The Rev. Anita Phillips, executive director of The United Methodist Church’s Native American Comprehensive Plan (NACP), will be retiring effective Dec. 31, 2018.
“My years with the NACP have been some of the best of my life,” said Phillips. “I am so thankful for having had this opportunity to serve God through walking with Native American churches and communities.”
Phillips has served as executive director for 14 years. During her time she has led the denomination in efforts to create awareness about the value of Native Americans in The United Methodist Church; she has worked closely with Conference Committees on Native American Ministries to develop and support Native congregations; and she has also led workshops and training events to empower Native leaders.
“Anita’s contributions to Native American ministries within the denomination will have long lasting benefits for the entire church,” said Fred Shaw, director of the Native American Course of Study and chair of the NACP. “We are grateful for her leadership and guidance and all that she has done on behalf of Native American United Methodists for more than a decade.”
Phillips is an Elder in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is also the co-author (with Henrietta Mann) of On this Spirit Walk: The Voices of Native American and Indigenous People.
The NACP Board plans to begin a search for a new executive director for the NACP by August 1, 2019.
The Board of Directors for NACP for the 2017-2020 quadrennium includes United Methodist persons from many Indigenous Nations of the U.S. Serving in this important capacity are a total of eighteen persons, one of whom is a youth and three which are young adults.
Included among this group are Deborah Screaming Eagle McNatt (Lenni-Lenape Nation) who is a youth leader in her community and local church; Bethany Printup-Davis (Tuscarora Nation of NY) who is a seminary student at Wesley Theological Seminary; Nikki Amos (Oklahoma Choctaw) who is a young adult leader in her local church and for her conference; and Kayleigh Vickers (Nanticoke/Lenni-Lenape) who is co-leader for a new Native American fellowship in her conference. These young persons offer their leadership for NACP in many ways, but among the most valuable is their insight and perspective in making the UMC and NACP relevant to the lives of Native young people today.
One of the questions frequently asked of NACP by United Methodists is “How can we engage in actions which reflect our genuine repentance and help us move toward healing relationships with indigenous peoples?”
Our response is to become informed about Native American and indigenous peoples’ history and their relationship with the church. One of the resources available to help with this process is a book produced by NACP, On This Spirit Walk. This resource offers the voices of Native American and Indigenous United Methodists from a wide variety of nations and backgrounds. Their witness of what it means to claim both their Native and Christian identities is reflected in a series of essays relating to themes of importance within the Native/Indigenous context. These themes include values, history, worship, repentance, identity, justice and more. On This Spirit Walk is written as a small group resource which has been used by local churches, Bible study groups, UMW circles, and as a study focus for annual conference sessions. This book is published and sold by NACP, with proceeds benefitting NACP ministries with Indigenous Persons. It is available at the cost of $12 per copy which includes the cost of shipping. To place an order for On This Spirit Walk, contact Cheryl Hensley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NACP, in partnership with Path One/New Church Starts of Discipleship Ministries, commissioned a research study on the “state of Native American ministries and churches” in the U.S. Communications consultant, Ginny Underwood (Comanche-Kiowa), has begun the first phase of work on this new project and presented an Executive Summary of the research completed thus far at the NACP board meeting held April 5-7 in Dallas. Titled “A Snapshot of Native American Ministries in The United Methodist Church,” a PowerPoint presentation outlined historical events that have shaped ministry today, the impact of the 2012 Act of Repentance by the General Conference, and emerging themes expressed by Native American participants of the survey.
“The report has shed light on some very positive results of the Act of Repentance and it also tells us that our work to improve relationships among non-Native United Methodists and indigenous communities is far from over,” said the Rev. Anita Phillips, NACP executive director. “We plan to glean insights from the report that will inform our future NACP work and areas most ready for new church starts.”
The NACP plans to make the report public in the coming weeks.
Vineland, New Jersey was the location of the quadrennial gathering for Annual Conference Committees on Native American Ministries (CONAM’s), held in October of 2017. These events are held during the first year of each quadrennium and was the fourth CONAM Conference sponsored by NACP. Focus of the conference includes sharing of best practices for working with Native American ministries within conferences, promotion of Native American Ministries Sunday, annual conference-CONAM relationships, and networking between CONAM members from across the five U.S. jurisdictions. Co-sponsor for the 2017 CONAM Conference was the Greater New Jersey CONAM who coordinated with leadership of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation for a visit to the Tribal Grounds and worship at St. John UMC in Bridgeton, NJ. Participants were addressed by both Bishop John R. Schol and Lenni-Lenape Tribal Chair, Mark Gould.