ELCA Repudiates the Doctrine of Discovery, Next Up: Mennonite Church USA

In an overwhelming vote, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. The measure was approved by delegates attending the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans this week. The vote Tuesday was 912-28.

The Churchwide Assembly is the ELCA’s highest legislative body and meets only once every three years. The Assembly will continue meeting through Saturday.

The final language approved by the delegates is not yet available on line. We will reprint it when we get a copy. Many ELCA synods, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul synods, approved memorials to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and forwarded them to the Churchwide Assembly for consideration. The final language most likely will reflect these earlier drafts. Here is a link to the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod Memorial, which read 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 ELCA joins a growing list of churches and organizations which have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, including the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the World Council of Churches, the Community of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA. (To see their statements, click here.)

Next up appears to be the Mennonite Church USA. It hopes to formally repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery next year, according to Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking for the church. “[O]ur hope is to work together to come up with a resolution for the Delegate Assembly at Orlando 2017,” she said in a May 12 Mennonite USA post. “We want the denomination to take a definitive stand against the use of the [Doctrine of Discovery].”

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ELCA to Vote on Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery this Week

ELCAThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly is meeting in New Orleans this week and racial justice is high on its agenda — including a proposal to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Churchwide Assembly will run from Monday, Aug 8 to Saturday, Aug. 13. It is the ELCA’s highest legislative body, according to a media release. Nearly 1,000 voting members will represent 3.7 million ELCA congregants. The Assembly’s racial justice work coincides with the ELCA’s plans to celebrate the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary next year. In 1517, Martin Luther wrote The Ninety Five Theses that began the schism with the Catholic Church over what Luther saw as injustices and corrupt church practices of selling indulgences

The Churchwide Assembly’s Thursday afternoon session titled: “God’s Grace in Action” notes that there are still plenty of injustices in the world that need the church’s attention:

As the ELCA prepares to observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—people of color around the globe continue to suffer 500 years of oppression and marginalization. Participants will explore how influential religious documents, such as the Doctrine of Discovery, influenced colonialism and the forced removal of the indigenous peoples in the U.S. We will examine historic immigration and naturalization trends that created a nation of white privilege. What really happened after the Emancipation Proclamation? Were black people free to pursue happiness and enjoy justice for all? Or, does today’s #BlackLivesMatter confront us with a different story? What contributes to the U.S. prison population disproportionately represented by indigenous, black and brown peoples? This session will cover many of today’s current headline stories about race relations in the U.S. As a church of moral discernment, how must respond?

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Presbyterian Church USA Joins Growing List of Denominations Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery

Elona Street Stewart, Executive of the Presbyterian Synod of Lakes and Prairies and a member of the Delaware Nanticoke Nation: "Our work has just begun."
Elona Street-Stewart, Executive of the Presbyterian Synod of Lakes and Prairies and a member of the Delaware Nanticoke Nation: “The real work has just begun.”

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA met in Portland June 16-23 and voted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. It also voted to develop recommendations of how Presbyterian congregations “can support Native Americans in their ongoing efforts for sovereignty and fundamental human rights.” It was part of the Church’s broader work on racial justice.

The Presbyterian Church joins a growing list of denominations which have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, which has old roots but an ongoing impact. The Doctrine refers to a series of 15th Century papal edicts that gave the religious and legal justification used by Europe’s colonial powers to claim lands occupied by indigenous peoples. It allowed colonizers to seize Native property and forcibly convert or enslave the people. The Doctrine was the forerunner to the concept of Manifest Destiny, and supported the thinking that led to Native American genocide. Later, the “Discovery Doctrine” was adapted into U.S. law through a series of 19th Century Supreme Court decisions justifying U.S. land claims. Those rulings still apply today.

Other denominations that have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery include: the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the World Council of Churches, and most recently the Community of Christ. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is scheduled to take up this issue at its Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 8-13 in New Orleans. The Healing Minnesota Stories website has a list of denominational statements.

Here is the specific language the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly approved: Continue reading

Community of Christ’s International Body Renounces the Doctrine of Discovery

The Community of Christ passed a resolution renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery at its International Conference earlier this month in Independence Missouri. Noting that its mission initiatives include a call to the church “to let the oppressed go free, ” the resolution call on church leadership:

to urge the governments of the world to ensure that their policies, regulations, and laws that affect indigenous peoples comply with international conventions, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 [also known as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention].

A number of other religious denominations have passed similar resolutions, including the Episcopal Church, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) will consider a Doctrine of Discovery resolution at its national meeting this summer. For the growing list of denominational statements, see the Healing Minnesota Stories website.

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Dominion Theology on the Rise in U.S. While Vatican Considers Formal Rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery

The mindset behind the 15th Century Doctrine of Discovery is alive and well in the United States. Several friends of Healing Minnesota Stories forwarded an alarming article about the rise of what is called “Dominion Theology” or “Dominionism.”

It was a new term to me. A Google search turned up several definitions. For instance, the website Endtimespilgrim.org says:

Dominion Theology incorporates a Crusader mindset. It teaches that it is our Christian duty to take over the world, in a political sense, and if necessary, in a military sense, in order to impose Biblical rule. Christ will not return, (they say), until the church has “risen up” and “taken dominion” over all of the world’s governments and institutions.

The website Apprising Ministries provides this working definition of Dominionism:

The belief that we (mankind) have a mandate to build the “kingdom of God” on earth, restoring paradise, by progressively and supernaturally transforming ourselves and all societal institutions, through subduing and ruling the earth by whatever means possible, including using technology, science and psycho-social engineering; and then and only then will a “Christ” manifest his presence on earth.

It’s an old idea with a new label. It sounds a lot like the thinking behind the Doctrine of Discovery that sent explorers from Europe to Christianize, “civilize” and dominate whatever new lands and peoples they happened to find. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A Tragic Anniversary, Rays of Hope, and Opportunities for Repair

Call this tragic anniversary “Doctrine of Discovery Day.”

On this day in history, 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued one of the important bulls (edicts) in what has come to be known as the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. In the bull Inter caetera, the Church granted Spain the right to conquer and claim newly found lands to the west. The Pope issued this edict just one year after Columbus sailed; it triggered the start of Catholic missions in what is now North America. According to an English translation of Inter caetera published on the website nativeweb.org, the papal bull states in part:

“Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

It puts Christianity into a category of domination and forced conversation rather than a religion of love.

Later, the “Discovery Doctrine” became part of U.S. law through a series of 19th Century Supreme Court decisions, notably Johnson v. M’Intosh.

Many Native American leaders and organizations have been working to educate people about the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and to get the Catholic Church to officially rescind it. Locally, Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Community has produced a documentary on the Doctrine of Discovery. (Follow this blog for information on upcoming showings.)

Inter Caetera is not the only Papal bull considered to be part of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, but since it is so close in time to the Columbus voyage, it seems like a good anniversary to highlight, and to reflect on repairing the massive harm it did.

There are rays of hope in the work being done locally by Native-led organizations. And there are ways that we as individuals and institutions can, in small ways, support them in repairing the loss of Native lands, languages, and cultures that are synonymous with the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.

Here are just a few of the organizations that could use your support. Continue reading

Upcoming Events: Films, Talks, Pow Wows, and the Great Native American Cook Off

We periodically run a list of events that encourage people to learn more about Native American history and cultures. Here are a few upcoming options:

Tuesday, April 19: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask. Anton Treuer, Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of 14 books (including Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask) will speak at 2-3:30 p.m. at St. Paul College Campus Theater 235 Marshall Avenue Saint Paul. Treuer gives “a frank, funny, and sometimes personal tour of what’s up with Indians, anyway.”

Thursday, April 21: Screening of the Film March Point, at 3:30-5 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas’s John Roach Center auditorium (JRC 126), which is located on the corner of Summit and Cleveland Avenues. The event is free. The film follows three young Native Americans with a film assignment that sends the boys down a path of historical investigation. It is part of the Augsburg College Native American Film Series.

Thursday, April 21: 4th Annual Great Native American Cook-Off, 6-8 p.m. at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Ave., Minneapolis. It is a fundraiser for Wicoie Nandagikendan, an important Preschool Language Immersion Program to preserve the Dakota and Ojibwe languages. You can show your support by attending the event and buying food and raffle tickets.

Sunday, April 24: Screening of the Documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. The event runs from 5:00-7:30 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany Episcopal Church, 4900 Nathan Lane North, Plymouth. Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild will participate in a post-film discussion. For more: Epiphany Doctrine of Discovery Flyer.

Monday, May 2: 2016 American Indian Month Kick Off Event: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Little Earth of United Tribes, 2501 Cedar Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

Friday, May 6: All Nations Pow Wow at South High School, 1-3 p.m., 3131 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis. It will honor graduating seniors and include a Lacrosse demonstration and Regional Championship Potato Dance.

Saturday, May 7: Pow Wow for Hope, a fundraiser for the American Indian Cancer Foundation. The event runs 1:00 -6:30 p.m. at Base Camp, 201 Bloomington Road
Fort Snelling.

For those interested in attending other Pow Wows, here is the Drumhop Calendar for Minnesota Pow Wows and The Circle’s Pow Wow calendar.

 

 

Upcoming Events in Native Film, Theater, Literature, Pow Wows, Food and Dialogue

Happy Spring! April is blooming with many learning opportunities, in Native film, theater, Pow Wows and talks. Here are a dozen to choose from (starting with April Eve).

Thursday, March 31: Settler Colonialism and Justice After Indigenous Genocide. “This presentation will discuss Indigenous erasure as an inherent part of Settler colonialism, and Settler colonialism as an ongoing phenomenon in Minnesota – one that brings the genocide of Dakota Peoples out of the past and into the present: as acts of non-recognition, denial, assimilation, and marginalization,” according to the Facebook announcement.

  • East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St. Paul, 7 p.m.

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Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Reconciliation Action Steps; Canadian Tribe Turns Down $1 Billion in Order to Save River; Black Hills Sacred Site Gets Land Trust Protection

Here are three important stories that have come to our Inbox in the past few days.

Leader of Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Action Steps for Healing with First Nations

On March 19, Archbishop Fred Hiltz responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action on behalf of the Anglican Church in Canada. He made his remarks at Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, Six Nations of the Grand River. He opened with this apology:

My heart is heavy with the burden of our many sins against the Indigenous Peoples throughout Turtle Island. For every way in which we insulted their dignity and took their lands, silenced their languages and suppressed their culture, tore apart their families and assaulted their children, I must never weary of saying on behalf of our church, “I am sorry”.

In his speech titled, Let our Yes be Yes, Hiltz also presented specific action steps, including: Continue reading