ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Church is Called to Support Standing Rock

ELCARev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), today issued a statement urging the denomination’s 9,000+ member congregations to offer prayers and monetary support for the Standing Rock Nation in North Dakota, which is leading efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her statement read in part:

Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. …

We will lend our presence when invited, our advocacy when requested, the resources of our people when asked, and our prayers, friendship and repentance at all times.

A previous statement by Rev. Eaton, issued Sept. 9, took a softer position on the Dakota Access Pipeline. It read in part:

I recognize there are people of deep faith on all sides of this issue with varied perspectives and I pray that we use this time wisely. We need to be in prayer, to express solidarity and to build relationships. We also need to take seriously the concerns of the American Indian community, initiate and/or continue local efforts to strengthen and expand partnerships, and deepen cross-cultural understanding.”

The stronger statement issued today seems to reflect the growing support for the Standing Rock Nation within the Lutheran Church. It shows a growing awareness of the historical and ongoing oppression of Native American peoples, dating back more than 500 years to the Doctrine of Discovery. The statement Eaton issued today noted the following:

This past August, the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. … This doctrine was used as justification for European monarchies, and later the U.S. government, to take land from Native people. Many of us in this church who are immigrants have benefited from the injustices done to the original inhabitants of this land where we now live and worship. Our church also includes American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have been on the receiving end of the injustices done. When we repudiated the doctrine of discovery, we Lutherans pledged to do better together in the future than we have in the past.

(We have written previously on statements made by other religious groups offering their support for Standing Rock. The support of faith communities is promising. Click on the link to find the other statements.)

“The Next Two Weeks Will Prove Critical”

Efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline are hanging by a thread. They  are now focused on getting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline company an easement to bore under the Missouri River.

Remember, tomorrow (Tuesday) at noon there is a rally at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in downtown St. Paul, part of a National Day of Action organized by indigenous and environmental groups. It is Mears Park, 221 5th Street East. Event page here.

If the permits are approved and the boring starts, an already very tense situation near Standing Rock will get worse. For instance, here is an update from the Civil Liberties Defense Center headlined: “Back to the War Zone.” Published yesterday, the author paints a picture of the current situation:

In somber and exasperated tones, friends and activists informed me that the police were putting up razor wire around the camp. The militarized police force was amassing and the camp seemed to be crawling with undercover law enforcement. …

The indifference of [Energy Transfer Partners] can be seen from the following infuriating statement from one of its spokeswomen: “Construction is actually complete in North Dakota, except for the bore under the lake, so there is nothing for them to stop.” I believe the water protectors have a very different perspective. In fact, I know they do. The camp is filling up with people willing to put their bodies on the line. The next two weeks will prove critical to the resistance. If there was ever a time to join the resistance to this pipeline in solidarity, it is now.

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