February 27, 2012
Something really cool happened the other day. The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) approved a Statement on the doctrine of discovery and its enduring impact on Indigenous Peoples (WCC Statement). Such a prophetic statement will help bring awareness of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery to Christians and people who concern themselves with issues of justice alike.
The Christian Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) has historically benefited the Christian Church (in all of its manifestations) and governments who developed and had their development out of colonization efforts (e.g., United States of America). One example of a denomination reaping benefits from the DoD, on the American landscape, is that of my ordination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Disciples). A brief outline of how the DoD benefited Disciples (first written in multiple posts on the Ridged Valley Reflections) is found in the January 1, 2012 post at Doctrine of Discovery. The story of Disciples in relationship with the DoD is important inasmuch as it is an example of why the DoD alarms the Christian Church in America. For what makes the DoD historically impactful is the Christian theology used to support the subjugation of non-Christian land and peoples; and because much of this theology forms the foundational identity all American Christian denominations—including that of Disciples, the apprehension is frightening.
While many church leaders will want to end theology and theological practices endorsing the subjugation of land and peoples, they will find grabbling with the DoD problematic. For when denominational cloth has a theology of subjugation intricately woven within, the removal of those threads of subjugation will cause fear and schism. Obtaining a denominational cloth free of subjugation theology means the existing cloth must be unwoven, threads of theological subjugation thrown away (but not forgotten), and a laborious time of theological reweaving take place. Such work will call church leaders to find their prophetic voice in a time of fear.
Both the unweaving and reweaving are fearful because it calls for the normal of our children to be different from our own. This fear also arises when the historical voice of privilege recognize it is not their voice reweaving the cloth. Rather, the voices of the subjugated are the ones with their hands on the loom deciding which threads to use for a new theological fabric identifying church/denomination. This does not mean the traditional voice is lost, but rather one among many at the loom and one that has chosen to give preference to the voice of those historically silenced.
Not all Christian churches will be able to stand such a theological process of questioning and because of it are likely to become generationally irrelevant. However, those who embrace theological questioning of their fabric and engage in opening themselves to the Creative and Creating voice of their landscapes are likely to become relevant in tomorrow’s sunrise.
© David B. Bell 2012