Healing Relationships : Methodists will stand beside descendants of Sand Creek victims

Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site

Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site.
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Lamirand creative commons

Friday June 20th the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church, led by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, will pilgrimage to site of the Sand Creek Massacre in an act of reconciliation and healing with the descendants of victims of the horrific act.

From the Pueblo Chieftain

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the murders of innocent American Indians at their camp east of Eads.

Former Union Army commander John Chivington led the Colorado Volunteers in the massacre. Chivington was an elder in the Methodist Church and was allowed to continue his ministry even after the government rescinded his military commission and removed Territorial Gov. John Evans from office for their roles in the massacre.

The regional church body in 1992 adopted a resolution recognizing its role in destroying the culture and religions of Native Americans for generations.

The Sand Creek Massacre site is a national historic site operated by the National Park Service.

Rev. Charles Schuster, Chair of the Task Force on the Acts of Repentance, of the Rocky Mountain Conference is stated on the importance of why they are taking this pilgrimage of healing relationships.

  • Most importantly we have been invited by the descendants of the Massacre to join them in a trip to this sacred place.
  • On the 150 anniversary of the Massacre we are reminded that the government censured John Chivington and took his commission and the Territorial Governor, John Evans, was removed from office for his complicity in the Massacre, the Methodist Church did nothing to Chivington, a Presiding Elder (District Superintendent) and he was allowed to continue his ministry.
  • While we cannot repair the pain our church has created, if we do not acknowledge it, we will perpetuate the pain by our unwillingness to own what happened. Sometimes the right thing to do is not the most convenient. The time has come for us to do the right thing.
  • If we truly wish to remember Sand Creek and the 150th anniversary we will need to visit the place where the Massacre happened. It becomes much more real to us if we can actually visit the site.

More information specific to the pilgrimage can be found at the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church’s website.

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From my reading, it would seem that when John Chivington decided to take a “fighting” commission (active military) instead of a “praying” commission (chaplaincy), he was removed from the Conference rolls. He most certainly was not a Presiding Elder at the time of Sand Creek. And, for what it’s worth, if not for his military heroics in New Mexico, the Confederacy might have seized the gold of Colorado, which would have gone a long way toward financing the southern war effort and extending slavery. For all his faults, John Chivington was an ardent abolitionist, and there is something unsettling about… Read more »

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