A call to truth-telling and repentance from The Native American Caucus of The United Methodist Church

As United Methodists begin to understand the historical role the church has played in generations of colonization and harm to Native American peoples, a petition has emerged, calling on churches to tell the truth and repent for their historical role in the loss of countless lives and devastation of rich indigenous cultures.

Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has signed the petition, as has Rev. Dr. Allen Buck, director of the GNW Circle of Indigenous Ministries and other leaders in the GNW Episcopal Area.

“Join with us in calling for deeply transparent exploration and truth-telling about our role and complicity in taking land, culture, resources and children from the First Peoples here and around the globe,” said Buck, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who also pastors Great Spirit UMC in Portland. “The Church has helped build and maintain systems which prioritize and benefit ‘whiteness’ – contributing to trauma that impacts generations of Indigenous people.”

At the heart of the petition is the fact that the remains of thousands of Native American children are located in mass burial sites at boarding schools across North America. Most of those boarding schools were operated by churches – including predecessors of The United Methodist Church  – and served as places of abuse and terror for generations of Native American children.

History has revealed that these boarding schools were used to abuse hundreds of thousands of Native American children who were removed – often violently – from their homes and families and placed in these schools in the years between 1869 and the 1960s. There were 367 government-funded Native American Indian Board Schools, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and many of those schools were run by churches.

Children at these schools were regularly beaten, had their hair forcefully cut and their sacred traditions, languages and identities stolen or destroyed. They were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and were abused or mutilated for speaking their native languages.

This petition calls for churches to commit to discovering the locations and records of Methodist run boarding schools and search the physical properties for mass graves “by whatever means necessary” and to listen to and collect the stories from family members whose ancestors were impacted by a Methodist boarding school.

The petition also calls on The United Methodist Church to set aside October 6 as a day of remembrance as part of The Boarding School Healing Project. On Oct. 6, 1879, Gen. Richard Pratt took children from the First Nations and opened the boarding school in Carlisle, Penn. Because of this date and recent gravesite discoveries, the petitioners ask The UMC to observe Oct. 6, 2021 as a “Day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children.”

Stanovsky urges United Methodists and others in the GNW Area to sign the petition as an act of repentance and a commitment to continuing the long work of addressing the historical harms the church has caused for generations of Native Americans.

“This is just the first step in many acts of repentance we must commit to listen to the voices of Native American neighbors, to acknowledge the sins embedded in the teachings and actions of Christian churches and to repent of these sins as a Church, and followers of Christ, to begin addressing the generational atrocities the church has committed,” she said. “There is much, much more work to be done. It is about becoming trustworthy in our relationships with people whose trust has been deeply betrayed time and time again.  It goes far beyond putting names to a statement.  It requires deep soul searching to understand what went wrong among followers of Jesus.”

Vanco offers Online Giving fee waiver to UMC churches during COVID-19

Vanco, a partner of The United Methodist Church’s General Council on Finance and Administration, currently serves approximately 25,000 churches and faith-based organizations as clients. Hosted online giving pages from Vanco Payment Solutions are a great way for members and guests to give from their laptop, tablet, phone or any device with an Internet connection.

For any United Methodist church that enrolls with Vanco, the monthly fee for the Start Plan will be waived for a full year and for those that enroll with the Sustain Plan, the monthly fee would be waived for the first 3 months.

This service allows churches to accept recurring donations for weekly offerings, pledges or one-time gifts to an unlimited number of funds. Vanco does not work in a contracted manner and churches are under no long-term obligation and will not incur a cancellation fee should they choose to end services. 

Learn more about Vanco at https://www.vancopayments.com/egiving/umc. Have questions? Contact Peter Johnson at Peter.Johnson@vancopayments.com or 952-352-8136.

The website givingfees.com offers a chart with fee comparisons between a number of vendors serving nonprofit and church ministries. Vanco fees are listed under their GivePlus branding, and this offer is not included in the chart.

How to join a Zoom meeting via the internet

To join a Zoom meeting via the internet you will need a computer, tablet or smartphone that is connected to the internet and has a camera, speaker and microphone.

To join a meeting, simply follow these steps:

  1. Click the link that was provided to you to join the meeting. The link will be something similar to https://zoom.us/j/123456789. (This is a sample, and NOT your link.)
  2. You will be prompted to download and run Zoom. The zoomusLauncher.zip file will download.
  3. Click on the file and you can install the launcher.
  4. The Zoom meeting window will appear where you can join your audio and connect your video.
  5. Select ‘Join Audio Conference by Computer’ to join the audio.
  6. To connect the video select the video camera icon in the bottom left hand corner of the Zoom meeting window.

You should now be connected to the Zoom meeting with video and audio.

One-minute video about joining a Zoom meeting

If you would like to watch a 1-minute video about how to join a Zoom meeting, click here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-How-Do-I-Join-A-Meeting-

Join a test meeting

If you would like to join a test meeting to check your internet connection and audio and video settings, click here: https://zoom.us/test

Mute and unmute

During the meeting, if you are not speaking, you may wish to mute yourself. This will help eliminate background noise for everyone. Your meeting host can also mute and unmute you.

To mute or unmute yourself click on the microphone icon. (When a slash is across the microphone you are muted and people on the Zoom meeting cannot hear you.)

How to join a Zoom meeting via the telephone

To join a Zoom meeting via telephone you will only need a telephone.

To join a meeting, simply follow these steps:

  1. Dial one of the phone numbers in your invitation provided by your host and follow the verbal prompts.
  2. You will be prompted to enter the meeting ID – the nine (9) or ten (10) digit ID provided to you by the host, followed by #
  3. You will be prompted to enter your unique participant ID. This only applies in very unique situations and if necessary you would have been given special instructions. Press # to skip.

Mute and unmute

During the meeting, if you are not speaking, you may wish to mute yourself. This will help eliminate background noise for everyone. Your meeting host can also mute and unmute you.

To mute or unmute yourself via phone it is easiest to use the mute option on your phone.

If you are on a phone that does not have a mute option you may press *6 to mute and unmute yourself.

Additional Help

For additional help see the Zoom Help Center: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us

FAQ regarding church suspension

Why is the Bishop asking my church to suspend worship?

Part of our Wesleyan heritage as United Methodists is caring for one another, which means caring enough to prevent the spread of a terrible illness.

A large portion of our church population falls within one or more of the categories defined by the CDC as most at-risk for contracting COVID-19 (adults over 60, or those of any age who have compromising health conditions).

Transmission of the Coronavirus can occur through the air through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

It can range from mild illness to pneumonia and even death in certain at-risk populations. Medical professionals currently understand it to be anywhere between 10 to 20 times more lethal than the average flu bug.

By using social distancing, we can SLOW the SPREAD of this disease and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

My community isn’t experiencing any issues with the Coronavirus. Why can’t we continue to meet?

While public health professionals including the CDC still acknowledge that the risk of being exposed to the virus is low for many Americans, they predict that “as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase.” While rural communities and some cities have yet to have a single case, it is widely understood to be a matter of time and testing.

Sometimes individuals may be carriers of the Coronavirus without knowing they have been infected. The CDC reports that it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to even appear.

As more time passes, public health officials are seeing more cases through what they call “community spread.” And as testing starts to become more commonplace, it is likely that they will find that it is already in places that are presumed to be free of the virus.

What will happen to vulnerable members of my congregation who I don’t see on Sunday?

We recommend using your church’s prayer tree or communications plan to check on those in your church who may be self-isolating to make sure they’re maintaining good health and staying connected to people within their church community.

Read this story from Fairwood United Methodist Church outside of Seattle on how they’re using disaster response protocols to love each other better.

How will my church recover financially if we’re not able to give to a Sunday offering?

Concerns about the financial impact of suspending worship are understandable. Actions taken now by community groups like local churches actually have the potential to help to lessen the probability of more extended, less voluntary, cancelations in the future.

Greater Northwest Area leaders are already started to discuss how suspending worship may negatively impact some financially vulnerable churches. We will be watching this closely.

In the meantime, there are many ways for churches to set up online giving, or electronic giving, which allows for churches to continue ministry in trying times and ordinary times.

If you or other members of your congregation are not comfortable with setting up electronic giving, feel free to mail your church a check.

How will I maintain spiritual practices during this time?

Worship is a holy experience for many and also a great opportunity to check in with our beloved siblings in Christ.

A number of churches are offering online worship services for you to stream on Sunday mornings. This also could be a great time to explore one of the many other spiritual disciplines that have developed within the Christian tradition, in solitude or with a small group.

The Upper Room has great daily devotionals.

In addition to those options, we’re developing an online devotional platform for people to connect. More details will be made available soon.

What about committee meetings? How will we accomplish the business of the church during the next four weeks?

Again, thank you for remaining faithful and committed to the work of the church. We’re encouraging everyone to utilize online meeting platforms like Zoom, Skype or phone calls to accomplish as much work as possible in the next few weeks – or postpone meetings if you can.

The three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area are offering heavily discounted Zoom accounts to local churches. Click here to learn more.

My church provides a food pantry, childcare, etc., for our neighborhood. Are we expected to close those operations as well?

United Methodists are involved in so many important ministries which help the vulnerable in our communities. We understand the need to continue providing support, but strict adherence to safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control or other public health agencies for cleaning, social distancing and health screening guidelines is mandatory.

What about camps, campus ministries and other specialized ministry settings?

Our campus ministry leaders, camp directors and Innovation Vitality team are all watching this situation closely as well. Many campuses in the area are moving as many of their classes as they can to online-only platforms or are extending spring break while they make adjustments to schedules. We’d encourage our campus ministers to utilize their communication systems to connect with college students and plan any possible gatherings according to state and federal health guidelines.

Our camp and retreat ministry directors are monitoring the situation closely as well and may make decisions on suspending camp and retreat gatherings at various sites in the coming days and weeks. One upcoming youth retreat in the Seattle area, SUMYT, cancelled their event at Camp Indianola earlier this week.

What about communion?

Communion is always an important aspect of worship, particularly so during Lent. We’re asking churches right now to suspend offering communion. In small group settings of less than 10 people, it may feel unnecessary to do so but please consider it anyway. We’d remind clergy to consider the health risks this may pose and use individualized elements – such as a single serving of grape juice and already-torn bread or wafers –  to mitigate the risk and follow stringent guidelines on sanitizing before and after serving such elements.

Event cancellations due to COVID-19

The following events across the Greater NW Area have been canceled or postponed due to concern for our siblings in Christ as we try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you know of an area-wide, conference or district event that is being canceled and is not listed here, please send an email to communications@pnwumc.org or communications@umoi.org.

  • Rural Church Engagement Initiative meeting in Boise, March 17-20
  • OR-ID Gathering of the Orders/Deacons/LLP, Boise, March 17-18
  • Northwest Leadership Institute, Boise, March 18-20
    Rescheduled to March 10-12, 2021
  • SUMYT (Youth Retreat), Indianola, WA, March 20-22
    Rescheduled to November 20-22, 2020
  • Implicit Bias Training, Chehalis UMC, March 24
  • Messy Middle Retreat, March 24-26
  • Inhabit Conference, Seattle, April 20
  • Columbia District Laity event, Gresham, OR., March 14
  • PNW ERT “Spring Training, May 8-9
  • Seven Rivers District Spiritual Day Apart
    Rescheduled to May 23, 2020
  • PNW Convo (Youth Retreat), May 23-25, 2020
    Dates for Convo 2021 are May 29-31, 2021
  • GNW Shared Annual Conference Session, June 11-14
    Canceled, click here for details
  • PNW Mission u, Ellensburg, July 23-26

Other Significant cancellations or postponements across the United Methodist connection

  • General Conference 2020, May 5-15
    New dates not available yet
  • Western Jurisdictional 2020, July 15-18
    New dates not available yet

Christ Bears the Church

Rev. Patricia Simpson | University Temple UMC, Seattle

Editor’s note: This blog piece, riffing off the same Brian Wren hymn Bishop Elaine wrote about earlier this week, originally appeared in the University Temple UMC Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission.

As we approach the United Methodist General Conference this weekend, I have a hymn stuck in my head. “Christ Loves the Church,” by Brian Wren, has these words in the second verse:

Christ bears the church, corrupted and conforming,
obsessed with trifles, blessing greed and war.
His love outwits us, spinning gold from straw,
through saints and prophets, praying and reforming.

The triple meaning of “bears” is shaping my understanding of what’s at stake for The United Methodist Church.

Christ endures the church — putting up with our endless struggles over the full inclusion of Christians no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a sign of amazing grace that the expansive spirit of Jesus still inhabits our part of the Body of Christ.

Christ carries the church — as in that old poster of footprints on the beach. Why only one set of footprints? “That was the time you could not walk on your own, and I carried you,” Jesus says. Only that constant bearing-up can explain the endurance of United Methodists whose lives were declared “incompatible with Christian teaching,” who have stayed with the church through over 40 years of legislated discrimination. Christ has carried us, in the womb of mercy — along with supportive families, allies and reconciling congregations.

Christ gives birth to the church — This is my hope for the gathered body in St. Louis—that from the long, difficult gestation a new church will be born. Whether we take a just and inclusive stance together, or whether a separate denomination is born, new life will come forth.

So let us join the “saints and prophets, praying and reforming.” Check out the link below if you want to inform your prayers with news updates, or even watch the proceedings live.