Monthly Archives: March2020

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To:        Pastors and Congregations of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference
From:   Bishop Jimmy Nunn and the Rev. David Wilson
Date:    March 26, 2020
Re:       Update on COVID-19   Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

We last wrote to you on March 17 and today, that feels like so long ago.  Much has transpired since then, none of which any of us could have imagined then.  However, with the latest announcement by Governor Stitt regarding “Safer at Home,” we want to update some of our previous guidance.  There were certain measures outlined in his executive order which are statewide:

  • Issues a statewide “Safer at Home” order for adults over the age of 65 and vulnerable individuals with serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.
  • Prohibits visitations to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

You can read the entire executive order here – https://www.governor.ok.gov/articles/press_releases/governor-stitt-announces-latest-covid-19-actions.

In further guidance released this morning, he expanded his list of exempted workers under the category of other community-based government operations and essential functions to include “faith-based services that are provided through streaming or other technology.”

In light of all that, we strongly recommend and expect that all United Methodist Churches close and that staff work from home as much as possible.  We do not recommend that any in-person gatherings take place for any reason though we do understand that some may choose to follow CDC safe distancing and under 10 people requirements in order to record worship services and messages of devotion and encouragement.

This is permissible under the CDC guidelines as well as in keeping with Governor Stitt’s exemptions and his “Safer at Home” order.  If you are gathering to record or host live worship on Sunday morning, please make sure you have under 10 people in your gathering and that they are practicing the 6’ safe distancing guidelines.  This will help us flatten the curve.

We have all been heartened to see the various creative, innovative ways you are providing a vital connection between your church and your congregants.   Dallas Indian UMC is doing a conference call for worship; Stilwell Indian UMC is doing a Bible Study/Worship via text; and many are doing Facebook live services.  You are doing an outstanding job seeing ALL the people! There are numerous webinars online which provide guidance and information on online giving, worship and leading Bible study and other groups during this time of impact by COVID-19.

Some have asked about the Service of Holy Communion.  United Methodist licensed local pastors and ordained elders in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference may celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion through a recorded or online worship service to which people are invited to gather as a congregation from a distance.  It is recommended that an order from the United Methodist Book of Worship or United Methodist Hymnal be used.  The Words of Institution and Epiclesis (“Pour out Your Holy Spirit…”) are essential to the service.

This unusual way of consecrating and receiving this sacrament is being allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic because congregations are being gathered electronically by necessity. The elements of bread and preferably some form of juice need to be used by the congregants wherever they are.  Clergy are strongly encouraged to use the Lord’s Prayer either before or after the community receives the elements.  Congregations that are led by supply pastors should join with a congregation that is led by a licensed or ordained clergyperson in order to partake of the sacrament. Or, if you have used a particular UMC Elder to consecrate your elements, please have them do that over the phone or via online.

Once again, follow CDC guidelines.  Be creative and safe.  Share ideas and resources.  Be concerned about people – not statistics and learn from this emergency.  Most especially, love and care for one another as our Lord has told us to do.

lois-8037Saint Paul School of Theology will be honoring the Rev. Lois V. Glory-Neal with the prestigious Distinguished Graduate Award on Friday, October 2 for reflecting the mission of
the seminary and exemplary service in ministry.

Born in the Cherokee Nation, Rev. Dr. Glory-Neal was the first Native American woman to be received into full connection as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.
She became the first Native American District Superintendent in 1992.

Glory-Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma City University in 1984. She continued her education by earning her Master of Divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology in 1988.

The Distinguished Graduate Award is presented annually at Saint Paul School of Theology. This year the award will be presented at the Saint Paul 60th Anniversary Celebration held at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center in Overland Park, KS. She will also be honored during the Oklahoma Campus Commencement on Friday, May 15 in Oklahoma City.

censusThe Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference is partnering with the National Indian Urban Family Coalition (NUIFC) to promote and help Native Americans to complete their 2020 census forms in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. In addition, a team of laity have been setting up at various events around both cities to do nonpartisan voter registration. The NUIFC has targeted 17 cities to raise Native American participation. OIMC’s program is called Rock the Native Vote/Census2020.

In IMG_03362010, 4.9 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives were omitted from the census, making them the most undercounted racial-ethnic demographic. Today, more than 60 percent of Native Americans live in urban areas.

“For the past 10 years, due to a large undercount of our regional population in the 2010 Census, we’ve all been living with decreased amounts of money available for schools, highways, public safety, health care and other important issues,” said Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation on the Tribe’s website. “The undercount occurred because many of the residents of our respective jurisdictions did not respond to the U.S. Census. Our artificially low population count, in turn, has led to smaller federal and state grants being made available to us to accomplish important things in our jurisdictions. We need to do everything possible to plan and organize in advance of the 2020 Census, to prevent a repeat occurrence.”

The funding has assisted OIMC to pay people to set up and enlist individuals in both registration for voting and helping with Census2020. Funds have also been used for public and social media awareness to help people understand the great need to complete the census forms, which were received on March 12, 2020, in households.

Roxanna Foster, a member of North Oklahoma City Fellowship, is coordinating the effort.  She is managing approximaIMG_0309tely 14 people in both cities. The funding will go through June.

The workers have set up at powwows, Indian taco sales, wild onion dinners, student events on college campuses and Indian clinics.

“This is the first-ever Urban Indian civic engagement project, funded by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition and our funding partners,” said Janeen Comenote, executive director of NUIFC.  “The Oklahoma City Rock the Native Vote was specifically identified as one that has a deep reach in the community, a history of community organizing, service and an understanding of the relationship between elected office and resources to improve the lives of their constituencies.”

IMG_0006“Extreme hospitality” is the way one participant described her experience during the fourth annual Native immersion hosted by the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference March 11-14, 2020, in Oklahoma City. Thirty-two participants from Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas took part in the three-day event which included visits to key Native historic sites within a two-hour radius of Oklahoma City.

“The immersion experience helps participants to learn about our history and contemporary issues we face today,” said the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent. “The coronavirus epidemic was heavy on our minds this visit, and we took extra precautions providing hand sanitizers and adjusting our programs as needed.” For example, the round dance was demonstrated without holding hands.

IMG_9963“I feel like I’ve had kind of a surface knowledge and a surface understanding of Native Americans,” said Cynthia Dopke, Wespath church relations manager. “Coming to this experience has been a way for me to deepen and really understand the complexities of the history and importance of the church, the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and their witness in the world.”

On the first day, participants visited the Oklahoma History Center, which includes information regarding the 39 tribes in the state. After lunch at Mary Lee Clark United Methodist Church, the group traveled north to Ponca City to the Standing Bear Park, which includes a 22-foot bronze statue of the Ponca tribal leader. Standing Bear played an important role in determining the “humanity” of his people and all Native peoples by arguing successfully in U.S. District Court in 1879 that he had civil rights under American law.

“Rev. David Wilson was talking about things that are essential for the Native church, which included hospitality,” said Charlene Zuill, spiritual life coordinator at Boston University School of Theology. “Hospitality is something that I feel is very important, and it felt like a point of connection; it is something we all share, but we offer it so differently.”

IMG_0131-2On the second day, participants braved cooler weather and rain to visit the Washita “Massacre” Battlefield site in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. This is where General George Armstrong Custer massacred 30 to 60 Cheyenne, mostly women and children, in 1868. The events took place four years after the massacre at Sand Creek where Col. John Chivington, a Methodist clergyman, ordered the cavalry to charge on 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho women and children.  Participants toured the cultural center and took a 1.5-mile guided walk through the area where the massacre took place. The day ended with a visit to Clinton Indian Church and Community Center, where Cheyenne Prayer Woman, Henrietta Mann, shared her family’s story of survival from both the Sand Creek and Washita massacres. Mann also led a smudging ceremony for participants during which she burned sweet grass and offered a prayer.

The Rev. Jack Terrell-Wilkes, pastor at both Lawton Heights and Wesley Chapel United Methodist churches in Lawton, Oklahoma, is from the state but had never connected to OIMC churches before the experience. He brought his son to get a firsthand deep dive into cultural history in Oklahoma.

“I’ve kind of known a lot of this stuff, but things in front of your face become invisible,” said Terrell-Wilkes. “It’s an important experience to … see where the church has failed and where we have also done good.”

On the third day, the group traveled to Thlopthlocco United Methodist Church in Okemah, Oklahoma, to experience a traditional and authentic “wild onion dinner.” They also experienced Native dancing in Oklahoma City.

IMG_2841“If you are United Methodist and have a chance to visit OIMC, I highly recommend it,” said the Rev. Diane Kenaston, senior pastor at University United Methodist Church in St. Louis. “This conference has so much to teach the rest of the denomination about tradition, innovation, community, hospitality, story, culture, kinship, music, generosity and resilience. Also, if you’ve never had fry bread, you are missing out,” she said.

“Through our immersion experience, we want to reshape the narrative around Native Americans in a way that reveals our strengths and gifts we bring to the church and the world,” said Wilson.

Registration for the 2021 immersion experience will open Nov. 1. The registration cost for the event is $225 per person which covers all meals and entry fees. For more information, contact the OIMC office at 405-632-2006 or via email at Dwilson@oimc.org.




IMG_9866The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference delegation to both General and Jurisdictional conferences has been busy meeting to learn about the issues facing the denomination amid unknown challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The delegation joined other South Central Jurisdiction delegations in Oklahoma City, Feb. 20-22, 2020, to interview the six episcopal candidates, including the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent and member of the delegation. Following the interviews, they listened and responded to reports of the proposed plans for reorganization, pensions and more.

“It was a good experience to visit all of the delegations and to hear their questions regarding, not only the proposed legislation for General Conference, but also to hear the questions that were unique to the needs of their annual conferences,” Wilson said.

“I appreciated their time to prepare for the interviews,” he added.

Due to the uncertainty of the actions of the 2020 General Conference, there is no clear direction of how many candidates will be elected. Three Bishops will retire in 2020.

The candidates include Sally Haynes, Missouri Annual Conference; Laura Merrill, Rio Texas; Sheron Patterson, North Texas; Eddie Rivera, New Mexico; Dee Williamson, Great Plains; and Wilson, OIMC.

The Council of Bishops has asked for a postponement of General Conference scheduled May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, according to United Methodist News. The bishops stated the travel restrictions to the U.S. make it difficult for European, African and Asian delegates to attend. The postponement would also affect the meeting dates of jurisdictional conferences in July. Several annual conferences are also delaying or shortening their annual conference sessions.

IMG_1245The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference launched its first satellite course of study class, “Bible I,” on March 6, 2020. The course, hosted by The Muscogee Creek Nation, is part of a strategy to encourage part-time and full-time local pastors to move toward the ordination process in The United Methodist Church.

“The new course of study for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference is unique among all other courses in that it provides theological education contextualized to meet the particular cultural and religious needs of indigenous (or Native American) United Methodists, especially those in Oklahoma,” said Paul Barton, director of Perkins Regional Course of Study School.

IMG_1249Seventeen students are enrolled in the class taught by Justine Wilson, pastor of Norman First American United Methodist Church. The courses are offered for one Saturday for three months in the spring and in the fall. Local pastors, lay missioners and lay servants in OIMC churches are eligible to take the courses.

“For part-time pastors, the satellite classes are most helpful because many of them are bi-vocational and have limited time off of work,” said the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent. Wilson said pastors also attend the summer courses at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas and Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City.

“Through our collaboration with Perkins School of Theology and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church,” Wilson said, “we are able to use our own Native American faculty who are certainly capable of teaching these courses and including the indigenous context of our tribal culture.”



In compliance with recommendations from Oklahoma state officials and the Center for Disease Control, many activities in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) have cancelled. From wild onion dinners to Sunday morning services, pastors have been advised to follow social distancing guidelines to keep church members healthy. However, ministry efforts to help Native children and reservation communities continues.

IMG_9933“While we first and foremost want to do what we can to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we also can’t forget about the most vulnerable among us,” said the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent. OIMC is answering a call from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe for food and toiletry items for tribal members. In addition to purchasing supplies, a small group took staple items of potatoes, beans, and bread on Saturday, March 21, from the Billy Hooton United Methodist Church’s food ministry program in Oklahoma City. The supplies were delivered to the Cheyenne and Arapaho emergency management team.

“Many Native peoples, particularly our elders, live paycheck to paycheck,” said Wilson. “They may not have the money or access to buy the basics they need for the coming weeks. We will continue to look for ways to support our community and tribes during this crisis.”

In addition to serving the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in the state, the OIMC has sent funds to support emergency needs on the Standing Rock and Yankton Sioux reservations in South Dakota. The issue for many tribes in the Dakotas is the access to food. They are located at least 60 to 90 miles from larger communities. Even if they have funds, the food and supplies are not available or sold out. This week, the Oglala Sioux President, Julian Bear Runner, declared a state of emergency because the tribe had still not received any testing kits from the federal government.
OIMC has supported the tribes over the past few months as they recover from extreme weather events including heavy flooding.

IMG_8233The Clinton Indian Church and Community Center (CICCC) is also preparing snack bags to deliver to church members. The children were supposed to have two days of fun with partners from the New Horizon United Methodist Church in Woodward, Oklahoma. Carol Bradley, Faith in Action Committee member from the northwest Oklahoma congregation, traveled more than an hour to Clinton to deliver food which was prepared for the cancelled event along with 25 snack bags for participants.

“Although I was disappointed, I knew I had to get these snack bags and food out to the children and youth of the ministry,” said the Rev. Donna Pewo, pastor at CICCC. She contacted the Southwest Oklahoma State University Wesley Foundation Campus ministry. Student volunteers prepared snack bags and stretched out the goods to make a total of 50 bags to distribute. The bags also included small crafts for the kids to put together at home.

“This is such a stressful time for parents and grandparents who are trying to meet the daily needs of their families,” said Pewo. “We want the children and youth to know that we care about them during this trying time.”

All Oklahoma public schools will be closed through April 6.