Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sand Creek Tragedy

Wednesday evening, after a long day of debate, confusion and frustration, General Conference observed an act of repentance for Methodist involvement in the horrific event known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

On November 29, 1864, Col. John Milton Chivington, a leader of the Union Army and Methodist Episcopal Church preacher, led an attack against Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were encamped along to Big Sandy River in Colorado Territory.

"The attack quickly deteriorated into indiscriminate slaughter," says historian Dr. Gary L. Roberts, who spoke Wednesday night. Roughly 200 people were killed, between 2/3 and 3/4 of them women, children and the elderly. "The events were so brutal, that entire companies of attacking forces were repulsed by them....Soldiers...who rode into the action were horrified by the excesses."
Chivington's troops were largely made of men who signed up for
100 days of volunteer fighting.
The Sand Creek attack was made upon people who had been brought to this location and promised safety by the U.S. government: specifically, John Evans, governor of Colorado and prominent lay member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

My family has passed by the Sand Creek National Historic Site numerous times on trips we have made to Colorado. As we passed by a few years ago, I looked up details about the event. The account is horrific. Until now, I did not realize there was a Methodist connection.

We cannot undo the damage that was done. Expressing our regret seems inadequate. But, in the midst of the "business" of General Conference, I am grateful that we intentionally take time, each time we meet, to engage in an act of repentance. Looking back over past wrongs that we have committed as a church, times we have engaged in wrongful action or remained silent in the face of wrongdoing, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves, "What are we doing now for which we will later repent?"

It's a good question for each person, each congregation, and our denomination to ask regularly.

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