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Pine Ridge congregations vote to form new church

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    Pine Ridge congregations vote to form new church
    By Mary Garrigan, Journal staff
    Rapid City Journal - 16 March 2009
    Rapid City Journal | News » Top | Pine Ridge congregations vote to form new church

    Members of nine Pine Ridge Reservation congregations voted March 14 to create the Lakota Oyate Episcopalian Church to oversee their churches that were closed by the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota late last year.

    Meeting in Kyle, the new church entity elected officers, wrote bylaws and approved a resolution that it will submit to the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Land Committee on March 23 asking for ownership rights to any of those church properties that the tribe receives from the diocese.

    “The resolution asks the council to support the continued efforts of the Lakota Oyatae Episcopalian Church to continue operating the churches expelled by The Episcopal diocese,” said Lorri Ann Two Bulls, one of the new ministry’s members.

    “We want them back,” the Rev. Robert Two Bulls said Sunday by telephone from Red Shirt Table, where he pastors one of the closed churches, Christ Church.

    Creating a new church entity to own and operate the nine churches is the next logical step, Robert Two Bulls said.

    “I guess we have no choice, since they abandoned us. They’ve closed us. The next step is trying to get things going so we can continue to worship as a church,” he said.

    Robert Two Bulls serves as president of the new organization, the Rev. Charles Montileaux was elected vice president and Twilla Two Bulls is its secretary/treasurer.

    But Robert Two Bulls said one title he does not want is bishop. The new group will be a nonprofit church ministry, but it is not forming its own diocese nor does it have immediate plans to affiliate with any other Anglican and Episcopal diocese.

    The Two Bulls family said they have the right to use the Episcopal name, and they expect the diocese to approve the property transfers. “We have the right to do this. We’re not ex-communicated or anything,” Lorri Ann Two Bulls said. “There’s no way we’re not going to be Episcopalian.”

    In September 2008, Bishop Creighton Robertson announced plans to close the nine churches because of falling attendance and failing finances and to return the buildings and land to the original owners, or to the tribe. Some of those churches, including Christ Church, Inestimable Gift Church in Allen and St. Barnabas Church in Kyle, which Montileaux serves, continued to hold services in defiance of diocesan orders. Plaintiffs from the nine churches filed an injunction in November to stop the closures, but the tribal court has not acted on that motion to date, and Lorri Ann Two Bulls said the church entity makes the injunction irrelevant.

    The Episcopal Diocese could not be reached for comment Sunday, but a spokesman said earlier that the diocese wants to return those closed properties to the tribe as quickly as possible.

    The Lakota Oyate Episcopalian Church hopes that the full tribal council will approve the resolution at its March 31 meeting.

    “It’s a new beginning for us,” Lorri Ann Two Bulls said. “We’re all excited.”


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