Under the Indian Removal Act, commonly known as “The Trail of Tears” whole tribes were moved from the Eastern and Southeastern states to Indian Territory. Many among these tribes were converted to Christianity through the Methodist church. They were able to rebuild their communities and with the help of missionaries organize congregations and churches in what came to be known as Oklahoma.
In what was then the Indian Mission Conference, Methodists offered a Christian ministry sensitive to the languages and cultures of more than 30 tribes. The 1972 General Conference acknowledged the importance of the Indian Mission Conference and designated it the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) with “the same rights and powers as an annual conference.”
Today the OIMC continues to minister to the needs of Indian people. The present membership is approximately 6,000 with 84 churches, several of these congregations being over 100 years old, five fellowships and a Church & Community center. Oklahoma is home to the majority of our congregations; however we have one church in Dallas, Texas; three churches and one fellowship in Kansas. Presently there are two districts, Northern and Southern, with the conference headquartered in Oklahoma City.
While OIMC is unique and composed of mostly Native Americans, the churches are open to all people. Ministry initiatives include: Children, Youth and Adult ministries; Local Church Revitalization; Conference and District wide training events; Continuing Education Events for pastors; UM Women and UM Men; building and church extension. Efforts are also being made to preserve Native languages, traditions and songs.
The Purpose of the Missionary Conference
In the United Methodist Church in the United States there are three missionary conferences. The reason these conferences exist is as a mission strategy to reach and be in ministry with persons who, in the judgement of the Church, cannot be effectively reached through the normal structure and purpose of annual conferences. Native persons in Alaska, Appalachia, and Oklahoam (including adjoing areas) are those so identified.
The Purpose of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference
Therefore, the purpose of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference is to reach Indian persons with the Good News of Jesus Christ through the United Methodist witness.
The United Methodist witness is an inclusive witness. All persons are welcome in the work and witness of local congregations of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. When these persons become members of local congregations of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, they are committing themselves to the distinctive purpose of the Conference, that is to reach Indian persons with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Only as local congregations and pastors are committed to this distinctive purpose are they fulfilling the stated purpose of a missionary conference and being good stewards and trustees of the resources the whole denomination makes available to Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference to reach persons for Christ.
The only reason the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference exists is that the Church has decided that Indians in Oklahoma (including adjoining areas) can best be reached through a missionary conference rather than an annual conference.
It is a special privilege to be part of a missionary conference, for the whol denomination is counting on the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference to do what they believe must be done – reach Indian persons for Christ. Only as a conference, local congregations and pastors have this as our single-minded focus in our work and life together are we faithful to the denomination and to God who gave us the gift of Jesus Christ, not to keep to ourselves but to share with others – and the transformation of the world.