This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Doctrine of Discovery Coalition meets

Photo: Members of the Doctrine of Discover Coalition, from left to right, include Erica Littlewolf, Ken Gingerich, Sarah Augustine, Anita Amstutz, Todd Wynward, Sheri Hostetler, Michelle Armster, Iris de Leon-Hartshorn, Jonathan Neufeld, John Stoez, Katerina Friesen, Patricia Burdette, Jennifer Delanty, Weldon Nisly and Karin Kaufman Wall. Photo by Tim Nafziger. 

The annual gathering of the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition (formerly called the Doctrine of Discovery Working Group) met at Seattle Mennonite Church January 7-9. Close to 20 people from Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Central Committee Central States, the watershed discipleship movement, and a number of conferences and congregations worked at creating a structure for moving the work forward. Mennonite Creation Care Network is also involved in the Coalition.

The group’s website defines the Doctrine of Discovery as, “a philosophical and legal framework dating to the 15th century that gave Christian governments moral and legal rights to invade and seize Indigenous lands and dominate Indigenous Peoples. The patterns of oppression that continue to dispossess Indigenous Peoples of their lands today are found in numerous historical documents such as Papal Bulls, Royal Charters and U.S. Supreme Court rulings as recent as 2005. Collectively, these and other concepts form a paradigm of domination that legitimates extractive industries that displace and destroy many Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable communities, as well as harm the earth.”

The group started its meeting led in ceremony by Sarah Augustine, one of the founders of the Coalition; Steve Darden, Human Rights Commissioner for the Diné Nation; and Mark MacDonald, Bishop for Indigenous Peoples for the Anglican Church of Canada and also President for North America for the World Council of Churches.

“We began in ceremony because we believe our work must be led by the Spirit,” said Augustine. “We have to be grounded in connection with the Creator, seeking harmony with the Creator and each other. It is tempting to jump into a full agenda straight away, but we want to affirm and nurture what we have in common–a thirst for justice fueled by discipleship.”

The group spent significant energy discerning the best way forward in a movement that brings the interests of Mennonite organizations and the urgency of prophetic voices into alignment. What emerged was an alliance of invested organizations and individuals who will contribute resources and personnel to the Coalition. The Coalition, led by a steering committee, will coordinate a variety of sub-committees and projects that include:

  • a traveling educational experience, which could include the timeline exhibit that premiered at the 2015 Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City, the Loss of Turtle Island exercise, and other educational activities;
  • Native land return;
  • an education committee that is currently working on a study guide to accompany the Doctrine of Discovery movie produced by the Coalition;
  • a resolutions committee to work toward the 2017 Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando.

More information about each of these committees and contact information for them can be found at the Coalition’s website or on Facebook.

Sheri Hostetler is pastor of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco and a member of the Coalition steering committee. 

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