General Conference continues funding for Native American Ministries

General Conference delegates agreed to continue support for ministries by and with the 19,000 United Methodists who identify themselves as Native Americans and the 225 Native churches, fellowships and ministries across the country.

The quadrennial assembly continued the Native American Comprehensive Plan (NACP), first launched by the 1992 General Conference. A $1.1 million quadrennial fund will support efforts to:

  • strengthen existing Native congregations, ministries and fellowships and develop new ones;
  • provide leadership development training for Native leaders;
  • strengthen contributions of Native leaders, congregations and fellowships to the denomination

Key to each of the areas, according to the plan, is the contributions that Native American cultures and spiritual expression bring to the mission of the whole church. Native American spirituality is an important component that is woven throughout the plan.

A new emphasis of the plan in 2005-2008 is efforts to increase the involvement of youth and young adults in church life.

"I believe that this young adult component of the NACP is crucial to the survival of Native ministries," said Glen (Chebon) Kernell, Jr., a young adult representative to the plan’s coordinating group.

"In the past, NACP has provided the opportunity for Native young people to experience the United Methodist Church, which has in turn allowed for the further development of their spirituality as young Native United Methodists. This opportunity, historically, is one that has not been offered often to Native people."

According to Ann Saunkeah, executive director of the plan for the past four years, task force members have provided resources for Native ministries, fellowship and ministries of presence across the church. She anticipates that culturally relevant resources will be developed for use by the whole church as well as Native American congregations, ministries and fellowships. Plan implementers will also collaborate with churchwide boards and agencies to insure that Native ministries continue in the future.

The Board of Global Ministries, which sponsored the petition to continue the Native American Comprehensive Plan, originally requested $1.3 million for it. The legislative committee reduced the amount to correspond with the amount included in the general fund budget proposed by the denomination’s fiscal agency. The plenary session approved the plan and the funding by an 840 to 42 vote. The final budget for all ministries will be voted on May 7, the final day of conference.

The plan’s coordinating group is made up of Native American representatives from the five jurisdictions, the Alaska Missionary Conference, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, the Native American International Caucus and the National United Methodist Native American Center. It also includes a Native American youth and a Native American young adult.

Green is a staff writer for United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

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