One of the privileges associated with working in an academic setting is having the opportunity to think in new and different ways. Each year we are blessed to have a variety of speakers on the campus of Ashland Theological Seminary who challenge us to reexamine our assumptions about God, creation and how we interact with our fellow human beings.
This year we will be taking a pause in our normal routine to host a conference that explores Christianity in the Native American context. This first-of-its-kind conference will provide participants with an opportunity to hear the long-ignored, ancient voice of a people invisible to many, yet integrally connected to who we are as a nation. We invite you to join Ashland Theological Seminary for a time of listening, learning, challenge and worship as we welcome Native American brothers and sisters who walk the Jesus Way.
The conference is a result of the work being done by my colleague L. Daniel Hawk. Dan is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Ashland Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. His scholarship explores the relationship between violence and ethnicity in the Hebrew Bible and the ways that communities construct their identities through narratives. These interests converge in his most recent book, Joshua in 3-D:A Commentary on Biblical Conquest and Manifest Destiny (Cascade, 2010), which uses the book of Joshua as a biblical lens to read the American story of conquest and expansion.
Here is what Dan has to say about the upcoming conference:
Throughout American history, civilizing the Indian has been synonymous with evangelizing the Indian. Early Protestant missionaries regarded European civilization as the cultural expression of Christian teachings and perceived indigenous cultures as primitive at best and satanic at worst. Missionaries insisted that indigenous converts abandon their indigenous way of life and adopt the customs, habits, and modes of thought that defined colonial society. This attitude prevailed through the formative years of the United States and into the Twentieth Century, as the Federal Government looked to Christian denominations and mission agencies, at various times and in various ways, to instruct Native peoples in the arts and practices of civilization and assimilate them into the values and lifestyle of American society. Today, many Native American Christians are seeking to follow Christ in ways that are authentic to the customs and traditions of their people, but face longstanding attitudes that regard their cultures as incompatible with Christianity.
After almost four centuries of missionary efforts, only three to five percent of the five and a half million Native people of the United States identify themselves as Christian. They are part of a community that suffers the effects of a massive historical trauma precipitated by the loss of lands, resources, and livelihood, and persistent efforts to obliterate their cultures and identities. Hope for healing has arisen, however, as Native Americans, along with indigenous peoples around the world, are recovering traditions, customs, and ways of thinking that had been dismissed as backward and savage. As this recovery takes its course, Native Christians are exploring ways to faithfully incarnate the gospel in the forms and customs of their cultures and bring the healing presence of Christ to their communities.
Ashland Theological Seminary has the privilege of hosting a unique gathering for all who have been stirred to walk with Native American brothers and sisters in the Jesus Way. We invite you to join us for a time of listening, learning, and challenge, as we welcome faithful followers of Christ who will speak from the richness of their experiences and cultures. We also ask for your prayers as we put our minds, hands, and hearts together to exalt Jesus Christ and unite in mission and ministry.
The conference is being held April 16-18 on the seminary campus in Ashland Ohio. The cost for the three day conference is $35. If you want see the schedule and register you can visit the event page at Ashland Theological Seminary.