How Do You Define Spiritual Abuse? And 29 other questions for shepherds of the church to ask themselves

Spiritual abuse is a topic that is getting more attention these days. Perhaps in some people’s minds, that term is reserved for religious cults and their leaders. Perhaps in your mind, you think that it is a new phenomenon that is sweeping through the church as a result of the spirit of our age. This new, Millennial, victim-mentality is just a worldy thing that the devil is using to disgrace and divide the church. It’s just part of the #MeToo movement, you might say. I hope not.

Below is a list of thirty questions for the shepherds of the church of Jesus Christ to ask themselves personally when they look in the mirror and corporately as they look at each other. Every question deserves an answer. You deserve an answer. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, deserves an answer.

I am by no-means an expert on the subject, but I have some insight. Without going into a lot of sordid details, I can tell you that I have seen enough of it first hand to know what it is. I have studied the matter at great length, and I know enough people who have been victims of it.

Fear is the dominant and controlling virtue of an abusive pastor’s leadership philosophy, coupled with charm and self-importance. The three key words — whether declared or implied — to remember when dealing with a spiritually abusive pastor are: Obey. Obey. Obey.

Warning signs of an abusive pastor who isolates his prey would be statements like:

“Never remind of what I’ve said.” 

“Don’t tell anybody I said that. I will deny it.”

“If you talk, it will be bad for you. It won’t be bad for the church. It will be bad for you. Do you understand?

That list could go on for miles, but these are just few that I have personally heard.

There are plenty of resources out there to give you a better understanding of the topic. For brevity sake, I offer two resources to start with. The first is a podcast from Mortification of Spin titled Overstepping Authority. The second is a book titled, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About It, by Glen Ball, Darrel Puls and Steven J. Sandage.

Jesus had serious warnings and woes for the leaders in His day. (Matt 23:13-32) Peter tells us that “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.” (1 Pet 4:17), and those “who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1).

Everyone reading this is encouraged to copy and tailor these questions for use in your church. Give a copy to your pastor and elders, and require answers.  If they don’t want to answer the questions, then find a new church.

  1. Do we believe that spiritual/pastoral abuse is a real thing?

 

  1. How does the [CHURCH NAME] session define spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. If there were spiritual/pastoral abuse at [CHURCH NAME], how would the victim(s) know how to report that?

 

  1. When we hear reports of abuse, do any of us on the session instinctively take a defensive posture towards those who come forward?

 

  1. Are the alleged victims required to exercise Matthew 18 with their alleged abuser before going to the session? If yes, what is the rationale? Would such a requirement be placed on women (or men) who were sexually abused?

 

  1. What are the steps to reporting spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. Does any member of [CHURCH NAME] know those steps?

 

  1. Is there some kind of published BCO for parishioners to refer to for guidance?

 

  1. If yes, do [church name] members know where to obtain a copy in print or digitally online?

 

  1. For the shepherds, what are the steps with handling reports of abuse?

 

  1. What are the steps for investigating abuse?

 

  1. For churches who have ministers serving “out-of-bounds” from their presbytery, how will [CHURCH NAME] session handle abuse cases involving [DENOMINATION] ministers who have their own procedures for handling abuse?

 

  1. Will the session immediately report the allegations to the denomination of the ministers serving out-of-bounds?

 

  1. If there were any future cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse, will [CHURCH NAME] contact the [PRESBYTERY] if it involves a [DENOMINATION NAME] minister, or does [CHURCH NAME] believe she has the right to shield [DENOMINATION NAME] ministers from oversight of their own denomination?

 

  1. Will the [CHURCH NAME] session conduct their own investigation, or leave it completely in the hands of the [PRESBYTERY NAME]?

 

  1. Is the opinion of the [CHURCH NAME] session that it is improper for [CHURCH NAME] members and/or elders to report abuse regarding [NAME OF MINISTER SERVING OUT-OF-BOUNDS] to their presbytery?

 

  1. Can a victim come forward truly feeling safe and assured that the session takes cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse seriously?

 

  1. Will our track record prove that?

 

  1. Will any member of the session accuse the alleged victim of causing trouble?

 

  1. Will any member of the session label any alleged victims as “Millennial cry-babies” who are part of the #MeToo movement?

 

  1. Will he/she/they be accused of being messengers or instruments of Satan?

 

  1. Can members of [CHURCH NAME] or attendees have full confidence that the session will do all it can to protect the sheep from abusive shepherds and not the other way around?

 

  1. Is the session truly prepared to deal swiftly and aggressively with a shepherd no matter what the celebrity status of the shepherd?

 

  1. Can the session truly say that it will discipline or even defrock a shepherd if that shepherd is in any way abusive to the sheep, no matter the perceived fame and draw-power that shepherd may have at [CHURCH NAME]?

 

  1. In short, will the [CHURCH NAME] session allow celebrity status to protect a shepherd at the expense of holiness and righteousness?

 

  1. Is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, jealous to protect the legacy of [FAMOUS PREACHER/CHURCH] or is He jealous to protect His sheep from abuse at the hands of under-shepherds no matter what the PR implications may be?

 

  1. In light of victims who have already come forth, has [CHURCH NAME] session asked the question, “Is there anyone else in the congregation who is afraid to come forth?”

 

  1. Would the [CHURCH NAME] session consider an internal investigation to find out if there are other victims of pastoral abuse? If not, then why?

 

  1. If yes, would third-party ministries such as Peacemakers, Blessing Point Ministries, and the like to be called upon to investigate to ensure public trust?

 

  1. Regarding past, current, and possibly other cases, can each member of the [CHURCH NAME] session stand before the Good Shepherd and expect to hear the benediction, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”?

 

Yes, it is long list, but I think each question is deserving of an answer. If churches have yet to create safeguards and policies concerning spiritual/pastoral abuse, now would be a time to start.

 

 

Lennox Letters: Summer 2019 – PCA General Assembly Edition

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Painting of Chief Rain in the Face by brother and friend, Mark Little Elk (Lakota)

Dear Jesus Follower,

We are Patrick and Regina Lennox – MTW missionaries to Native America. We met at a Bible college in 1995. Together we have been in ministry for over twenty years. I (Patrick) am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS Orlando, M.Div, 2014). From 2004 – 2014, I served at a Reformed church in Sanford, Florida as the director of education, youth, and local missions. Eight of those years, Regina and I led short-term teams to serve among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC. From 2017 – 2019, we served at the Mokahum Ministry Center on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bemidji, MN, working with fellow Native brothers making disciples and training leaders in Indian Country. We are members of our sending church, Orangewood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Maitland, FL.

Big Story!

IMG_20190627_132853_866 (1)It’s official. We are partnering with Third Millennium Ministries to bring biblical education, for the – Native American – world, for free. It has been a long time coming, but the Lord has brought it to pass. We are very thankful for this new chapter of outreach. Please continue reading to learn more about our new ministry journey and how you can be a part of it. (You can read about how it all began in Behind the Scenes of Providence).

 


To be clear, we are still MTW missionaries. All support continues through MTW. 


The Need

Corn

Corn we grew at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Minnesota.

To give perspective, there are currently 573 federally recognized Native tribes in the U.S. plus the many other yet-to-be recognized, plus the tribes with state recognition. Add to that the 634 First Nations recognized by Canada, and you begin to understand that the indigenous people of North America are a diverse people. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, there are 5.2 million Native people and 1.4 million in Canada. That is 6.6 million Native image-bearers of God from the more than 1,200 federally recognized people groups with distinct cultures, languages, histories, present realities and futures. The people are diverse. The fields are ready. The Lord of the Harvest bids us go and reap the harvest.

 

Churches need planting · Pastors need training · Believers need discipling

Sound familiar? Yes, these are perennial needs that will exist throughout the world until Jesus returns. But in the corner of the world where the Lord has burdened us, the challenges are greater than in non-Native communities. Native Christians need well-trained Native pastors. We have personally lived with the fallout of what happens when untrained pastors do not properly handle the Word of Truth. The people of God suffer from lack of biblical discipleship. Jesus deserves more than that. Let’s make sure He gets what He paid for.

Although statistics are hard to come by, the consensus among Native leaders and our experience on the field shows that most Native pastors are bi-vocational, and many of those lack proper biblical and theological training. It is also recognized that many of those Native pastors desire more biblical and theological training, yet are unable to leave their work, families, and churches to get it. That is where we come in.

Our Response

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Dear friends, Craig and LaDonna Smith of Tribal Rescue Ministries

By God’s good providence, we have been able to meet and work with many Native Christian leaders and laity over the years. We plan to continue to build on those relationships and establish new ones that we may gain inroads to find those pastors and prospective leaders who want biblical and theological training.

First, we will establish study cohorts of three or four men each to engage in a class utilizing Third Mill curriculum. We already have the core of a cohort ready to begin studying using Third Mill’s series The Apostle’s Creed. Pray as we begin in August.

 

Leo Czarina Regina

Leo Bird (Cherokee, Mokahum Ministry Center), Czarina (Ojibwe, MMC student), Regina.

To build up these cohorts will require a lot of travel. It is our goal to make Third Mill curriculum available on every one of the 325 U.S. Native reservations and surrounding communities, as well as Canadian reserves and communities. This is too much for us. Obviously, we’ll need help. But we serve a big God who can do abundantly more than we could ever ask or do. Dream with us as we face this monumental task.

During our time at Mokahum, we used Third Mill curriculum with our students. They were deeply moved by what they learned and appreciated the clarity and depth of the material. We are convinced that Third Mill provides the best biblical and theological curriculum for distance learning and will greatly grow the church of Jesus Christ among the various tribes, tongues, and nations in North America.

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Rev. Samson Occom (Mohegan, the first ordained Native American Presbyterian minister)

Secondly, for many years we have had a deep desire to establish a study center for Native disciples not unlike Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri model. We believe a discipleship center to “Discover the God who is and your place in his kingdom” would meet a pressing need in Native America. The campus would serve both Native laity looking for more intentional discipleship unavailable to them in their present setting and for those Third Mill students who are able to attend for short periods of time. Space will not allow for us to elaborate on all that we envision, but please pray and track with us to see if the Lord establishes the Samson Occom Institute for Biblical and Theological Studies and the Occom Discovery Center.

Let’s keep talking.

 

Our Challenge to You

You have made it to page three. You have moved from mere curiosity to interest in what the Lord is doing in Native America. We are asking that you would move beyond momentary interest to continual prayer. We ask that you beseech the Lord and ask him if he wants you to join us for the long haul.

We need a team of praying and supporting partners.

We need to raise additional support. By nature of our ministry, our travel costs will increase as well as other ministry costs.

Please consider joining our support team. Pledged giving is most helpful as we plan for the future. But all gifts are helpful and appreciated.

Please help us spread the word about what the Lord is doing in Native America.

Please pass this newsletter along to someone on your church’s mission committee.

Please pray for us as we strive to serve in Native America, and follow us on our journey at www.LennoxLetters.com.

If you would like to partner with us, there are multiple ways to do that.

Give us a call. Let’s talk about it.

Sign up for our newsletter. Text us your contact info and we will sign you up.

For His Kingdom,

 

Patrick & Regina Lennox #14241

MTW Missionaries to Native America

(p) 407.416.1482

(blog) http://www.lennoxletters.com

(e) lennoxletters@gmail.com

(t) @patricklennox

(fb) /Patrick.r.lennox

(Instagram) /patrick_lennoxletters

Skype: LennoxClan5

 

[This post is a revised edition of a hard-copy newsletter in June 2019 for distribution at the PCA General Assembly]

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of Providence: Tracing the Hand of God from Carriage Lane’s Missions Conference All the Way to Indian Country

In 2016 we were invited to participate at the Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s (Peachtree City, GA) week-long missions conference. Our story with Carriage Lane actually goes back to our Cherokee days when we met Norm Dunkin and all the great folks who ministered within the Qualla Boundary every summer.

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Here we are with Dr. Richard Pratt and Rob Griffith of Third Millennium Ministries. Dr. Pratt was the keynote speaker at the Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s annual missions conference.

During our visit last year, I met up with fellow RTS seminarian, Rob Griffith, of Third Millennium Ministries. Although I knew of Third Mill’s ministry, I didn’t really understand that their materials were really for everyone, not just poor pastors in remote parts of the world. Once Rob explained to me all the ministry is about, the wheels in my head (both of them) quickly started turning. I thought immediately of the mission field I serve – the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, the Native American/Alaska Native/First Nations peoples of North America. Although my wife and I are called to a discipleship/leadership school located in Minnesota, we got excited at the possibility of Third Mill’s materials reaching the remotest places in Indian Country.

So Rob introduced me to Richard Pratt after the Saturday men’s breakfast. I told Richard how much I loved his approach to ministry and how I intend on take advantage of Third Mill as much as I could for Native America. I suggested that he make a video personally inviting Native American/First Nations peoples to participate in Third Mill materials. But I told him that his name was actually a liability in Indian Country. It was probably one of the most notorious names in Indian Country, second only to Custer. Keep reading…

Carlisle_pupilsBriefly, there was a U.S. military man named Richard H. Pratt, who started the first government Indian boarding school in Carlisle, PA, which began a movement of off-reservation schools for Indian children where children were taken from their family and communities to be subjected to civilization of the savage under the doctrine of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Christianity and the “white man’s ways” were forced upon the Native children. Space will not allow to list the suffering that took place in those schools. This dark era in U.S. history (1879 – 1979) inflicted untold pain on our Native neighbors still felt in Indian Country today.

Because is this history, there are hurdles to overcome with our first neighbors. Unlike the Richard Pratt of old, this Richard Pratt’s approach to education is the exact opposite – teach the Bible in the context of the people where they live without imposing cultural standards upon Christ’s disciples. Richard thought it was a good idea, so he told me to write a script and he will create a video . . . That was an Ebenezer moment for us.

Back at Home

Third Mill behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

As soon as I could, I got to work on the script. I wrote up a draft and ran it by two Christian leaders in Indian Country to review it. With their blessing, I gave it to Third Mill for Richard to record. By late spring, the video was completed. We were invited to be there for the recording. . . Once it was recorded, they asked us what we would like to see done with the video. . . Not knowing how exactly to get this video invitation out there, I posted it on our blog, LennoxLetters.com.

Native America and General Assembly 2016

PrattCarrReginaHuronPatrickThen it hit us. MTW was going to highlight their work among Native American and First Nations peoples at the MTW luncheon at our General Assembly. Their guest speaker was going to be Huron Clause (Mohawk, Kiowa) of CHIEF Ministries – a long-time friend of MTW. We thought that it would be great if they showed the video Richard made a few months earlier, so Regina urged me to make some phone calls to the home office to see if this could work. Anxiously I waited for the answer, and by God’s good providence, it was a done deal. . . I was able to introduce Richard and Huron to each other. After the lunch, Richard had invited Huron to visit Third Mill’s home office if ever he was in Florida.

The Big Day

The following October, Huron took Richard up on that invitation. Through my meddling and God’s providence, Regina and I were able to be a couple of flies on the wall during that visit. It was a great meeting between these two important ministries . . .

HuronPrattWe are blessed to have a small role in all that God is doing with these various ministries. I think how Carriage Lane made a long-term commitment for a short-term project with Mission to the World in Cherokee. From there, we met Norm and the gang, which led us to Carriage Lane, where we ultimately met Richard Pratt through a fellow RTS seminarian, Rob Griffith. It took all that for us to meet a man who is ten miles down the road from our house. What will the Lord do with that? We’ll keep you posted.

third-mill-and-chief

Regina, Patric, Huron Claus (CHIEF Ministries), Richard Pratt (Third Millennium Ministries)

 

(The above article is an abridged version of an article in Lennox Letters originally written for Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church in Peachtree City, GA.)

No Wonder

Whipple

“I know of no other instance in history where a great nation has so shamefully violated its oath. Our country must forever bear the disgrace and suffer the retribution of its wrongdoing. Our children’s children will tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.”

The above quote was penned by Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, the first Episcopalian Bishop of Minnesota, advocate for Native peoples, and negotiator for the U.S. He earned the name “Straight Tongue” from the Native people he tried to reach. Those sobering words were in response to the flagrant U.S. violations of the Fort Laramie Treaty with the Lakota (Sioux) people.

My purpose in highlighting these haunting words is not to revisit the violations of the treaty, but to point out that Bishop Whipple and other churchmen of the day actually believed that “to trample on justice” is to “trifle with God.” Do we believe that today?

Another sobering reality is that Whipple’s prediction that “our children’s children” would somehow “tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.” The sad reality is that the children’s children don’t know the story. As a country and a church, we are have mostly forgotten about our Native neighbors. More than that, people today in this country don’t even know what to forget—they never knew. And our Native neighbors know that about us.

Ancient History?

Many people are actually surprised to know that Native Americans still actually exist. And most of those Americans who do know that Native Americans exist view their first neighbors according to stereotypes created for them by Hollywood, U.S. public and private school education, headlines, and good old mascots.


Reel Injun

If you are willing to take a hard look at the main source of our “knowledge” of Native America, then you must watch Reel Injun a 2009 Canadian documentary film directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in film.


The seemingly dominant view of Native American history begins with the Pilgrims and ends with the so-called Indian Wars, which ended at the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890. In the minds of most Americans I speak with, there is a clean, bold line of demarcation separating the past from the present — a that-was-then-this-is-now paradigm that ignores the entire 20th century’s continual assault on Native peoples. We are stuck on the false notion that all the injustices happened a long time ago, and the Native Americans today simply refuse to get over it.

What was so bad about the 20th century?

What most Americans are unaware of is that the 20th century was one of the most harmful centuries to Native American and First Nations in our history together. People wonder why there is so much brokenness among Native America and First Nations people. The is answer is quite simple: Because they were broken.

One of most important chapters in that story of brokenness happened during our lifetime. The boarding/residential school experiment took Native children away from their family and communities, beginning in 1878 at the Carlisle Indian School. The boarding school movement spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, lasting for a century.

To learn more about this dark stain on our history, see my two posts below to hear Native people in their own words:

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 2

If you thought that all of the problems in Indian country were a result of casinos, government handouts, and some kind of genetic propensity towards alcoholism, then you will have to re-adjust our equation. They live with realities that we just don’t understand. They live in a story that was written for them by a dominant culture that tried to “civilize” and “Christianize” them. Now we as modern-day Christians wonder why there is so much distrust among our first neighbors towards Christians.

In order for us to be good witness for Christ, we need to be good neighbors. Let’s give Jesus a better witness in Indian country. Let’s go in meekness and love. Let’s get some genuine understanding of our Native neigbors before we ask questions like, why don’t they assimilate? or why don’t they just get over the past? Let’s just meet them where they are at and love our Native neighbors.

New Wonder

We have a vast and diverse mission field underneath our feet (I never say “our own back yard”). Perhaps the Lord will give our children’s children a sense of wonder when they look back on us as we followed the Lord of the Harvest into His field in Native America. Perhaps it will be Native children’s children that will be evangelizing our children’s children one day. We cannot predict the Lord, but we must obey Him. I believe is calling us into Native America to discover what He is already doing. Let’s go.

Recommended readings:

Dear Missions Commitee

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Native Americans: Reached, Unreached, or Mis-reached?

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

Let’s talk at GA booth #249.

Patrick Lennox

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Patrick & Regina Lennox

Missionaries to Native America

Mission to the World

Phone: 407.416.1482

Email: LennoxLetters@gmail.com

Blog: www.lennoxletters.com
Facebook.com/patrick.r.lennox
Twitter: @patricklennox

Instagram: @patrick_lennoxletters

Reconcilation: Long History, Short Memories, New Beginnings

When I talk with average church folk, pastors, and most mission committees about Native America, it becomes quite apparent very quickly that they have very little knowledge about our first neighbors. This is not a condemnation of any kind, just an observation. I have said it before, and it bears repeating: If all your knowledge of Native America comes from High school text books, headlines, or Hollywood (yes, even Dinesh D’Souza), then you simply don’t know about your Native America. You may have picked up some facts, as accurate as they may be, and you may have in-depth knowledge of a particular historical event, but that doesn’t give you real knowledge of your Native neighbors.

That Was Then, This Is Now. Right?

People often have a default line of demarcation with Native history ending at the final Wounded Knee Massacre, December 29, 1890. Although that date certainly ended an era in Native history (the so-called Indian Wars), their history as a people continued with more assaults to their way of life and existence. As I mentioned in my last post, Reconciliation: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems, the twentieth century was one of the worst centuries for Native peoples. After all the land was taken and the people conquered, then the U.S. government came for the children — and the church participated. Their history continues.

Read more about our common views of our Native neighbors HOW: Were You Informed about Native Americans?

To be sure this issue here is not whether our Native American/First Nations neighbors are more important than our black, Hispanic, or Asian neighbors. And although we just referenced a lot of historical data, we don’t need to get lost in the details of that. Again, my concern is not about the big numbers, but they do serve as the backdrop and give perspective to the issues today that plague Indian country and cannot be ignored.

What must be remembered is that the church played an important role in the destruction of Native cultures, which has led to so many problems in Indian country today.  It is extremely important for our denomination to have a fuller understanding of our Presbyterian heritage, warts and all, so we can be better witness to our Native neighbors and even more so, to our Native brothers and sisters who have long embraced Christ, but still live with the effects of this painful history, which that most of the non-Native, American church knows nothing about.

Doctrine, Destiny, and Dollars

American_progressAs Protestants, we need to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny, if we want to have better open-dialogue with our Native neighbors.

The first slaves ever sold from the North American continent were the Native peoples. Untold numbers were sent to the Caribbean (West Indies) and other places throughout the world. Both Catholics and Protestants participated.

The two initial Roman papal bulls that gave “divine” license to Christian Monarchs to enslave Native peoples throughout the world and take their land were Papal Bull Dum Diversas, 18 June 1452, and Bull Romanus Pontifex, 8 January 1454. These deleterious doctrines ultimately became the foundation to our U.S. Doctrine of Discovery (Johnson vs. Mc’Intosh 1823) and Manifest Destiny and is the economic reason for the success of the United States of America. “This land was made for you and me.”

Where does reconciliation begin?

How is Native America not like the man who was overtaken by robbers, beaten and left on the side of the road? How are we not different from the priests and Levites who crossed the road when they saw the man on the side of the road? (Luke 10:25-37). Many Native voices would say we were the robbers who overtook them. Today, political and theological liberals are acting as the good Samaritans. Perhaps what is worse is that we don’t even cross the road anymore. We don’t even know they are there. They have become invisible.

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Jesus is at work in Indian country. Above is a tribal sponsored sign in the Crow Nation.

Part of reconciliation begins with the confession and regret of us not knowing about the reasons behind the pain in Indian Country inflected upon them. Native people know that most non-Native people do not know about their real history and suffering through the 20th and 21st centuries. They also know that most people don’t even want to know.

Reconciliation would require a repudiation of the pernicious Doctrine of Discovery that has caused so much suffering in Native America, as well as throughout the world. As Reformed Protestants, who have benefitted from the doctrine, we should be more than eager to repent and reform.

Reconciliation would  be a recognition of the darker moments in our Presbyterian heritage and history, in particular, the attitudes and actions that led to the destruction of Indian culture in the name of the Great Commission.

There is certainly more that could added to this list, but but at this point enough has been said to start a real conversation within the PCA. Am I calling for repentance for sins of past generations of Presbyterian denominations? No, actually they have already done that themselves. In fact, the PCUSA has done extensive research on this subject and has given a great response to our first neighbors.

What I am asking for is an open letter to our Native neighbors that we recognize the sins of our fathers and that we will strive to examine our own hearts, thoughts, and actions with a commitment to study our own history and theirs and strive to not repeat our past.

Recommended readings:

Dear Missions Commitee

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Native Americans: Reached, Unreached, or Mis-reached?

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 2

Let’s talk at GA booth #249.

Patrick Lennox

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Patrick & Regina Lennox

Missionaries to Native America

Mission to the World

Phone: 407.416.1482

Email: LennoxLetters@gmail.com

Blog: www.lennoxletters.com
Facebook.com/patrick.r.lennox
Twitter: @patricklennox

Instagram: @patrick_lennoxletters

 

 

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

A couple of years ago, I attended a gathering of church leaders gathered to discuss racial reconciliation particularly in light of the PCA’s relations with the black community. Leading the discussion was a well-known and respected theologian and another gentleman who had recently authored a book relative to the topic being discussed. Following their presentation, there was a time of Q & A and discussion. As a missionary to Native America, I couldn’t resist voicing an observation. It went something like this, “I hear a lot about racial reconciliation being talked about, but I notice that it is nearly exclusively about black and white relations, and a little about Hispanic folks, but I have yet to hear anything about Native Americans.”

no-hope-beyond-pointUnfortunately what followed was anything but hopeful. The main speaker acknowledged the bad history with Native Americans, but then went on to educate the room about the fact that “never before in world history there has ever been such a great displacement of people from one continent to another” (paraphrase). He went on to cite the statistics concerning the 12.5 million African slaves brought across the Atlantic to the New World. It was as if he were saying that this issue is more important than the Native American issue simply by showing the immensity of the numbers.

He then said words to the effect that if you are going to talk about Native Americans, then we are going to have to address the Japanese-Americans who were put into camps during WWII.  Sadly, I heard that line of reasoning many times before. What was noticeably absent from the response was any kind of affirmation that there was a need to discuss Native America, as if it were a settled issue that does not need to be revisited.

My Issue

Here is my issue with that response. First, I must say that I am glad there were no Native Americans in the room to hear that answer. Additionally, I would like to emphasize that I don’t believe for a moment that the gentleman did not care about Native Americans. But his response revealed the common lack of knowledge of our history with Native Americans in this country, especially where the church was involved. It would be easy to believe that the government alone is responsible for the injustices against Native people, but that is simply not the historical record.

How much knowledge did he have concerning the relationship between the church and state regarding laws that were designed to outlaw, therefore, destroy hundreds of Native American cultures and everything that held them together?  Who today knows that it was the Presbyterian church (General Assembly 1887) that urged then U.S. President Grover Cleveland to push for legislation to outlaw all Indian cultural and religious practices? That meant all language, music, dance, art, etc. Essentially it was against U.S. law to be an Indian. How easy would the Great Commission be if everyone looked, talked, lived, and acted just like us?


Looking unto JesusDark Reality

Space will not allow to list all the grievances Native people have with the church, but one of the issues that is most pressing on Native American and First Nations peoples is the effects of the Indian boarding/residential school era in the U.S. and Canada. For more on that, see my blog posts, The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, pt 1 and The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, pt 2. We cannot begin to understand Native America today until we grapple with the dark reality of the Indian boarding school movement and the role the churches had with the government.


Secondly, concerning the statistics, my effort here is not to compare who is more important by showing which people group has the biggest numbers. That is not my intent. In fact, I resisted writing this response fearing that it would be seen that way. But I didn’t bring up the statistics.

By the Numbers

There are a few divergent estimates of the Native population on the North American continent prior to 1492, but 12 million is a number that has gained acceptance. By the end of the 19th century, there were less than 250,000 Native Americans in the U.S., perhaps as low as 230,000.

Much of the decline in the population was due to disease, but what must be remembered is that many Natives were exposed to disease by design. Many died due to the result of malnutrition, starvation and exposure resulting from displacement. Tribes were reduced to what we now call “refugees.” They were continually displaced and forced to live in places and regions of which they had no knowledge or skill to survive. Prisoner-of-war camps (many of which became reservations) provided inadequate and often spoiled rations. They were often killed by other tribes as they were forced westward. Population reduction was also due to tribes being splintered apart. With no land to call their own, always on the move, many tribes simply disappeared in oblivion. Space will not allow to list the effects the many massacres and wars had on the population. Whatever the proportions of each factor, the cumulative effect of European and American conquest on the Native populations in North America is staggering and heart-breaking.

Our speaker was quick to point out the sheer number of African slaves that were stolen and transported across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet only 3% of the 12.5 million were sent to North America, which is about 388,000 African souls, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.* Pointing that out in no way minimizes the pain and suffering of those image-bearers of God. I would never suggest that, but if we are going to use numbers to measure historical import in the racial reconciliation discussion within our denomination, then I believe Native Americans deserve a place at the table — certainly more than a footnote or an add-on in any forthcoming resolutions. 

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Native tribes such as the Mobile — the namesake of the city in Alabama where PCA GA 2016 took place – are now an extinct tribe. Incidentally, the Alabama still exists, just not in Alabama anymore. They are now in Texas. What many folks didn’t know is that Native Americans also had to ride on the back of the bus in Alabama until the civil rights movement. During my time at this General Assembly, I asked person after person if they knew what Mobile was. Not a single person knew it was the name of an Indian tribe. I say this only to demonstrate our prevailing ignorance of the indigenous people of the land in which we live, worship, and carry out the Great Commission. 

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Numbers in Perspective

When the African slave trade began, there were approximately 12 million or more Native peoples in North America. Through the following centuries, European settlers, mostly confessing Christians, managed to take over the continent and reduce its indigenous population down to 230,000 by 1900.

There are many differences between the two people groups, i.e. Africans and Native Americans, yet there is kind of apples-to-apples comparison, even if they are different kinds of apples from the different orchards. For instance, the 12.5 million African, men, women, and children were displaced from their homeland, as were the Native Americans. It’s just that we cannot apply the word “transcontinental” to the Native Americans’ displacement, unless we count those who were sold and shipped to the West Indies.

Essentially, within the same relative period of time, both Native American and African peoples were displaced from their homelands by the same numbers (approximately 12 million) — the stark difference being is that the greater number of victims on U.S. soil belongs to the Native American side of the ledger, if we dare call near oblivion as displacement.

Where are They Now?

indian-reservatin-map-e1528593740796.pngBut there is actually hope. The Lord has given us a gracious gift. Our Native neighbors live among us everywhere, yet we often don’t recognize them unless they signal us with some kind of cultural symbol, e.g. long braided hair, turquoise or feather jewelry, etc. Not fitting our stereotypes, they have become invisible.

Today there are 573 federally recognized Native American nations in the U.S. and 638 First Nations in Canada. In the U.S., approximately 22% live on the 325 reservations, while others live in surrounding communities, or in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. There are approximately 2.9 million U.S. Native Americans who identify themselves as full-blood. Of those who identify themselves as full or part Native, there are 5 million. Can you imagine if all of the tribes like the Mobile disappeared by 1900 rather than the remnant of 230,000 preserved by God’s providence?

The Lord of the Harvest has given us a vast field with 1,207 distinct and federally recognized nations. We have plenty to do. By His good providence, we live in the information and communication age. We have more than enough resources to reach the lost and assist those Native pastors in Indian country. And we have more than enough history to learn from regarding destructive methods that have contributed to many of the problems in Native America. We also have an opportunity to examine our own hearts to see if we still share the same attitudes with our forefathers that drove wrong-headed and destructive methodologies. Ultimately, we have an opportunity to reach our neighbors with the Great Commission rather than the Great Imposition. Let’s give Jesus a better witness in Indian country!

In a follow-up to this article, Reconciliation: Long History, Short Memories, New Beginnings, I would like continue these thoughts and to submit a possible way forward with efforts to reach our first neighbors.

*http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us/

 

 

 

 

A Better Way to Build: Lessons from an Angry Pastor

building house - bricks and project for construction industry

There is an age-old technique pastors have used to give their church a sense of unity and mission. It’s called the building campaign. Trust me. I have heard about it, read about, and have seen it. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the case with all building campaigns. Even as I write this, my home church is doing a long overdue renovation and is engaging in a long-term building plan. In fact, they put off an expensive building plan for many years in order to support more missionaries on the field.

So What Exactly Does Compulsion Look Like?

We have visited a lot of churches. I will never forget the most awkward church service I have ever attended. It was immediately after we began our journey as missionaries. Up until that time, I only heard about such things, but that Sunday, we actually heard it with our own ears. It was a pastor chastising the congregation for not participating in a capital campaign. To be clear, he wasn’t chastising them for not fulfilling a pledge; he reprimanded all those who chose not to pledge to the campaign. He proceeded to tell his congregation that he was “angry, saddened, and vexed” when he thought of all those who didn’t give. More than that, he told them that he knew the names of everyone who didn’t pledge.

boss scolding his employees and these will run

This particular capital campaign was an effort to pay down the mortgage debt earlier than scheduled. The rationale for the quick retirement of the mortgage was so the church could increase its missions budget. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with that rationale. The backstory, according to a member, was that the congregation already heard that before while worshiping in their original building. Shortly after that mortgage burning, the decision was made to sell the church and embark on a new building campaign.

If that chastising were not bad enough on that Lord’s Day, the really strange part was that the pastor proceeded to preach on 2 Corinthians 9:7 only hours later at the evening service. Let’s remind ourselves of the passage:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (ESV)

I don’t know how that preacher handled this passage that evening, I wasn’t there. But I can assure you that what he did that morning was a betrayal of the passage. If that was not compulsion by the pastor, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident in the Lord’s church. As a follow up, I was there the following Sunday evening as he continued his series on 2 Corinthians 9, where he recognized his hearers may have thought he had a harsh tone, only to double down on his statement, without any hint of apology.

WWPD — What Would Peter Do?

Now I agree that pastors must admonish their congregation to give to the work of the kingdom. Of course, someone may call upon Acts 5:1-11 where Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira for not giving all they declared to have given. That was a pretty severe situation and ought to put the fear of God in us. But I don’t recall Peter expressing his personal anger to them (not that Peter was incapable of expressing his frustration with people). As far as we can tell from that passage, Peter dealt with them in a straightforward fashion declaring how the Spirit was going to deal with them. Yet even if Peter did indeed express deep vexation towards that lying couple, we have seen enough of Peter to not emulate him during his emotionally extreme moments.

According to studies most Christians don’t give anything that resembles a tithe, while so many give sacrificially. Our requests for support are turned down time and time again because churches have really tight budgets, or even more, they are operating over budget. Let me emphasize my appreciation for the pastors who give their all and encourage their flock to do the same for the kingdom. We know many of them.

Lesson Learned

Mood swings in a girl

This                                                                                        Not This

Like angry pastors, I, too, can get frustrated. I would much rather be serving on the field with all our funds raised right now rather than waiting for folks to cheerfully give to our ministry. But we are on the Lord’s timetable not mine. He moves the hearts of people, not me. And He doesn’t need me scolding His people for not giving to our ministry.

As painful as it was to watch, I am thankful that I was able to be there that particular Sunday. By God’s providence that year, I was able to witness something I wouldn’t have believed if you told me. The Lord used that occasion to remind me how not to raise funds even though that scolding worked–they ended up meeting their goal, and they never did decide to partner with us. All by God’s grace!

Are You a Cheerful Giver?

I don’t know who is reading this post. I don’t know your financial situation. I don’t know your heart condition. I don’t know who you are, and even if I did, I promise I won’t publicly expose you for not giving to our mission.

I cannot tell you that the Lord of the Harvest requires you to give to our mission, but I can tell you that He requires you to give to the Great Commission. We can only hope He moves on your heart to give in our direction.

hand nurturing and watering young baby plants growing in germination sequence on fertile soil with natural green background

We don’t have anything to offer you except our prayers and reports from the field of what Jesus is doing in Indian country. We don’t have any forecasts or projections of how Jesus will give you a really good ROI (return on investment).  But God’s word tells us that we should not despise small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Some plant, some water, but we are assured that it is the Lord who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:7). Our ministry does the watering. Please consider our small beginning and see how the Lord increases the fruit of our labors.

If you would like to talk to us about our ministry and how you can be part of our support team, please contact us. We are always available to talk to you.