|Christy Oxendine, Native American seminary scholar, is a student at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.|
Native American Seminary Scholar hopes to mentor others
By Heather Peck Travis
A student pastor at Pine Chapel United Methodist Church, Calhoun, Ga., Christy Oxendine is well on her way to ordination, thanks in part to a Native American Seminary Scholarship.
Oxendine, 33, is completing her first year at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
"This scholarship is helping to continue to pave a way for Native Americans in ministry," says Oxendine. "Not only am I the beneficiary of this award, but so are others who come after me; people to whom I can serve as a mentor and role model."
Scholarships, such as the one Oxendine received, are one of the ministries United Methodists support with their offerings on Native American Ministries Sunday (May 4 in 2014).
When she graduates, Oxendine, a member of the Lumbee tribe, plans to become an elder in The United Methodist Church.
"Currently my candidacy mentor is the only Native American female elder in the Western North Carolina Conference," she says. "It's important to me to encourage more Native Americans to enter the (ordained) ministry. I want to learn why Native American representation is low and how I can help increase that number."
Oxendine spent most of her childhood as a member of Branch Street United Methodist Church in Lumberton, N.C. She graduated from East Carolina University with a public relations degree before serving in the Peace Corps for a year.
In 2007, she received a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University. She worked in residential housing at Indiana State University and as an academic adviser at the University of Florida in Gainesville. While assisting college students, a graduate class about HIV/AIDS opened her eyes to that issue.
In 2011, while serving as a youth director at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Fla., Oxendine was called to ordained ministry. She moved back home to Lumberton and begin online classes through Asbury Theological Seminary.
"I heard God say, ‘I don't want you part of your time, but I want you full time,’" Oxendine recalls. At the time, she was director of academic success at Greensboro College.
Members of Christ United Methodist Church, Greensboro, N.C., "have been a great support and serve as my host congregation during my time at Candler," she says.
This autumn, she will serve as a student chaplain at a Georgia state women's prison. In 2015, she plans to teach a Candler-sponsored course in the Certificate in Theological Studies to the incarcerated women.
Once she becomes an elder, Oxendine hopes ministry with incarcerated women and families affected by HIV/AIDS will be part of her personal and congregational life.
"These are only a few of the many populations that have been forgotten by the church," Oxendine says. "I hope to remind our congregations that these women and men need our love and support as well."
She says she also hopes to include outreach to single women as part of her ministry.
"There are joys and challenges to being a Christian single woman, and I want women to know it is OK to talk about those things," she says. "It's important for this subpopulation to know they are important to the church."
Heather Peck Travis is a freelance journalist living in Glasgow, Ky.
Native American Ministries Sunday — May 4 — recognizes the contributions of Native Americans to church and society. It is one of six United Methodist special Sundays with offerings.
Annual conferences with Native American ministries keep 50 percent of the offerings to support local efforts. The remainder goes to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for scholarships and to the Native American Urban Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Order resources to promote the offering by calling 888-346-3862 or visiting www.umcgiving.org.