INDIANAPOLIS – Wanting to provide a safe place for American Indians native to Indiana to worship and gather as a community, the Rev. LeKisha Reed, Indiana Conference Associate Director of Mission and Advocacy*, convened an Oct. meeting of United Methodist and other American Indian advocates of greater Indianapolis to discuss the emergence of a United Methodist ministry to native peoples in the Indianapolis area.

The meeting was held at the Indiana Conference Center. It was the first meeting of an emerging Native American Ministries Team in the new Indiana Conference. This meeting came into being following an Aug. 23 meeting between Bishop Mike Coyner and United Methodist American Indians connected with the American Indian education and celebrations Aug. 22 in Indianapolis. (See September issue of Together.)

Also present were the Rev. Anita Phillips of Oklahoma, executive director of the national United Methodist Native American Comprehensive Plan, and the Rev. John Adams, of New Harmony, Ind. and a member of the conference Social Advocacy and Justice and Ethnic Ministries Team.

Adams outlined previous Native American ministries activity in the former Indiana conferences, most of which sponsored Volunteer in Mission trips to the Crow Creek Indiana Reservation in South Dakota.

The 12-member advocacy group discussed the now defunct state Native American Indian Affairs Commission, health care concerns among native peoples in Indiana, past Volunteer in Mission projects done by Hoosier United Methodists and the establishment of a American Indian United Methodist congregation in greater Indianapolis.

Adams expressed a two-fold vision for Native American Ministries in Indiana.

  1. Multicultural worship will invite some native peoples but not all into our United Methodist worship.
  2. Unlike past generations, United Methodists respects native cultures and religion. He said today there are more than 40,000 American Indians living in Indiana, with more than 5,000 of them living in greater Indianapolis, especially on the southside of Indianapolis.

Linda Madagame, an American Indian and member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, informed the group about the possibility of beginning a United Methodist community for American Indians on the southside of Indianapolis.

She said, “I also would like to see the establishments of American Indian health care centers. This would be another point of growth for the church.”

Once a ministry to American Indians is established in the Indianapolis area, the group speculated next steps such as similar ministries to American Indians in Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary.

“Faith-based communities and faith-based institutions may be the way to go (to assist American Indians in Indiana), since the discontinuance of the state Native American Indian Affairs Commission,” Madagame said.

The Rev. Darren Cushman Wood of Speedway, team leader of the Indiana Conference Advocacy Team, said he would like to see three things accomplished by the conference’s Native American Ministries. They include:

  • A Native American network that would include Indiana congregations. “This would be an expansion of the mission trips sponsored by the conference,” he said.
  • Forming goals that are based on education, cultural information and advocacy.
  • Creating a church or worshiping community. We still have conference advocacy funds that could be used with the church development team to establish a Native American congregation.

Phillips outlined her agency’s mission. She first pointed out that native peoples are from two difference cultures.

“Maybe our relationships should be faith-based rather than government-based. Historically, there is a distrust of white culture including the church. We are mandated to follow Jesus Christ,” she said.

*Funded by the Indiana Conference tithe.

Together photo

American Indiana Sunday educational events, like this one held earlier this year at St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis, becomes a bridge to partnering with native peoples to establish a United Methodist community.

“Faith-based communities and faith-based institutions may be the way to go…”

– Linda Madagame