The recent sale of a historic South Dakota property, originally intended for a Native American Presbyterian congregation, has been designated as an unexpected gift to future generations of Native American Presbyterians.

The property, located in Bennett County, S.D., was deeded to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on May 27, 1913, by President Woodrow Wilson in order to encourage the development of a Native American Presbyterian church in the area.

Proceeds from the property’s sale in September will serve to fund the 2012 Native American Presbyterian Consultation, a churchwide initiative that was recommended in the Native American Supplemental Report received by the 219th General Assembly (2010). The consultation is scheduled for January 24-26, 2012, in Phoenix, Ariz.

“This important consultation will focus on future directions for Native American Presbyterian ministries, including urban and off-reservation ministry, youth ministry and leadership development, preparation for ministry and congregational leadership development, and economic development,” said the Rev. Rhashell D. Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women for the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC). “It is inspiring that Native American ministries of the past will help Native American churches plan for the future.”

According to the 2010 Native American Supplemental Report, “there has been a Presbyterian presence in Native communities and reservations in the United States since the late 1600s.” While the history between the Presbyterian Church and Native American peoples is complex as well as long, the report affirms that Presbyterians have had a long connection to Native American ministry, and Native Americans have long identified as Presbyterians.

“The historical nature of this gift is particularly significant for us as Native Americans,” said the Rev. Martha Sadongei, church specialist for Native American Congregational Support for the GAMC. “Whenever we meet or gather to discuss the future of Native American ministries, the spirits of the respected leaders of our past are often lifted up for guidance to discern what we should do. We must think about those who came before us in making decisions that will affect those who will come after us. It’s not just about us in our present situations.”

The report calls for the 2012 consultation to have an even broader complement of participation than the last such consultation, which was held in 2005.  “Given the increasing numbers of non-reservation Indians, the next consultation must include persons from presbyteries and urban areas with strong non-reservation Native populations,” it states.  “There are persons who have expressed interest and willingness to engage in Native American ministry even though they do not live in a presbytery that currently engages in Native American ministry. And there are institutions and agencies that have offered to help resource Native congregations. Through such broad participation we can better generate continuing vision for Native American ministry through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

“As we gather in January to honor those who came before us, the consultation will be a critical tool in planning the future of Native American ministries,” Sadongei said.

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