stated the historical, theological, and programmatic position of the Indian people as developed through the Indian Goals Study and the activity of the Indian Consulting Panel. This was endorsed and approved by the 184th General Assembly (1972) meeting in Denver, Colorado. This approval called for the continuance of such a committee in the new structure and recommended new nomenclature, i.e., "Native American" for "Indian," in order to be more inclusive of Eskimo and Aleut work.
In 1974 a preliminary agreement was reached with the Program Agency within the new structure, establishing the Native American Consulting Committee, which was given final approval in 1977. The agreement provided for recommendations and evaluation powers for programs and projects seeking national funding as well as the committee providing counsel to decision-making bodies of General Assembly agencies and synods. The Native American Consulting Committee could also propose recommendations on model programs, research capability, and use of program funds. An administrative budget is provided to the Native American Consulting Committee by the Program Agency.
In 1976 the Consulting Committee felt that it was time to have a consultation of Native American people on a national level because it would be the first time such a meeting was held since the restructure. The questions of roles and functions, lines of accountability, funding and relationships had not been clearly defined. The consultation called together representative of the Program Agency, the Native American Consulting Committee, and the seven synods that have Native American congregational work, namely the Synod of Alaska-Northwest, Synod of the Pacific, Synod of the Southwest, Synod of the Sun, Synod of the Rockies, Synod of Lakes and Prairies and the Synod of the Northeast. At the conclusion of the consultation, recommendations were made to the Program Agency, to the seven synods represented and to the Native American Consulting Committee.
In 1978 this was followed up by another consultation, which included representation from all the previous bodies plus representatives of all national agencies, the purpose of which was to report on activity since the previous consultation and to prepare the following church wide policy statement that would go to the General Assembly in 1979.
In common commitment to the work of Jesus Christ and of his Church:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), conscious of the continuing call of Christ to minister to the needs of the world, declares its commitment to the support of the principle of self-determination for Native American congregations and of the partnership between them and the governing board to which they are related. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) further declares its commitment to the continuance and strengthening of ministry with Native American through institutional or governing board projects and programs within the church that Native Americans themselves have had the opportunity to plan and implement. (The term, "Native American," throughout the policy statement incorporates all indigenous tribal groups in the United States of America and includes American Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos.)
1. Mutuality in Mission
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will seek to understand Native American culture and respect the philosophy, values and heritage of Native Americans in order that Presbyterians may learn from Native American lifestyles and benefit from fellowship with them.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will continue, and expand as needed and possible, the fundamental aspects of its work such as Christian nurture, education, mission service and outreach among Native Americans, in accordance with Native American concepts. Where it is advisable to develop ministry among Native Americans, national agencies, synods, presbyteries and sessions will undertake such tasks in consultation with Native Americans. These ministries will include advocacy for issues of concern within the broader Native American community such as treaty rights, human and civil rights and the protection of land, water and other natural resources.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through its agencies and governing boards will make it possible for Native Americans to participate and contribute fully in the total life of the church in order that the whole church may be enriched and benefit from partnership and involvement in the larger body of Christ. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will develop ways to include Native Americans in its decision-making process, especially in those areas that affect the lives and destinies of Native Americans.
2. Preparation for Native American Ministry
Native American ministerial candidates and non-Native American pastors engaged in ministries with Native Americans must be oriented to Native American culture, heritage, history and religious thought. Further training, designed to fit each ministry and taking into consideration such concerns as community values and local patterns of leadership, must be included in the candidates or pastors preparation for that ministry. In the light of increased costs of providing such theological education, priority consideration must be given to curriculum development and significant scholarship aid.
In addition to existing patterns of theological education, alternative programs such as theological education by extension should be supported, enabling candidates to remain within their culture and community while undergoing preparation for the ministry.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is committed to a ministry that is trained, ordained, and installed according to certain prescribed standards. In the area of Native American work, these standards may require modification because our experience has taught us that formal education as a minister cannot be the only, or even the primary, consideration in many cases. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) must recognize that qualities such as cultural understanding (that is, the insight to recognize the native "view" and the ability to use insight effectively), facility in the use of a native language and acceptance by ones racial peers may well be an essential qualification for ultimate success.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will work toward the provision of a competent ministry in every Native American congregation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) must accept the challenge of recruiting Native Americans and giving them as much training as may be necessary, based upon their previous education attainments.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commits itself to exploring and defining specific ordination and educational standards for Native Americans that are acceptable within Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) polity and compatible with needs of Native American congregations.
4. Continuing Education
Continuing education opportunities are important to Native Americans in the professional ministry. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will seek ways to provide for such continuing education, including financial support where necessary. Sabbatical and study leave provisions should be included within the pastor's call. In addition, cooperative efforts by national agencies, governing bodies, and church educational institutions should be undertaken to develop special programs designed to address specific and current concerns in Native American communities.
5. Pastoral Support
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commits itself to the principle of adequate financial compensation and benefits for pastors and their families serving the Native American congregations. These benefits will be insured through presbytery and session negotiation at the extending of, and throughout the duration of, the pastoral call. Provision will be made by the appropriate governing bodies for the spiritual care and moral support of the pastor and family serving Native American communities.
6. Lay Leadership
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through its presbyteries will provide resources to train elders ad other lay leaders for witness and service in both church and community.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will provide for the leadership development of Native American young people, including the assistance toward helping them choose a career in the ordained ministry or other church-related fields, such as Christian education, social and human resources, church administration. In addition, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will provide counseling and support for Native American students pursuing training in various secular fields.
7. Facilities, Buildings, and Land
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will encourage the use if criteria set for constructing and maintaining church buildings, facilities, land and equipment utilized in Native American ministries that conform to the highest possible standards for promotion of their mission. The church should encourage construction of buildings that are commensurate with the type of architecture and style of building within a particular Native American community. Each session should be encouraged to develop adequate facilities for completion of such programs. Guidelines for the use of denominational resources available for financing buildings shall be flexible enough to meet the needs of each congregation. Whenever consideration is given by any governing body or agency to the disposition of church property that is related to Native American ministry, the appropriate Native American consulting body will be given adequate prior notification requesting its comments or recommendations or both. Such consultation will occur even when the church-owned building or land may not presently be used for Native American work.
8. National Agency, Council, and Committee Relations
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will promote and effect through the General Assembly Committee on Nominations the membership of Native Americans on agencies, councils and committees at the national level. The agencies, councils and committees will seek advice and consultation with Native Americans through appropriate channels on all matters pertaining to Native American ministry.
9. Ecumenical Relationships
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will support and promote ecumenical participation and development of endeavors among Native Americans particularly on the reservation and in urban areas where denominational differences impede Christian witness. National ecumenical relationships will include the Indian Ministries Task Force of the Joint strategy and Action Committee (JSAC), the Joint Native American Staff (JNAS) and the National Council of Churches Commission on Justice, Liberation and Human Fulfillment. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes also the necessity for creating relationships with other Christian bodies related to Native American ministry, traditional Native American religious groups and international indigenous peoples organizations as the need arises.
10. Secular Relationships
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will affirm, assist, and be an advocate for the efforts of Native American people as they negotiate with voluntary agencies, as well as governmental and intergovernmental agencies, for the betterment of Native American life, both on and off the reservation.
11. Urban Ministries
As more and more American Indian people move from reservations and many to cities, urban ministry with American Indians becomes critically important to the Church. The diverse tribal backgrounds represented in an urban area present unique challenges for ministry. This ministry is not limited only to the spiritual well being of American Indian persons but also must address social needs and justice issues.
12. Youth Ministries
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will assist and support the Native American Youth Ministries in developing programs which will increase the knowledge of the functioning of the church through Youth conferences and other events that will encourage the Native American Youth to Indian ministry. This support should include finances and leadership when requested.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will advocate and promote Native American economic development on reservations and in urban areas.
Reproduced by: Office of Native American Congregational Enhancement PC(USA)