On Observing 1992 (Mennonite Church, 1991)

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On Observing 1992 (Mennonite Church, 1991)

In 1992 the people and nations of the Americas will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus on our shores. Central and South America were subsequently deeply affected by the Spanish influence while in North America other Anglo-European peoples became dominant. The result in each case was the displacement and oppression of the native populations. As a Mennonite Church in the U.S. and Canada we acknowledge that our history includes emigration from Europe both to escape persecution and suffering and to take advantage of the economic opportunity offered by the new land. We now wish to call special attention to the concerns of Native Americans and their experience since 1492. We call on our members and congregations to:

Refrain from a triumphalist spirit in celebrating this event in favor of humble gratitude for the benefits experienced in these new lands. Recognize the greed and devastation that characterized the coming of the Europeans, and repent of our participation in the unjust exploitation of native peoples. Seek to understand more accurately the rich history of native peoples, hear their stories, feel their pain and learn from their values and patterns of life. Rejoice that even through suffering many Native Americans received the Gospel message and share in the body of Christ. Recognize the leadership of the United Native Ministries Council (UNMC), and learn to know and support in love end prayer the member congregations and congregations eligible for membership in the Council.* Advocate for appropriate redressing of injustices done to native people in the past, and for just and constructive programs of human betterment for native peoples now and in the future. We would welcome guidance from UNMC on how to work at this. A first suggestion from the Council is the building of relationships with Native Americans in our home communities. Renew a commitment to the mission of Christ in North America that is sensitively inclusive of peoples of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues. Reaffirm the global nature of the church and its mission and resist the provincial attitude characteristic of nationalistic celebrations. With this call we urge congregations to use educational/worship materials suitable for congregational observances of 1992 such as the following materials from church agencies:

For Children

Five session series on Native Americans from Mennonite Publishing House.

For Children and Adults

Children's Caring Project (on Native American people and ministries) from Mennonite Board of Missions.

For Adults

Video, poster and study packets from Mennonite Central Committee U.S. and Canada

For Congregations

Multi-cultural Worship Resource Notebook from Commission on Home Ministries (General Conference Mennonite Church at Newton, Kansas)

A Church of Many Peoples Confronts Racism (1989 General Assembly Statement)

  • The current (1991) officers of the Council are: President, Larry Haskie; Vice President, Toney Sells; Secretary, Bobbie Jean Frazier, Staff, Ray E. Horst. They can be contacted at United Native Ministries, Box 370 Elkhart, IN 46515-0370. Phone 219-294-7523.

Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Assembly August 3, 1991