A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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A CHURCH GROWTH STUDY OF THE ZUHI INDIANS OF NEW MEXICO WITH
RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES FOR AN EFFECTIVE EVANGELISTIC EFFORT
BY THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST AMONG THESE PEOPLE

An Abstract of a Thesis
Presented to
The Faculty of the Graduate School
Abilene Christian College
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts

by
Ralph Bruce Terry
August 1971

 

ABSTRACT

This thesis is a study of the culture of the Zuni Indians, the attempt of the Christian missions to introduce Christianity, and the rejection of that attempt by the Zunis. It presents suggestions which are based on the past efforts of the missions at Zuni for Churches of Christ to use in beginning a work there.

Zuni is a matrilineal society built around the Zuni religion. Individualism is suppressed, and Zuni presents a united front to the outside world however, diversity of opinion and dissension are wide- spread. The Zuni language is still spoken. The Zuni religion, which is oriented around ancestor worship and sun worship, is ritualistic and includes such elements as dances, ceremonies, fetishes, and shrines. Zuni is undergoing an intense amount of material change at the present.

In 1629 Spanish Franciscan priests established a mission at Zuni. After years of unsuccessful labor, the mission was abandoned in 1821. Presbyterian missionaries came in the l870's and left in the 1890's. Christian Reformed missionaries, who first came in 1897, have often demanded an exclusiveness with regards to the culture that has retarded growth. In 1921 Franciscan missionaries returned, but they accomplished little until the mid-sixties, when they began to combine the Catholic and Zuni religions into a Christo-paganism. In the past five years active membership increased from 10 to 260. The Baptist and Mormon churches also have works in Zuni, and a Wycliffe Bible Translator is translating the New Testament into Zuni.

It is suggested that a more culturally-oriented approach be taken. The missionary should have studied anthropology, missionary principles, and the Zuni language and culture. He should try to identify with the people. He should strive to introduce an indigenous church at Zuni.

There are several indications that the Zunis are still opposed to Christianity; however, since Zuni is undergoing rapid changes, it may soon become a ripe mission field.

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