Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Aboriginal Day!

Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada (as well as being the longest day of the year).  I have been on a steep learning curve in so many ways in the last few years, in terms of Aboriginal culture, history, and identity, and it's so good to be able to celebrate them today.

One of my god-daughters, Summer Breeze
I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about First Nations people and the Church, and the history of the pain Christians have inflicted physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even culturally by suppressing and even extinguishing many of their customs, dances, and languages in the name of Christ.  I am praying for justice, which will involve the laying down of our wealth, privilege, and lives, and reconciliation (actually, for a new "conciliation", as Jodi pointed out to me, since we messed things up so royally from the moment of first contact that we cannot look back to a time when things were conciliatory.)  I am praying especially for First Nations cultural expressions of worship to be recognized and honored in the Church, rather than avoided and shamed, and that through this, the Church will actually be a preserver of culture, rather than a destroyer of culture.

I leave you with a couple quotes from an excellent book I just read by Richard Twiss, "One Church Many Tribes":

Doesn't it seem reasonable to think that, after nearly five centuries of steady evangelism, at least two or three Native Americans would have emerged as significant leaders in the contemporary Church in America?...   "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'" (1 Cor. 12:21).  It may be difficult to hear or to accept, but I believe that because of clashing cultural worldviews, the Anglo expression of Christ and His Kingdom has said to the Native expression of Christ and His kingdom,  "I have no need of you.  I don't need your customs, your arts, your society, your language, concepts or perspectives."  If you look at a thing and cannot identify any value in it, you will have no perceived sense of need for it.  And if you have no need for it, then you get along without it. (58)

The Native community is to this day primarily viewed by Evangelicals as a needy but largely forgotten mission field, a group in need of
receiving ministry.  The flow of ministry between the Anglo and Native churches is almost always in a top-down direction, a one-way flow of goods, services, ministry and resources from the Anglo church to the  "lower  " Native church.  I would love to see some of our Anglo church leaders, when asked to help a Native church, say,  "Yes, but on one condition: only if you will in turn send your pastors and leaders to come and equip us with the grace and gifting God has given you as Native people."  When that day comes, it will verify that we are seen by our Anglo brethren as equal collaborers in the mission of the Church.  (58)

In America today, the entire Church is suffering spiritually because of the suffering of the Native expression of the Body of Christ.  We cannot escape our connectedness in Christ, and we must comprehend the Lord's requirement upon us to be more aware of the overall condition of the Body, not just those more prominent parts. (61)

It is from observing the quality of our relationships with one another that non-Christians will arrive at the conclusion that there is reality in Jesus Christ.  How awesome it will be when skeptical non-Christian Natives are moved by envy at the sight of Native and Anglo folks loving, preferring, honoring, enjoying and serving one another!  I have witnessed relationships serving as the basis for reconciliation, as well as relationships arising from reconciliation.  Regardless of which comes first, our relationships are the bridges that will endure and over which great, loving armies of ministry can flow both ways - to and from God's First Nations people. (172)


Celia said...

Hi, Beth. Good post--I also liked the quotes from the book. I love what Twiss has to say about "missions" going both directions. Since our particular area of interest is Japan and the Japanese people, we have been excited lately to see partnerships forming between churches (including ours) in Seattle and churches in Japan. When we suggest the possibility of receiving mission teams from Japanese churches, sometimes we get confused looks. But we have also heard amazing stories of how much Japanese mission teams have blessed churches in Seattle. Once Americans and Canadians experience partnership for the Gospel with people from another culture, they develop a new understanding of the Body of Christ--and a hunger for more. I hope there will be many opportunities like that for churches in Vancouver and other places to be blessed by Aboriginal believers.

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