Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The National Church - more word games on the Reservations

The Episcopal news folks have a video here, in which a church leader puts out words to indicate a vital church interest in the D/Lakota people. She claims "57 congregations on the Reservations in the Diocese." But there are the hidden facts behind the words:

  • Many, if not most of those Reservation churches sit empty and are used only for funerals. Historic Church of the Messiah in Wounded Knee recently closed.
  • In another video clip at the Episcopal Life site, you can hear Bishop Robertson of SD say that national church budget cuts are costing the diocese a mission vicar position - that means no priest to serve at least one cluster of Reservation churches.
  • The church's fading presence leaves much of Reservation Episcopalianism nominal - family traditions change slowly and Indian* people will list as "Episcopalian" when it means nothing more than "That's what my grandparents joined."
  • Indian clergy and lay leaders are aging without a new generation of leaders coming up to take their places.
  • The National Church, which is involved in multimillion dollar litigation against people around the country, recently cut $400,000 from programs to support ministry on the Reservations in South Dakota and three other states. (By the way - why aren't traditional Anglicans considered "relatives" by Episcopal leaders?)
In June, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church will make a stop at the Niobrara Convocation, an annual gathering primarily for D/Lakota Episcopalians (but to which the entire diocese is always graciously invited). It is a slick move by the national church - it will be used to show "diversity", and perhaps the Presiding Bishop will heroically and munificently announce that the $400,000 for Native ministry has been "found" and restored. The setting will not allow for any challenges to her actions, as this would appear disrespectful to the event's Indian hosts and even racist if mounted by a White critic of the national church's manipulations.

At a preconvention meeting a couple of years ago, an Indian speaker chastised the Diocese for coming at the Reservations with "projects" rather than a spiritual message. He was ignored, and discussion returned to a diocesan finance question.

*"Indian" is used colloquially here in South Dakota - the D/Lakota people are not insistent about "Native American."

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