The Free Methodist Church in Canada does not have a specific outreach program to First Nations people, as an intentional policy. For many years, (1950s through early 1990s) our movement did have a specific program, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta. At one point we had a National Director of Native Ministries (1983-86).
Our present ministry approach encourages local churches to engage with First Nations people in their community as a natural part of their engagement with their neighbours.
Most Canadians took notice of the June 11, 2008 apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of the Canadian government for their role in the “sad chapter” of the federally-financed, church-run, native residential school system.
Just a couple weeks earlier, however, the General Conference of The Free Methodist Church in Canada publicly confessed “a role in the oppression of First Nations people, whether by action or passive inaction, past or present.” As members of Canadian society, Free Methodists participated in electing successive governments throughout the 20th century who contributed to oppression and injustice toward aboriginal peoples. As people claiming the name “Christian,” Free Methodists also have a connection to the wider Christian community which sought to eliminate the cultural identity of First Nations peoples in the name of “Christianizing” them.
In a statement to our General Conference, leaders in our movement said: “It is Jesus’ heart desire that their dignity, which has been destroyed through these circumstances, be rebuilt so they can recognize, then receive God’s mercy and grow in His love. The Free Methodist Church in Canada has a role to play in achieving this goal. In identifying the souls around us that are dejected, angry, hurt from lost dignity, and seeking to restore this aspect of their spiritual life, we will earn their trust. Only then can we show through our actions and words that God’s Kingdom is truly an inclusive and Eternal Nation characterized by mercy, grace and love. By seeking the well-being of others we will find greater spiritual health ourselves as individuals and churches.”
In a follow-up to the confession resolution, members were urged to, “by the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, make individual and corporate efforts to repair the broken relationships between the Church and its members and First Nations people.”