Native American Pastor Leads Southern Baptists to Decry Forced Conversions

“Burdened and broken” by the federal investigation into Indian boarding schools, Mike Keahbone drafted the denomination’s first resolution in support of native peoples.

Southern Baptists took a historic stand last month to acknowledge the trauma suffered by Native Americans and to officially offer their support and prayers.

“When you look at the long history of Southern Baptists, there was not a resolution in our history that ever took a stand with Native American people,” said Mike Keahbone.

A Native American who leads a church located near the headquarters for the Comanche Nation in southwest Oklahoma, Keahbone knows firsthand the need for gospel witness and for healing among native peoples.

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 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 recognizes how this painful history continues to affect native peoples, particularly after new report.

“For Native American people, this is opening up a pretty significant wound and one that we’re having to process and work through,” said Keahbone, who served both on the committee that drafted the slate of 2022 resolutions and on the SBC Executive Committee.

“Just to be able to say to everyone who was affected by this, to every Native American, to every Alaska native, to every Hawaiian native, ‘We see you, we understand this is painful, and we want you to know that we’re standing with you.’”

The federal report found that half of over 400 federally funded Indian boarding schools were run with the help …

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