Evangelical denomination passes resolution to acknowledge Church’s “complicity” in “dispossession, subjugation” of Indigenous peoples in Americas

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – On June 25 the Evangelical Covenant Church in the US voted to approve its “Resolution to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery,” acknowledging what it calls the Christian church’s “complicity” in the “dispossession, subjugation and relegation” of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Christianity Today reports.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a set of legal rules first issued by 15th-century popes that provided European monarchies with theological justification for “discovering” and claiming lands inhabited by non-Christian peoples; according to the EEC resolution, the Doctrine reveals Christian powers considered Indigenous people as “less than human, without human rights.”

Passed by an overwhelming majority of 84%, the EEC Resolution to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery states that: “We acknowledge the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples through sustained and systemic acts of injustice. We acknowledge the complicity of the Christian church (including the Covenant Church) in that dispossession, subjugation, and relegation.”

“In its colonization of North America, the young United States claimed the discovery doctrine as a birthright from Great Britain and followed [a] pattern of genocide and conquest in the name of Manifest Destiny,” the resolution continues.

“Even though the land was already occupied by hundreds of Indigenous nations, the doctrine offered a sanctified ideology of dehumanization along with a misappropriation of divine will,” the resolution attests. The EEC said in its resolution that the Doctrine “has been a seedbed of racism and colonialism in North America for centuries.”

Christianity Today notes that although the EEC has been preparing the resolution for five years, the document was approved just one day after the Cowessess First Nation in Canada announced it had found evidence of at least 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Weeks prior to this announcement, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed it had found the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

In what is seen as an outworking of the Doctrine of Discovery, these schools were among 130 residential institutions set up by the Canadian government and operated by Christian churches to remove Indigenous children from their own culture and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture. The institutions were notorious for physical and sexual abuse inflicted on the children, thousands of whom died school-related deaths.

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