Elona Street-Stewart, a leader in both the Native American community and the Presbyterian Church, issued a forceful challenge to the Minnesota Council of Churches. Institutions — including religious ones — “are designed to maintain and protect systems of privilege,” she said, adding:
Please disavow and repudiate all doctrines of domination, and acclaim the rights of indigenous peoples.
Please learn from us, and do not preside over us.
Please accept a place in the circle, but do not occupy the center of the circle.”
Street-Stewart is a member of the Delaware Nanticoke Nation and the executive of the Lakes and Prairie’s Synod of the Presbyterian Church USA, which includes Minnesota. She was one of three people Curtiss DeYoung asked to speak at his official installation service as the new head of the Minnesota Council of Churches. The event was held Dec. 14 at Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
DeYoung previously taught Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, leaving in 2014 to become the executive director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago. If the list of people he asked to speak at the installation service is any indication, DeYoung will make racial justice and reconciliation a cornerstone to his work at the Council.
Along with Street-Stewart, speakers were Sindy Morales Garcia, a young Latina from Guatemala who works for the Wilder Foundation’s Community Initiatives; and Dee McIntosh, a young African-American pastor at the Lighthouse Church in Minneapolis.
I was deeply moved by all the talks, but for this blog I thought it was particularly important to share Street-Stewart’s words. They are reprinted, below. It is my hope that the Council can live up to the challenge. Continue reading