Monday, February 24, 2014

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky's Sand Creek Massacre blog

Since 1996, the United Methodist Church has repudiated the Pope's - Romanus Pontifex (1454) and Inter Caetera (1493) - and American Chief Justice John Marshall's "doctrine of discovery" - an astonishing line of patter for massive theft: "my people 'discovered' the land you are on and it is mine" - as well as condemning Colonel John Chivington, a leading Methodist in Colorado, for carrying out the massacre at Sand Creek (some years ago, my friend and former student Tisa Anders had celebrated with others, a special ceremony for their Ph.D. graduation from Iliff, organizing it by themselves at the school; they refused to go to the official Graduation at the Trinity Methodist Church which still honored Chivington...). History is hard to acknowledge, let alone, shake...

I was honored to meet Elaine at a gathering at the Iliff School of Theology to begin to deal further with overcoming the heritage of the book wrapped in human skin (see here and here). That Bishop Stanovsky, like Chancellor Bob Coombe at the University of Denver, are seeking healing, not only for the Methodist Church and the University, but for Denver and Colorado and the United States, and have taken the lead on this against a "Founding Amnesia" ("no one was on the land when settlers came for the gold"; "if anyone was here, they were 'savages,' not people defending their homes against aggressors") is a wonderful thing. Elaine blogs on this matter as I, an Evans professor and a citizen of what I now fully recognize - I have long known it, but the meaning of this has now, for me, come into focus - to be an ethnically cleansed Colorado (why are there no Arapahoes in "Arapahoe County"?), feel obligated to...


My friend Vincent Harding founded the Veterans of Hope to keep the spirit of the civil rights of movement alive, that is, to stop crimes through mass nonviolent movements and also respect the souls of others, seek healing where possible (seeking the beloved community in the words of Martin Luther King). To name the past and make a start toward healing, Bishop Stanovsky, too, summons the word hope...

"Embarking on a Journey of Healing - Post #1

For the photograph, see here.

Mountain Sky Outlook
January 15, 2014
Embarking on a Journey of Healing Blog
Post #1
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

January 12, 2014

Come walk with me on a Journey of Healing.

At the beginning of each new year people look for hope, prosperity and healing during the year ahead. The TREE OF LIFE symbolizes God’s promise that the whole creation and all God’s children and creatures will one day live full and fulfilled lives. This year the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Annual Conferences of the UMC will focus on healing relationships within God’s TREE OF ABUNDANT LIFE.

The 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre falls in 2014. On November 29, 1864 Methodist leaders, committed to living in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ, wielding government and military power, planned and led the slaughter of nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people peacefully encamped where they were promised they would be safe. Many of the victims were women, children and the elderly. For some descendants of the massacre the word “Methodist” means only massacre of innocents. This year we have an opportunity to change that and to enter into a relationship of honor and respect with people who know us only as the source of their scars.

This is a history of atrocity; a history that has been hotly debated for 150 years, despite definitive findings by congressional and military investigations; a history that has been largely untaught in our schools, lost from the consciousness of the church, and distorted in its telling. It is a history in which respected Christian leaders failed utterly to uphold God’s love for creation and Jesus’ promise of abundant life. It is a history that casts a long shadow of doubt that people who bear the name “Christian” or “Methodist” can be trusted to cherish and protect life at all.

So where’s the hope?

Hope resides in the possibility of forming new relationships between United Methodists and the descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre. As your bishop, I’m convinced that God has set me on my own Sand Creek journey of healing that began in 2009 and has led me along a way of awakening, listening, acknowledging, repenting and honoring. During 2014 I invite you to join me on this Journey of Healing. We begin in earnest with this letter and the blog that will follow, where I will share an account of my personal journey of healing suggest ways for you to begin your own journey of healing explain the context for this journey in the history of the Christian Church and of our nation, and offer ways you and your church can make this important healing work your own.

Each time I post a new entry on the blog, you will receive a link to the post. There will also be opportunity for you to post comments and questions.

The journey will intensify in June 2014 when both Annual Conferences will commemorate the anniversary of the Massacre. In the Rocky Mountain Conference on Friday, June 20 members, guests and friends will take a spiritual pilgrimage to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads Colorado in the company of Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants. I hope you will prepare yourself for this sacred journey to holy ground by learning about the history so that you are ready to hear the voices of descendants. I am committed to ensuring that the Methodists who travel to this site in 2014 will bring a healing presence.

The 150th anniversary is November 29, 2014. During the week prior I invite you to join me at the 16th annual Spiritual Healing Run from the Massacre Site to the Colorado State Capitol. Plan now to dedicate your Thanksgiving week to this powerful part of the journey. You don’t have to run to promote healing during this event. More details will follow.

I know in the core of my being that God is inviting us to participate in this healing work, to develop new relationships with descendants of the Massacre, and to cultivate abundant life where it was cut down.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
-Deuteronomy 30: 19b

Working for Healing,
Elaine JWS



Paul Kottke 01/15/2014 3:51pm
Bishop Elaine - a powerful statement. I fully support your approach through the use of this blog. Paul Kottke

Paul Kottke 01/20/2014 12:32pm
Bishop - Well done. Thank you for helping to address this issue in a way that is life-giving for all concerned. Paul Kottke

Bessie G. Collins 01/23/2014 4:31pm
Very thought provoking! Makes me proud to call myself United Methodist, not for the egregious deeds of the past but for the hope for the future.


Embarking on a Journey of Healing - Post #2
02/05/20143 Comments

Bishop’s Sand Creek Massacre Blog
Entry #2
February 5, 2014

My Dawning Awareness.

I first heard of the Sand Creek Massacre in Denver in 1996 when the General Conference adopted an “apology” for atrocities committed (more on that later). But I only heard, I didn’t learn. I became bishop of the Denver Area on September 1, 2008. Until then my entire ministry had been in the Pacific Northwest. When I arrived several preaching invitations awaited me for local church anniversary celebrations. I agreed to preach in four churches celebrating their 150th anniversaries – sesquicentennials – during the second half of 2009: St. James UMC in Central City, Golden First UMC, Boulder FUMC and Trinity in Denver.

Since I was new to the area I researched each church and its community’s history. I discovered that these four churches traced their histories to the first year Methodists sent missionaries to the gold country of Colorado. These anniversaries celebrated the arrival of Methodism in Colorado. I was surprised by how young the state was. Migration by ship to the northwest had been easier and earlier than migration to the interior of the continent by land.

In the next few posts I will lead you through some of the highlights of my first years in the Denver Area (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah) and my dawning awareness of the interwoven histories of the Methodist Church and the Native Peoples in this region.

April 19, 2009 – Riverton, Wyoming

I flew to Casper, Wyoming where David Burt, of the Yellowstone Conference picked me up and drove me to preach at Riverton UMC. On that drive I saw for the first time Sand Creek Massacre Trail signs along the road from Casper to Riverton.

For the photograph, see here.


Don G. Sperber 02/05/2014 8:54pm
Thank you... Let us continue to bring healing, though the wounds are very deep and the scars will never disappear. We must know how much we are still a part of the "Soldier Blue" Event..

Kim James 02/06/2014 9:56am
Even though I have visited the Sand Creek Massacre historical site, I had no idea that there was a marked trail all the way north in Wyoming. Thank you, Bishop Elaine, for sharing this telling photo and description of where you found it.

Galan Burnett 02/17/2014 11:50am
I am glad that you did research on those four United Methodist Churches and their communities in 2009. Please do more research from some different sources on Col. Chivington, and the Sand Creek Massacre. Both sides have guilt and responsibility for the massacre. The battle was a military operation not a Methodist operation. Chivington was a Methodist but his soldiers were from a wide variety of denominations. May your "Dawning Awareness" continue to grow and become more historically accurate.

[Mr. Burton is right that the City of Denver, stoked on racism, told fairy tales to itself about the massacre, but the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were determinedly peace-seeking and "in the power of the military." That he believes the fairy tales - though there is deep evidence about what happened - three federal commissions collected testimony and condemned Evans and Chivington, inter alia; 5 heroic officers at Fort Lyon testified to Chivington's depravity... - is still somewhat common in Colorado but sad. In addition, John Evans and William Newton Byers were, respectively, initiators and advocates of the Massacre, served, with John Chivington, on the initial Board of the Colorado Seminary which became the University of Dener and the Iliff School of Theology, and were important and active Methodists...]


Bishop's Sand Creek Massacre Blog
Entry #3
February 19, 2014

Your Questions and Comments

Q: You mention only Methodists. The UMC "united" Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren. Do EUBs have a role in this history?

A: Only Methodists from the Methodist Episcopal Church of the time came to Colorado in 1859, sent by the Methodist Conference. German-speaking "Methodists" from the EUB branches came later. The Sand Creek Massacre involved leaders in the Methodist Episcopal Church. But we all inherit the history of both branches of Methodism. And we can all contribute to the healing.

Q: You say the Sand Creek Massacre sign is in Wyoming, but wasn't the Massacre was in southeastern Colorado?

A: The Massacre occurred on the plains east of Pueblo in southeastern Colorado, but it largely accomplished its goal of expelling Native Peoples from eastern Colorado. Survivors fled north and east. Today, four descendant tribes are recognized: Northern Cheyenne in southeastern Montana, Northern Arapaho on the Wind River Reservation of Wyoming and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (southern) located in Oklahoma. The State of Wyoming posted signs along highways marking the trail survivors took as they fled.

Methodists Arrive in Colorado

Summer 2009. Sesquicentennials.

In the whirlwind of my first year as bishop of the Denver Area, I preached in many places, and celebrated a number of church anniversaries. In the summer of 2009 I was scheduled to preach at St. James UMC in Central City, Colorado, for the sesquicentennial (150 year) anniversary of the church's founding. Also I was aware that later in the year I would be present to help celebrate 150 years at FUMC Golden, Boulder and Trinity UMC in Denver.

As I prepared for the celebration at Central City, I researched the history of the town and the church. For the first time I realized that this event not only celebrated this congregation, it marked the entrance of Methodism into Colorado. In those sermons I celebrated the faithfulness and resilience of those early pioneers. In the summer of 2009 I did not yet realize how the arrival of Methodism was related to the departure of Native Peoples.

St. James UMC, Central City, Colorado
Sesquicentennial Sermon (excerpts)
July 12, 2009
Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky

Well, here we are. In Central City, Colorado, trying to imagine and remember what it was like 150 years ago, when Methodist churches were organized in communities sprouting up following the discovery of gold.

In July 1858 gold was discovered near the mouth of Little Dry Creek, in what is now Englewood, Colorado, not far from where I live.

November 1858 the Larimer Party from eastern Kansas staked a claim at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in what would develop into Denver.

In January of 1859 in Idaho Springs.

In May between what is now Central City and Black Hawk.

What was this place like 150 years ago? The people who "rushed" here in 1859 were not settlers. They were adventurers. Men who set out with a pickaxe and a mule in search of treasure. The only thing that drew them to this land was the lure of gold. If the land had proved poor, they would have moved on. They were followed by wave upon wave of opportunity seekers. People flooding in to seek their fortune, and others to take advantage of the fortune seekers. These were times when the frontier was a place from which men extracted wealth: trappers, loggers, miners. When the resources were depleted, the people moved on.

And life was hard. There were no farms, no cattle, no local source of sustenance, no transportation systems. No schools. No library, no health care, no funeral home, no newspaper. No law enforcement or criminal justice system.

Miners died, leaving widows and orphans. Fires broke out, leaving the community devastated. Vice of every kind followed the opportunity seekers and left individuals and communities ravaged by disease, drunkenness, violence, corruption.

And yet, among those who came were people on another path. People of faith, who pursued treasure not of this earth, and brought faith and community with them.

In 1858, as part of the Larimer Party in 1858, came George Fisher, a carpenter and wagon-maker entered this land. He was also a Methodist lay preacher. And he followed the wave of claims to the mountains and new gold discoveries that led him to Central City.

Within four months of the discovery of gold in Idaho Springs, the Methodist Episcopal Conference of Nebraska and Kansas authorized a mission to "gold country" in Colorado. Can you imagine? Two years before Colorado was established as a territory; 17 years before Colorado became a state, people gathered in Central City for church and class meeting and Sunday school.

People of faith knew the urgent needs of people in these new communities. And they came in on horseback with the others, ready to provide an alternative to the lawlessness and violence and self-destruction that was so much a part of the early days in every one of these communities.

The church gathered for prayer, and for Sunday School - before there were other schools - and for worship. It hosted the first circulating library in Colorado.

This sesquicentennial year is shared with sister churches: Trinity in Denver, First UMC in Golden and First UMC in Boulder, all organized out of the gold rush of 1859.

We remember the names of the some of the pioneers of the faith in this community:

George Fisher

Bishop Levi Scott

William Goode

Jacob Adriance

Presiding elder, John Chivington, who like all of us had his light side and his dark, being largely responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans five years later.

Aunt Clara Brown, a former slave known as "the colored pioneer" who hosted the organizing meeting of the new church.

Mr. Hugh Lawry, lay pastor during a lean time

Mrs. C. O. Richards, who kept the Sunday School going during a time without a pastor

Charles Auger, who collected memories for the centennial celebration in 1959.

53 pastors in first 100 years and more since.

We will never know the fullness of the struggles of their lives, the struggles of their faith, the trials and hardships they endured. We only receive the inheritance of their faith and their faithfulness.

As I learned more, I would come to tell the story differently. More later.

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