Frederick Putnam of Oklahoma Installed Bishop of Navajoland

Episcopal News Service. February 22, 1979 [79049]

Salome Breck

Ft. Defiance, Ariz. -- The weekend of Jan. 27 was a eventful for the Navajo Area Mission. Their first bishop was installed on Jan 27; a priest for Good Shepherd Mission, Fort Defiance, was elected Jan. 28 and the Area Mission was host to the members of the National Committee on Indian and Eskimo Work (NCIW) who came for the festivities and their regular meeting.

The Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most beautiful spots on the reservation, was the setting for the installation of the Rt. Rev. Frederick W. Putnam as first Bishop of the Navajo Area Mission.

Ceremonies combined both the Anglican and Navajo traditions and language. Four bishops took part in the service, all of whom have been involved in work among the Navajos: Bishop Otis Charles of Utah, who has been in charge of work among Navajos until a Bishop could be appointed; Bishop Richard Trelease of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, in which a part of the Navajo Reservation is located; Bishop Joseph Harte, Bishop of Arizona, and Bishop Joseph Heistand, Bishop Coadjutor of Arizona. This state also includes part of the reservation.

The three dioceses -- Rio Grande, Arizona and Utah -- had joint jurisdiction until the House of Bishops declared it to be an Area Mission, and the Presiding Bishop appointed Bishop Putnam to head up the work of the Church for one year.

Along with Bishop Putnam the four visiting bishops were concelebrants at the Eucharist.

Others taking part were the Rev. H. Boone Porter, editor of The Living Church, long-time friend of Putnam's and a pioneer in educational methods for training in indigenous ministry, who preached:

The Rev. Steven Plummer, priest-in-charge at Montezuma Creek, graduate of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the only Navajo to be ordained a priest;

The Rev. Eloise Martinez of Farmington, New Mexico, a social worker and deacon who hopes soon to be ordained priest;

Mrs. Ruth Morris, from the first active in the Area Mission, who along with Father Plummer translated English to Navajo;

The Rev. Henry Bird of Farmington, educator for ministry from San Juan Mission;

The Rev. William C. Wantland, Seminole, attorney as well as priest, from Oklahoma City and chairman of the diocesan committee on Indian work for Oklahoma. He also preached Sunday morning at Good Shepherd.

Bishop Putnam has established his residence in Farmington. He describes his new work as "so new a concept that you start from scratch."

As the leader to whom the Navajos have looked forward for three years, he feels his first responsibility is that of organizing the area Mission" along the lines which will be most effective for its ministry, borrowing from existing diocesan structures where we can, and organizing commissions and committees which will be helpful."

"In a way we are 'writing the book' for area missions," he explained, but "what we do here will not be necessarily right for another area or ethnic group."

Commissions and committees are getting underway. The bishop stresses education for laity and for ministry.

"Preparation for baptism of both infants and adults should be the beginning in a Christian life, followed by Christian nurture at every age level. When we baptize a child we don't want it to be a superstitious thing, done for the 'safety' of the baby."

In speaking of ordained ministry, he noted that "In Navajoland they have already had three years of very significant experience in lay ministries. Now we desperately need seminary-trained Navajo clergy.

"One of the important things for me is the learning process," he continued. "I have had a month now with the Navajos, learning how they live, how they approach problems, how Christian faith can relate to their needs. Not only do we want to save souls; we want to help Navajos keep their families together. I am much impressed by the friendliness of our people, their devotion to the Lord and their great sense of humor."

Comes to Good Shepherd
Rev. Philip Allen

Not only did the Indians of Navajoland rejoice in a new bishop and celebrate his coming with a feast; the group from Good Shepherd Mission acquired a new priest.

He is the Rev. Philip Allen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. His wife is the former Helen R. Smith, a Rosebud Sioux and Chippewa. Both are the grandchildren of Episcopal priests.

Father Allen is a graduate of Black Hills State College and Berkeley Divinity School, New Haven, Conn.

A former chairman of NCIW, he has served as priest at St. Elizabeth's, Whiterocks, Utah; as priest-in-charge of five missions on the Cheyenne River Reservation; vicar of St. Paul's Mission, Sioux City, Iowa; Indian student advisor at St. Olaf's College, Northfield, Minn., and vicar of St. Mary the Virgin Mission, Pyramid Lake Reservation, Nixon, Nevada.

The Aliens and their three children will live on the mission grounds in Fort Defiance.

NCIW Members Choose Advocacy Role

Looking toward participation in General Convention this fall in Denver, members of NCIW see their most important task to be that of advocacy persons for their people.

In a meeting on Sunday afternoon and Monday, routine business was discussed. However, the emphasis was on their responsibility as interpreters of Indian concerns to the Episcopal Church at large.

Specific issues include the following:

  1. The need to combat the backlash which has often accompanied legislation which involves American Indians;
  2. The desire to fight against the "redlining" of Indian business and finance affairs;
  3. A clarification of legislation involving Indian rights;
  4. Improved health delivery services for American Indians;
  5. A clarification of legal jurisdiction on Indian lands;
  6. Improved ways of working as a Church with urban Indians;
  7. Emphasis on the trust responsibility which must be taken by Federal Government in dealing with American Indians.
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