Forced conversions of the past

The First Baptist Church of Lawton pastor proposed that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) speak out on the issue following a federal report, released in May, that investigated the history of Indian boarding schools.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigative Report, released in May 2022, documents and records that the United States maliciously targeted Native American, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian children as part of a diabolical plan to dispossess these people groups from their native lands by forced assimilation through the establishment of mandatory boarding schools; and whereas between 1819 and 1969, the Federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 Federal Indian Boarding Schools across 37 states or then-territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawaii; we could notice that there was a degradation and dehumanisation included forced removal of children from their families, forced child labour, removal of their tribal identity, confinement, flogging, withholding food, whipping, slapping, and cuffing, as well as discouraging or preventing the use of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices, the same as we can find in Canada with the original local inhabitants of that country.

The SBC resolution—approved at its annual meeting in June — condemns forced assimilation and conversion as

“contrary to our distinctive beliefs as Baptists in religious liberty and soul-freedom.”

The statement also recognises how this painful history continues to affect native peoples, particularly after new report.

In several countries of the ‘New Continent’, terrible acts have been committed with the intention of supposedly educating the local inhabitants of North and South America, as if they were savages who needed to be tamed and taught good manners.

What is striking about these re-educations is the terrible role that certain churches have played. In South America and Canada mainly the Roman Catholic Church and in North America mainly the English Church.

In recent months, the excavations in Canada have become an incredible revelation that has forced the Church to openly apologise for the horrors that took place in such schools, ditto re-education institutions.

The government wanted it to be easier to take Native American lands. The way that they could do that was to [first] drive them and force them off their lands, and [then] they targeted children. They wanted to limit their education and limit their capability.

The SBC recognises the atrocities done against these people in the name of religious “conversions” as reprehensible, betraying the Great Commission and the efforts to reach all nations with the gospel (Matthew 10:14; Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:8).

One might also ask whether such a forced conversion made any sense at all. Forcing people to convert to a faith other than their own makes no sense and, moreover, makes them non-believers in that newly acquired faith. In numbers, they may be a new member of that church, but their faith will be of no value in most cases, because it is only outward and most will continue to live their own faith in their own homes and surroundings.

Now the SBC openly said that they stand against forced conversions and distorted missiological practices as contrary to their distinctive beliefs as Baptists in religious liberty and soul-freedom (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article XVII); and be it further resollved

That we place our confidence for salvation in God alone, which is

“offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer” (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article IV; Romans 7:24-25); and be it finallyresolved that we remain committed to the evangelisation of Native American peoples, calling them freely to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus for their salvation, even as morally neutral aspects of their culture are preserved and celebrated.

To every Native American, to every Alaska native, to every Hawaiian native, they now say

‘We see you, we understand this is painful, and we want you to know that we’re standing with you.’”

and to the general publi

“For Native American people, this is opening up a pretty significant wound and one that we’re having to process and work through,”

said Mike Keahbone, who served both on the committee that drafted the slate of 2022 resolutions and on the SBC Executive Committee.

Native American Pastor Leads Southern Baptists to Decry Forced Conversions
Mike Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lawton in Oklahoma

Please, do find to read:

Report: Christians May Have Helped Run Half of Native American Boarding SchoolsWire story

Native American Pastor Leads Southern Baptists to Decry Forced Conversions

Why Some Indigenous Christians Still Have Hope in the Church

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Published by Bijbelvorsers

Flemish Bible researcher, belonging to the Belgian Biblestudents. - Vlaams Bijbelvorser, behorende tot de Belgische Bijbelstudenten.

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