August 1, 2013
The following is a note penned by Bill Running Wolf after the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly.
Osiyo Ditsadanvtli a le Ditsadalvi,
This past week in Orlando, Florida resolution GA-1324 Reflection on Christian Theology and Polity, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, and the Indigenous Voice was brought before the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The purpose of the resolution was to encourage the members of the denomination to begin the process of examining how the Doctrine of Discovery has helped frame the theology and polity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) both historically and in the contemporary church. Within the past four years only [ a few] other denominations and the World Council of Churches have addressed this vital issue and repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. The Rev. David Bell states “The Christian Doctrine of Discovery (Doctrine) is a body of work beginning in the 15th century with a series of papal bulls and theological statements justifying the Age of Discovery and the colonization, conquest, subjugation of lands and peoples around the world. During the next 500 years, religio-political empires fashioned edicts, court decisions, treaties, and laws enhancing discovery efforts.” Today most Christian denominations and congregations actively and passively continue to treat Native Americans as second class and seek to fully assimilate Native Peoples into mainline Christian culture.
Last Wednesday, July 17, the General Assembly passed this resolution with a unanimous vote. This was an enormous step towards bringing the Native Voice into mainline Christianity and putting an end to over 500 years of religious abuse, oppression and exploitation. While there is still much to be done in order to bring the denomination to the place of repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery there is now great hope of that day arriving. This would not have been possible without the work of Rev. David Bell and his wife Belinda of White Swan, Washington as well as the support team who put the resolution together and the churches in the Northwest Region who sponsored it.
The next step proceeds now with the Christian Church (Diciples of Christ) committee that was formed at the General Assembly. It’s members include many volunteers from across the country and with the Rev. David Bell to help guide the journey. The Rev. Dr. Bill McCutchen and I currently represent the Native Voice on the committee and hope that other Native Americans within the denomination will join in as this matter progresses.
This work takes many years both in preparation and in making progress. Change comes slowly to many people, especially those who have been normalized into a certain way of thinking and are suddenly faced with the realization that they too may be part of an oppressive system. With prayer, compassion, patience and tolerance change can occur. Please join with us in honoring this important work. Your continued prayers and support are greatly appreciated.
Bill Running Wolf