Monday, October 10, 2016

DECOLONIZE THIS: The ELCA's Doctrine of Discovery Challenge

The repudiation of the doctrine of discovery by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) poses a challenge to the denomination's congregations.

"The courage and vision of the Swedish immigrants and pioneers in our western
states was a contributing factor in the growth of a great empire, AMERICA!"
(First Day of Issue - Swedish Pioneer Centennial (1848-1948) - US Postal Service)

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Christian denomination of which I am a member, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), voted in August to repudiate the  "doctrine of discovery."

You can read the full text of the resolution on page 4 of the pdf of the 2016 churchwide assembly reports.

Meanwhile, there is a grassroots movement within the ELCA to "decolonize Lutheranism."

This leads me to wonder how the organized power of 4 million Lutherans in the US will be brought to bear on the fact that we are living on occupied land.

One possibility: the resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery affirms that "this church will eliminate the doctrine of discovery from  its contemporary rhetoric and programs, electing to practice accompaniment with Native peoples instead of a missionary endeavor to them, allowing these partnerships to mutually enrich indigenous communities and the ministries of the ELCA." It seems to me that this represents a commitment that each congregation must step up to:

* Where do we encounter the doctrine of discovery in our contemporary rhetoric and programs? What must we do to eliminate it?

* How might we "practice accompaniment with Native peoples"? What does that mean?

* "[A]llowing these partnerships to mutually enrich indigenous communities and the ministries of the ELCA" - what could that possibly mean for our congregation?

Having recently moved to California, I have a very strong impression that someone was living here before I "discovered" it. At the same time, it would be the easiest thing in the world to pat ourselves on the back for repudiating the doctrine of discovery and forget about all the rest.

I don't think I'll figure out good answers to these questions on my own. That's why I'm looking forward to working on them with other members of my faith community.

Related posts

"We need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation."

(See Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation)

To be sitting in Berkeley and seeing in front of my eyes the spreading of this idea that started in Texas and was nurtured in Philadelphia and got agitated in Chicago felt like a real Pentecost moment.

(See Decolonize Lutheranism -- A Northern California Installment)

How do you observe Indigenous Peoples Day?

(See Reflections on Indigenous Peoples Day 2015)

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