A Message from the Pastor


Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery


Many Americans grow up learning that this continent was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. The concept of discovery, as if the land was empty prior to arrival and its indigenous inhabitants were somehow “less than” the explorers is, at its heart, racism and cultural superiority. 

The doctrine of discovery, a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, originated from various church documents in Christian Europe in the mid-1400s to justify the pattern of domination and oppression by European monarchies as they invasively arrived in the Western hemisphere.  It theologically asserted the right to claim the indigenous lands, territories, and resources on behalf of Christendom, and to subjugate native peoples around the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court used the doctrine to assert that the United States, as the successor of Great Britain, had inherited authority over all lands within our claimed boundaries. This decision allowed our government to legally ignore or invalidate any native claims to property and resources. To this day courts continue to cite this legal precedent. It is still being used by courts to decide property rights cases brought by Native Americans against the U.S. and against non-Natives.

The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by General Synod 29 of the United Church of Christ provides an invaluable teaching moment for our congregations to understand the systemic and continuous impact of racism on the daily lives of indigenous peoples in the U.S.

Join us for worship on October 9th as we explore what we might learn how this centuries old doctrine effects our history, our present and our future.


Blessings,

Rev. Molly

© 2017 United Church of Christ (Congregational)
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