Here are excerpts from The Wesleyan Church’s denominational apology, written by the Church’s General Superintendents, and extended to Native American & First Nations people by former Director Larry Marshall during the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People, held in Rapid City, SD in 1998.
We have seen and been told that our Native American brothers and sisters “have something against us.” We as a denomination, organization, or individuals cannot go back and undo what has been done. We can, however, seek forgiveness and reconciliation from our brothers and sisters today. You may not feel comfortable accepting this reconciliation on behalf of all your people, but would you accept it as an individual?
As a member of the dominant race, I acknowledge many sins of the past done by my people. My people took the land without regard to the rights of those who had been its inhabitants for many generations. We destroyed the food sources and left no choice but to accept handouts. We took the best land for ourselves and gave you, our brothers and sisters, what we felt was of no value. When we discovered there was value in some parts of what we said you could have, we took that back as well. We took your children – often by force – to “teach” them. They were forced to change their language, hair, dress customs, and cultural identity. These sins not only affected your ancestors, they have been carried for generations. The anger and frustration this loss has caused each successive generation has never been resolved or reconciled. The end results of these feelings have surfaced many times in the forms of substance abuse, suicide, and family violence.
As a denomination I ask you to forgive The Wesleyan Church. We are at the altar knowing we need to have the wrongs of the past forgiven and reconciled before we can continue in complete fellowship with God the Creator. We believe the first Wesleyan missionaries followed the Gospel of Jesus Christ by coming to the Native American people. In trying to present the message of love and salvation, they wanted to follow a pattern that was, at that time, considered effective, and ultimately followed what had been done by other denominations and the federal government. However, we feel the pattern they followed was not the right one. In our Wesleyan schools and churches, we, too, forced you to change your language, song, hair, dress, customs, and cultural identity.
Wesleyans have individually and corporately opposed the discrimination against and exploitation of Native Americans. Although not all Wesleyans have maintained proper attitudes, our voices have been repeatedly lifted on behalf of our brothers. We have made mistakes in evangelism and discipleship when dealing with cultural issues. We believe these errors were based more on people’s limited cultural understanding than their bad hearts, and grew out of a zeal for righteousness that we misguided in its application. It was an error repeated around the world at that time by nearly all religious groups. It was an error we, as a denomination, deeply regret.
As individuals we also must leave the altar and seek your forgiveness. We are, too often, guilty of looking at Native Americans as a “needy” people without looking at the great number of things you have to offer us. We are guilty of wondering, “Why don’t they just to things our way?” We seldom take time to see the great worth of your views; how you incorporate worship into every area of life; value the wisdom of the elders; revere family relationships, music, song; instill the virtues of bravery, fortitude, wisdom, generosity; and perceive ownership of land.
As a race, a denomination, and as individuals, please forgive us for the sins of our forefathers our denomination, and our individual sins against you. Please forgive us, forgive me. God forgive us all.