It is at this time of year that my brain usually begins to weary and I look forward to engaging my body in backyard puttering. This year, however, there is one more opportunity to engage the mind and heart [the same thing, really] before shutting down completely: the Mennonite Church Assembly in Saskatoon. Not only am I leading a workshop, as I have done before, but for the first time ever, I am an area church delegate. There are some large and controversial resolutions that will be appearing before us at the assembly having to do with the definition of marriage and the structure of our national and area church bodies. This blog is the first of a series of three addressing these important resolutions.

It is the above two that have generated the most press and the most controversy but I would like to say in this blog that I do not believe that these two are the most important resolutions we will be voting on at the assembly. The most important resolution is the one that asks us as a national church body to repudiate the “doctrine of discovery” that has shaped Canadian society and church life in the western world for half a millennium. Here is an early draft of the resolution:

The Resolution to the Mennonite Church Canada Delegate Assembly July 2016 to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery

Mennonite Church Canada is committed, through our Indigenous Relations Program to reconciliation efforts with the First Nations and Aboriginal Communities in Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recently presented its final report which included 94 calls to action along the path of reconciliation. A number of those include work the churches can do.

One of the key recommendations is acknowledgement and repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discover”. This “doctrine” first in a Papal Bull of 1452 laid the political and religious ground work for the claiming of all lands where there were no Christians, in the name of the monarch in whose name the land was “discovered”. This doctrine empowered governments “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Sarcens and pagans whatsoever and other enemies of Christ … and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms,… possessions…”

This Doctrine of Discovery has been a part of the western legal framework and has been the basis of North American legal system in regards to First Nations peoples. Christian denominations in North America are working to repudiate this doctrine. We resolve:

  1. That Mennonite Church Canada repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as one of the steps on the path to reconciliation with the Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
  2. That a working group be formed by representatives of the Mennonite Church Canada Area Churches to begin by reviewing the church related recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, make the appropriate study material available to congregations, and make further periodic recommendations to the General Board/Area Church Boards on steps along the path of reconciliation.

It seems fitting that we should be repudiating this in Saskatoon, not far from Batoche where one of the more horrific acts of the Canadian government occurred in attempt to eliminate indigenous cultures from the newly forming Canadian society. It is high time that we repudiate this evil doctrine and begin the journey of repentance and reconciliation.