The Olkahoma IV National Consultation On Native Ministries is over and I am in the Chattanooga airport sorting it out. There was a lot of pain and frustration in the room. The human lot involves a share of that -- but these folks had more than their share and the form it took for them was a specific brand of oppression called conquest, colonialism, or "the doctrine of discovery."
The question was how to move forward. There were a lot of ideas -- including institutional solutions like separation from the Episcopal Church, a non-geographic diocese for indigenous peoples, an indigenous bishop, etc. There was also a major focus on ordination -- not so much on Ministy of All Baptized. I sometimes had the sense that some wanted to be ordained as a way to be healed and validated. Heaven knows we all need healing and validation, but speaking as one who has been ordained 3 times now, I'm pretty sure it doesn't work for those purposes. I am quite open to all of the instutional options that were suggested, but I wish we could look more at the interpersonal dynamics, local ministries, and a spiritual solution. There will be more conferences. There will be time for all these conversations. The Jamestown Covenant is a good framework for a broader discussion.
One thing came up appropo of my previous post about apologies. The presenter who advocated separation from the Episcopal Church emphasized that the Church has never apologized to Native Americans for our complicity in colonization. This failure was contrasted to the Anglican Church of Canada's apology. I was pretty sure I rememberd that we had and certainly thought we should if we had not. But then a Native American bishop responded in our small group. She had been deeply involved in Jamestown I when Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning and the President of the House of Deputies extended precisely this apology years before the Candadian apology. So we have at least done this -- and under less pressure than Canda was experiencing in that sad time. The issue is not whether we acknowledge past wrongs and ask forgiveness. The issue is amends. How do we go on to create a new relationship out of the ashes of colonialism and conquest?
The ideas for a future all had merit and all had some downsides. My hope is that these different approaches can somehow be integrated into a new way forward for indigenous peoples and that the rest of the Church can make rooom in its structures to honor the unique way of this population. The challenge of being the church -- like the challenge of being human -- is always to live in the creative tension of unity and diversity.