Lutheran Church (ELCA) Moves Towards Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery; Native Leaders Meet Pope

ELCAThe Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and has asked the national ELCA church body to do the same.

The Minneapolis Synod Assembly met May 6-7. By a show of cards (green for yes and red for no), one observer said there were only a handful or red cards out of more than 500 total votes on the Doctrine of Discovery memorial. It reads in part:

Resolved, that the 2016 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly explicitly and clearly repudiates the European Christian-derived “doctrine of discovery” and its continuing impact upon tribal governments and individual tribal members to this day, acknowledges the unearned benefits this church has received from the evils of colonialism in the Americas, [and] repents of this church’s complicity in this doctrine …

The memorial continues, asking the church’s national body — called the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly — to join with the other major denominations that already have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Episcopal Church, The United Church of Christ, The United Methodist Church and The Moravian Church.

Here is the full text of the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod Memorial.

Bob Hulteen, director of communications and stewardship for the Minneapolis Area Synod, said the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly would meet in New Orleans Aug. 8-13. He was confident a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery would be on the agenda. The proposal was started by the Bishop in Southern California, and five or six of the ELCA’s 65 Synods had already passed similar memorials, he said.

The Doctrine of Discovery refers to the religious and legal justification used by Europe’s colonial powers to claim lands occupied by indigenous peoples, seize their property and forcibly convert or enslave them. The Doctrine has its roots in 15th century papal edicts granting Spain and Portugal permission to seize foreign lands as long as no baptized Christians had a prior claim. The “Discovery Doctrine” was put into U.S. law through a series of 19th Century Supreme Court decisions.

The memorial passed by the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod acknowledges the church’s role in doing great harm to Native American peoples. It recognizes that Christian churches were and remain complicit in the conquest, forced migration, and dispossession of indigenous peoples, and that Christian churches helped develop conceptions of Native peoples that perpetuated prejudice and injustice against them and their descendants.

The ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod will take up a similar memorial at its General Assembly meeting on May 20-21, according to its staff.

Minnesota will be well represented at the national meeting in New Orleans. Minnesota has six ELCA Synods. The Minneapolis Synod will send 37 or 38 voting members to the national meeting, and Minnesota would send approximately 175 voting members, Hulteen said.

The ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod also passed a “Resolution Addressing Racial Injustice.” It says that “racial injustice and violence continue to thrive in our country and this Twin Cities area.” Further, “Scripture calls us, as part of our Christian response, to walk in solidarity with people of color, because standing in silence sanctions continued injustice and violence.”

Among the resolutions, it says: “each congregation be strongly urged to find ways to advocate for racial justice.”

Click here for the full Minneapolis Synod Resolution on Racial Injustice.

Native Leaders Meet with Pope Francis, Request Revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery is also under discussion in the highest levels of the Catholic Church. On May 4, Steven Newcomb and other Native leaders had the chance to meet Pope Francis and other Catholic leaders and request that Francis formerly revoke the Papal bull Inter Caetera, one of several bulls (or decrees) considered to embody the Doctrine of Discovery.

Newcomb, the co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, wrote about the experience in a column in Indian Country Today. The meeting was the culmination of an event called “The Long March to Rome” that included representatives of a number of Original Nations. The article includes a photo of Newcomb and the Pope shaking hands. Newcomb wrote:

After saying a brief prayer in our Lenape language I said to the pope: “Pope Francis this is a book that I’ve written about the papal bull Inter Caetera from May 4 1493. Today is the 523rd year since that document was issued which called for the domination of our Original Nations and Peoples from Great Turtle Island and all non-Christian nations throughout the planet. That papal document has been extremely destructive to our nations and peoples for more than five centuries. We’re calling on you to formally revoke that document so you can release the spirit of that negative energy that the Vatican placed on us.” Pope Francis responded, “I will read it.” I continued, “Thank you. This is a statement we’ve created. I want to thank you so much for agreeing to meet with us.”

Click on the link above for the full story.

Update: Here is a link to the Joint Statement To The Pontifical Council For Justice And Peace, issued from the Long March to Rome Gathering.


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