The board for the Native American Comprehensive Plan (NACP) has selected the Rev. Chebon Kernell as executive director of The United Methodist Church plan which seeks to support and serve Native ministries.
“Chebon comes to us with a strong background in the mission of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Fred Shaw, NACP board chair and director of the Native American Course of Study program. “He also has a firm advocacy for, and articulation of, Indigenous treaty rights and cultural integrity, and an often-witnessed personal risk-taking in working within and for Indigenous communities for justice and inclusion.”
The Rev. Kernell, an ordained Elder in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, is currently the executive secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries for the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries. In this role, he has worked with the World Council of Churches, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops assisting in a denominationally mandated effort to improve relationships with Indigenous communities through dialogue, study and local or regional acts of repentance acknowledging harms inflicted upon Indigenous communities.
He is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and is of Muscogee Creek heritage. In 2016 he was honored by receiving the Religious Literacy Award sponsored by the Westar Institute “for his tireless efforts to educate the general public, including not only mainstream American Christians but also native peoples themselves, about the ‘deep and broad religious riches’ of Indigenous peoples in the context of reconciliation work and the recovery of native practices. “
He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Oklahoma City University and a Master of Divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary. He is a cultural practitioner and member of the Helvpe Ceremonial grounds. He has been married to Sara for 18 years and has five children Kaycee, Josiah, Raylen, and Solomon and niece Cali.
Kernell will assume his role in mid-March following the retirement of the Rev. Anita Phillips. Phillips has served as executive director since 2006.
“The United Methodist Church is indebted to Anita for the rich ministries of presence, inclusion, and education she has instilled within its mission,” said Shaw. “All of us who have served with her over these many years on NACP are grateful for her care, spiritual leadership, and ability to communicate across cultures.”