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Episcopal Church resources address Native American concerns for Columbus Day discussion

September 30, 2011
The Public Affairs Office

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:
“Repentance and amendment of life are the answer”

Focusing on the theme of Healing and Reconciliation, the Episcopal Church has prepared resources for congregations and individuals to understand the importance of the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The resources, named Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call to Healing and Hope,
include a leader guide with discussion questions, lesson plans, bulletin inserts and sermons and have been prepared for use beginning on Columbus Day.

“The resources help to bridge acknowledging the truth in our history (good and bad),  educate about the work happening now, and move into healing,” explained Sarah Eagle Heart, Episcopal Church Missioner for Native American/Indigenous Ministries. “It is important to acknowledge the truth, and we are the first church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.”

Among the points that are addressed in the educational and discussion resources are: the theft of Native American land; the murder, subjugation and enforced relocation of Native people; the destruction of Native language, culture, religion and economical resources; and the extermination of Native people’s identity. The materials challenge: “As baptized Christians, what are you called to do about it?”

The resources are available here:

The items for Columbus Day are the first in a series of informational resources leading up to General Convention 2012. Advent and Lenten reflections are also planned.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
In a statement, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said:

I urge you to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery and the search for healing in our native communities. 

But this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent.  Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of “free” land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day.  That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial – it was their “promised land.”  The nations from which the settlers came, and the new nations which resulted in the Americas, sought to impose another culture and way of life on the peoples they encountered.  Attempting to remake the land and peoples they found “in their own image” was a profound act of idolatry. 

Repentance and amendment of life are the answer, and God asks us all – this Church, our partners and neighbors, and the nations which were founded under the Doctrine of Discovery - to the challenging work of reconciliation. 

The abundant life we know in Jesus Christ is made possible through sacrifice – through repairing what is broken, and finding holiness and healing in the midst of that challenging work.  That work is often costly, but it is the only road to abundant life.

Resolution D035: Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery
At General Convention 2009, the Episcopal Church approved Resolution D035, which called for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

In D035, General Convention “repudiates and renounces the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God.”

It explains, “This doctrine, which originated with Henry VII in 1496, held that Christian sovereigns and their representative explorers could assert dominion and title over non-Christian lands with the full blessing and sanction of the Church. It continues to be invoked, in only slightly modified form, in court cases and in the many destructive policies of governments and other institutions of the modern nation-state that lead to the colonizing dispossession of the lands of indigenous peoples and the disruption of their way of life.”

Also part of the resolution requests that “each diocese within the Episcopal Church be encouraged to reflect upon its own history, in light of these actions and encourage all Episcopalians to seek a greater understanding of the Indigenous Peoples within the geo-political boundaries claimed by the United States and other nation states located within the Episcopal Church's boundaries, and to support those peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights as peoples to be respected; and be it further “


The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations.  The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

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Nancy Cox Davidge
Public Affairs Officer