The Friday evening worship on April 27 at General Conference 2012 was titled the "Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People." The service offered delegates and visitors the opportunity to hear the painful stories of forced migration, massacre, lost identity and stolen land. There were moments of reflection and prayer for The United Methodist Church's role in harming indigenous people.
The Rev. Dr. Thom White Wolf Fassett, former general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, read quotes from historical and contemporary figures:
"How shall we know what to believe being so often deceived by the white people?" Red Jacket on the Religion of the White Men (1805)
“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” Bishop Desmond Tutu
Last night, after the service, the staff gathered and shared their reflections on the service.
Rev. Cynthia Abrams, of the Seneca Nation of Indians in Western New York state and a reserve delegate from the California-Pacific Annual Conference, shared that the service was moving but "there is more to be done."
Rev. Clayton Childers, of the Virginia Annual Conference, said "I found the service to be powerful. Many people are never confronted with their history."
Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, of the Zimbabwe East Conference, expressed concern that "The United Methodist Church may have to do another act of repentance for Israel-Palestine if we do not act now."
The Rev. Dr. George Tinker's message was clear, repentance is an ongoing process that we continue to live into as a church and individuals.
What are your thoughts? How can the church continue the act of repentance beyond General Conference?