ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Strategic Plan

11/1/1996 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Commission for Multicultural Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has developed a new American Indian/Alaska Native Strategic Plan. The ELCA Church Council will see the plan at its meeting Nov. 8- 11 and may vote to adopt it for action in April 1997.
     The commission's steering committee adopted the strategy at its meeting here Oct. 11-12.  The plan "for the purpose of guiding the American Indian/Alaska Native ministry efforts of this church" was developed over five years by a 14-member task force.
     The Rev. Gordon J. Straw, interim director for Native American ministries and racial justice ministries, told the committee, "The Lutheran history with Indian people is spotty and anecdotal and a massive failure."  The strategic plan presents both the history and an analysis of the current situation for American Indian/Alaska Native ministries.
     The plan "articulates the relationship with the ELCA envisioned by American Indians/Alaska Natives" over the coming five years.  The relationship, it says, "is grounded in reconciliation and the mutual upbuilding of the saints.  We share God's mission of proclaiming the gospel to all people."
     Four specific areas will be the focus for American Indian/Alaska Native strategy: congregation development, leadership development, public policy advocacy and social ministry.  A series of goals and strategies directed in each area range from community task forces that will guide local congregation deveopment to a resource directory of organizations and individuals involved in legislative advocacy and social change.
     Currently the 6,685 American Indian/Alaska Native members of the ELCA live in every part of the church; 23 percent reside in the Alaska Synod.  Since the church was formed in 1987 American Indian/Alaska Native membership has increased more than 18 percent.
     Straw pointed to the ecumenical character of Native ministry.  He reported that while the ELCA has 21 ordained Native pastors, few serve an ELCA congregation with a significant American Indian/Alaska Native population.  Only one Native student attended an ELCA seminary in 1992, down from five in 1988.
     The plan says, "New and existing congregations need strong leadership from American Indians/Alaska Natives, who will bring to their work a sensitivity to tribal traditions and Native spiritual gifts."
     In a related action the steering committee voted to call upon the ELCA to make public its disapproval of the desecration of American Indian/Alaska Native sacred sites.  The committee "views the vandalism and burning of African-American churches, the desecration and despoiling of American Indian/Alaska Native sacred sites, and violations of other places of worship as common expressions of intolerance, racism and hatred."
     The action instructs the commission to develop a position statement "decrying this practice" for consideration at its next meeting.

     [Editors: to receive a copy of the American
     Indian/Alaska Native Strategic Plan of the Evangelical
     Lutheran Church in America, contact Brenda Williams at


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