The Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, announced today that it was in the process of truth telling about the organization’s racist past, making plans to take down or reinterpret monuments to early Club leaders, and making institutional changes that reflect its commitment to racial justice. Continue reading
The environmental movement has been evolving for a century; in its latest advancement, some environmental groups are taking on racial justice as essential to their mission.
The environmental movement encompasses a broad sweep of organizations and strategies, but even a mainstream group such as the Sierra Club is centering racial justice. A recent article by Hop Hopkins, the Sierra Club’s national director of strategic partnership, put it this way:
I really believe in my heart of hearts—after a lifetime of thinking and talking about these issues—that we will never survive the climate crisis without ending white supremacy.
Here’s why: You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.
We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. The watersheds where we frack the earth to extract gas are considered disposable. The neighborhoods near where I live in Los Angeles, surrounded by urban oilfields, are considered disposable. The very atmosphere is considered disposable. When we pollute the hell out of a place, that’s a way of saying that the place—and the people and all the other life that calls that place home—are of no value.
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
For Christian churches wrestling with racial justice issues, including the churches leading role in the assimilation and genocide of Native Americans, check out the website Lenten Lamentations: Preparing to Participate in God’s Mosaic Kingdom.
The first two lenten services lament America’s twin original sins: Native American genocide and slavery. Hopefully these prayers, scripture readings, and historic reflections give leaders in Christian communities ideas for future services.
The service for the first day of Lent (March 1 this year) focused on lamenting the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal and religious justification used by European explorers to take indigenous lands and enslave indigenous peoples. (It is based on a series of Papal edicts, and continues today in U.S. law.) In fact, March 1 this year coincided with the day after the anniversary of landmark U.S. Supreme Court case McIntosh v. Johnson (1823), which made the Doctrine of Discovery a part of U.S. law.
Here is the opening prayer. (Click on the link above for the full service.)
Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
The Day 2 of Lent service laments the slave trade.
The 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?
The 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