GNW Area creates Circle of Indigenous Ministries

As friendships and ministries with Native American and Indigenous peoples grow, the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church is creating the Circle of Indigenous Ministries. Developing mutual, healing, and life-affirming relationships with Native Americans and Indigenous peoples in and outside the church is part of the GNW Area’s ongoing efforts to heal historic trauma and dismantle racism.

Rev. Dr. Allen Buck, pastor of Great Spirit United Methodist Church in Portland and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is being appointed as the director of the Circle of Indigenous Ministries, beginning July 1. Rev. Buck will also continue as part-time pastor at Great Spirit.

The Circle will support Native American and Indigenous churches, fellowships, and ministry partners through resourcing, coaching, consultation, and friendship in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences.

Rev. Dr. Allen Buck at the Wallowa land return ceremony in April

“The goal is to do what we have been doing, but do it more intentionally,” said Buck. 

Since Buck was appointed to Great Spirit UMC in Portland in 2017, he has assisted the Oregon-Idaho Conference, as well as his colleagues in the Pacific Northwest Conference and Alaska Conference, in acts of repentance, land return and healing with Native American communities across the area.

“The Christian Church has done deep and lasting harm to Indigenous peoples and cultures around the world for centuries,” Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky said.  “Rev. Buck is helping us learn our history, repent of our sins and form healing partnerships based on humility and mutual respect. ” 

“The Circle of Indigenous Ministries will amplify Indigenous voices and their wisdom while also empowering more authentic leadership of Native American and Indigenous peoples within the church,” said Oregon-Idaho Conference Director of Connectional Ministry Laurie Day, who also serves assistant to Bishop Stanovsky.

For years, the Oregon-Idaho Conference has supported Huckleberry Camp for Native American youth at Camp Magruder in the summers as well as a Nez Perce culture camp at Wallowa Lake Camp in northeastern Oregon. In 2016, the unofficial spiritual home of Native American United Methodists in Oregon-Idaho Conference, Wilshire United Methodist Church in Portland, was on the verge of closing. Former Columbia District Superintendent, Rev. Erin Martin, recruited Buck, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to serve Wilshire UMC and help grow its ministry into what is now Great Spirit UMC.

The Greater Northwest Area has moved recently into larger acts of repentance and healing, including returning a portion of Wallowa Lake Camp to The Nez Perce Tribe in 2018. In April, the Conference returned the former Wallowa UMC property to the Nimiipuu as well.

Day said Buck has also helped leadership across the Greater Northwest Area begin acts of land recognition, repentance and building more friendships with local tribes and native organizations.

In addition to its work with the Nez Perce Tribe, Great Spirit UMC took ownership of the Chiloquin United Methodist Church building in southern Oregon, when the congregation was officially closed in 2020.  Great Spirit UMC has since turned building use over to The Stronghold, a Native-led organization which partners with the Klamath Tribe to provide culturally responsive peer support services to Native people in transition – be it homelessness due to natural disasters, domestic abuse, drug addiction or more.

Buck said there were no conditions placed upon The Stronghold’s use of the building, because as the church works to decolonize white spaces, it is important to listen to what the Native and Indigenous communities want or need.

“It’s all about relationships,” Buck said. “You can’t do Indigenous ministries without relationships.”

Buck said he is excited to mentor and walk with emerging Native and Indigenous leaders who could serve churches in Native communities. He is eager to partner with the GNW Innovation and Vitality Team to help identify and train culturally responsive leaders in the church.

Day said financial support for The Circle of Indigenous Ministries is coming from across the GNW Area and beyond. This work of recognizing and partnering with Native American, Alaska Native and other populations often marginalized by the church is ongoing.

Nez Perce tribal leaders and Oregon-Idaho Conference leaders exchange words and greetings during the Wallowa UMC land return ceremony in April.

“All of these opportunities are growing, which is why we’re creating the Circle of Indigenous Ministries and we believe Allen Buck is the right leader to continue developing these strong friendships and healing bonds,” Day said. “The need and ministry have grown so much that we cannot wait any longer.”

Grant funding and conferences support will not be enough to develop and sustain the project long-term, which is why the Greater Northwest Area has established a Circle of Indigenous Ministries fund so that individuals may contribute to this growing ministry in the life of the church.

As the incoming director of the new Circle of Indigenous Ministries, Buck said he could use everyone’s prayers as he embarks on this exciting new journey in ministry.

“Pray for us and help us make sure this becomes the priority it needs to be,” he said.

Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

Friends in the Greater Northwest Area,

United Methodist leaders from across our area have been meeting to monitor and respond to the wildfires ravaging our land and threatening many communities across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. People in many areas have evacuated or are preparing to evacuate from their homes. If you are not in immediate danger, you may be like many ­others who see and taste these wildfires in smoke-filled skies and with every breath we take.

People of faith want to do good in the face of danger, but we need to work to ensure that the good we intend does not accidentally do harm. Because of the massive evacuations being issued across our states, and because our churches and ministry settings are committed to doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God, an addendum has been added to the Reimagining Life Together guidelines for our church and ministry settings to guide United Methodist responses to the wild fire crisis.

As we seek to respond to these wildfires, I acknowledge how weary everyone is right now from these demands, on top of coronavirus, on top of dismantling racism, on top of escalating partisanship that is eroding our ability to work together for the common good. Amazing disaster response teams in the Greater Northwest Area act as the hands and feet of Jesus in communities across the area and in partnership with local churches. When a disaster strikes, survivors often lose so much – the roof over their heads and other property, livelihoods, even loved ones. These wildfires show how devastating these disasters can be. Yet this year it seems like one crisis erupts on top of the next.

And so, we call out to God, seeking mercy. Seeking relief. Seeking just one day when we do not feel danger near at hand and it doesn’t feel like the weight of the world is on each of our shoulders.

ADDENDUM to Reimagining Life Together for 2020 Northwest Wildfire Relief

Effective September 11, 2020

For Wildfire Relief only, this addendum supersedes the Disaster Response guidance in the Reimagining document.

Ministry settings planning to provide relief support in their communities will work with their District Superintendent (local churches) or Director of Connectional Ministries (other ministry settings) to discuss the community need and the request from a local government authority and/or established disaster response agencies (such as the Red Cross) for relief support.  District Superintendents or Directors of Connectional Ministry must approve plans to use church facilities for wildfire relief support activities.

Join me in praying for the safety of our friends and neighbors and for those who have already suffered loss of life. Join me in praying for the first responders and wild land firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way to help others seek shelter, save homes and property. Join me in praying for God’s good creation, that we may tend to her more carefully.

Join me, also, in a call to action through our gifts of financial resources. We know some of our communities have already been decimated by fire and know there are others in potential danger.

I am grateful to report that the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences have each received emergency grants of $10,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to support response efforts. But it’s just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed.

In the Oregon-Idaho Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

Give Online to OR-ID Disaster Response Fund

You can also give to the OR-ID Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Fund #260) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the Oregon-Idaho Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #260 on the memo line to:

Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Center
℅ Conference Treasurer
1505 SW 18th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, 97201-2524

In the Pacific Northwest Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

Give Online to PNW Disaster Response Fund

You can also give PNW Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Advance #352) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the PNW Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #352 on the memo line to:

Pacific Northwest Conference Office
℅ Conference Treasurer
P.O. Box 13650
Des Moines, WA 98198 

Finally, local church leaders, please stay in touch with your District Superintendents if your community is impacted by wildfire. Let your superintendent know what is going on in your community and what your church is doing – or has been asked to do – in response. Your superintendent will coordinate with the conference disaster response coordinator to help support your work during this crisis.

Stay safe my friends, and know the steadfast love of God each day.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

On Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Policy

Give the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and God the things that are God’s.
– 
Matthew 22:21b

Greater Northwest United Methodists,

In the wake of yesterday’s announcement regarding DACA, I’m asking myself, what is the emperor’s and what is God’s? Matthew reminds us that the really important things belong to God and that what we owe to civil authorities is limited by what belongs to God.

Advocates for Dreamers attend a press conference and rally in Portland, Oregon following the Trump Administration’s DACA announcement. Photo by Mira Conklin.

Yesterday the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy threatening to cause the deportation of 800,000 youth and young adults who were brought to the United States without documents when they were children. Today I remember that:

“The alien who resides with you shall be as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34

It’s not right even to threaten to deport peaceful, tax-paying immigrants who have lived here for decades, and know no other home. Doing so violates the teachings of the Bible.

Love of God demands that we speak out for our neighbors to government officials who have authority over their lives. Love of God might demand that we act boldly to protect threatened people and families as fiercely as we would protect our own.

The moral imperative to love the alien in our land is clear, though each person and each church will find its own way to love God and neighbor in their place and circumstance. I hope you will find ways to have serious conversations with people who are affected by this end to DACA, and to discern what God is leading us to do in the months ahead.

Pray for people who fear that their lives may be uprooted, and their families torn apart.  Pray for our government authorities. Pray that Christ will guide and lead the church to a season of clear witness and courageous action.

With faith in Christ, and confidence that love will win,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


Resources

Visit greaternw.org/welcome for more DACA information and a list of ideas and resources to help us love one another, love our neighbors and love the stranger. On the page titled “Links for Further Information” you’ll find links to organizations active in supporting refugees and immigrants in each state (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) alongside national and interfaith groups. Please send other local (to you) resources that you are aware of to the Rev. Lyda Pierce at lpierce@pnwumc.org for possible inclusion.

 

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