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Native Americans name executive director

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The Fellowship of Native American Christians will install Gary Hawkins as FoNAC’s first-ever executive director during its June 18 meeting in New Orleans as a step toward a greater national presence.

Hawkins, a church planting associate at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, will work to strengthen FoNAC’s network of churches and evangelistic efforts, said Emerson Falls, the group’s president.

“That will enable us to have a day-to-day presence,” Falls said. “There’s a lot of interest. But we just need to get out there and make the connection. When we do things together [as FoNAC churches] we can accomplish much more.”

Meeting at 9 a.m. in Room 333 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, FoNAC will install Hawkins and conduct its business meeting, in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Hawkins will begin working full-time in January 2013 and will raise funds on the national mission field to support the position.

The fellowship’s theme, “Together We Can,” is drawn from Ecclesiastes 4:12, emphasizing progress the group hopes to make as a more cohesive unit, Falls said. In the past year, the fellowship of some 450 congregations has added two churches.

Falls, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, estimates that 90 percent of Native Americans are non-Christian. He ministers to Native Americans by relaying the message of Jesus Christ while respecting cultural sensitivities and acknowledging past mistakes of Christian missionaries.

“Native Americans do not have a great history with Christians. What we want to do is present Jesus Christ and what Christ can do for them as Native Americans,” Falls said. “We’re having to make up for the mistakes that missionaries have made in the past. They were making Anglo persons out of Native American persons. Today, Indian churches look just like Anglo churches.”

During the June 18 business meeting, Falls will ask fellowship churches to give FoNAC 1 percent above their Cooperative Program gifts to fund the new central office, to be based in Tulsa, Okla.

“We’re going to make a concerted effort to contact the churches,” said Falls, who is expecting up to 70 messengers to attend the FoNAC session. “We want to put CP first. I’m very much a strong Southern Baptist.”

Developing indigenous leadership, working in new territory, strengthening its existing work and securing new funding sources, such as grants, are among the priorities the fellowship will address in New Orleans, Falls said. The group, organized in 2008, also will elect officers.

“We just feel like the resources are in the harvest” for indigenous leadership, Falls said.

In evangelizing non-Christian Native Americans, FoNAC will work in conjunction with state Baptist conventions.

“We do have a lot of potential churches in Mississippi and Louisiana,” he said. Currently, the Choctaw Baptist Association in Ackerman, Miss., has about 20 churches. There are no Native American fellowship churches in Louisiana, the annual meeting’s host state.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.