Denominational Statements

Community of Christ
In June of 2016, the Community of Christ’s international body passed a resolution renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery. It urges local congregations to consult with indigenous groups to seek opportunities for congregational education and local advocacy. It directs church leaders to create a working group “focused on global justice issues for indigenous peoples as a key priority for the World Church Human Rights Team for 2016–2019.” For the full text, click on Community of Christ Resolution.

Episcopal Church
In May, 2012 Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a pastoral letter on the Doctrine of Discovery, stating in part: “The Doctrine of Discovery work of this Church is focused on education, dismantling the structures and policies based on that ancient evil, support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and challenging governments around the world to support self-determination for indigenous peoples.” Click here for additional links on the Episcopal Church website.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA voted 912-28 on August 9, 2016 to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. The bulk of the statement reads as follows:

To repudiate explicitly and clearly the European-derived doctrine of discovery as an example of the “improper mixing of the power of the church and the power of the sword” (Augsburg Confession Article XXVIII, Latin text), and to acknowledge and repent from this church’s complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas, which continue to harm tribal governments and individual tribal members;

To offer a statement of repentance and reconciliation to Native nations in this country for damage done in the name of Christianity;

To encourage the Office of the Presiding Bishop to plan an appropriate national ceremony of repentance and reconciliation with tribal leaders, providing appropriate worship resources for similar synodical and congregational observances with local tribal leaders, at such times and places as are appropriate;

To direct the Domestic Mission unit, together with the American Indian and Alaska Native community and ecumenical partners, to develop resources to educate members of the ELCA and the wider community about the doctrine of discovery and its consequences for Native peoples;

To direct the Domestic Mission unit to develop a strategy with the American Indian and Alaska Native community during the next triennium to be referred to the Church Council for action, including a mechanism to grow the Native American Ministry Fund of the ELCA; and

To affirm that this church will eliminate the doctrine of discovery from its contemporary rhetoric and programs, electing to practice accompaniment with Native peoples instead of a missionary endeavor to them, allowing these partnerships to mutually enrich indigenous communities and the ministries of the ELCA.

Here is the full text of the ELCA Statement of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Quakers (Friends)
The New York Meeting of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has produced a fact sheet titled: “What Is the Doctrine of Discovery? Why Should It Be Repudiated?” and the Boulder, Colorado Friends Meeting has an Indigenous Peoples Concerns Committee, with a number of Doctrine of Discovery resources.

Presbyterian Church USA
The Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly voted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery at its July 2016 meeting in Portland, Oregon. Here is the text:

Call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to confess its complicity and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly, in consultation with ACREC [the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns], to

a.  Initiate a process of review of the Doctrine of Discovery that would commence at the end of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) and that would

i.     include a comprehensive review of the history of the Doctrine of Discovery;

ii.    include a review of actions taken by other denominations and religious groups to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, including the explanatory and educational materials created and recommendations developed by these groups related to the Doctrine of Discovery;

iii.    include contacting Native American tribes and individuals in order to understand how this doctrine impacts them.

b.    Prepare a report that

i.     describes the Doctrine of Discovery and explains its history;

ii.    makes recommendations of how congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)] can support Native Americans in their ongoing efforts for sovereignty and fundamental human rights;

iii.   describes how relationships with specific Native American individuals and tribes can be developed;

iv.   suggests specific ways in which congregations may recognize, support, and cooperate with Native American individuals, tribes, and nations who reside within their communities.

c.     Engage in dialogue with ecumenical partners concerning the doctrine.

Unitarian Universalist Association
The Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery at its 2012 General Assembly. Delegates called on Unitarian Universalists to study the Doctrine and eliminate its presence from the current-day policies, programs, theologies, and structures of Unitarian Universalism. The following motion provides additional background.

United Church of Christ
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ overwhelmingly passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery in 2013. It states that the Synod “declares and confesses that the doctrine has been and continues to be a shameful part of United States and our Church’s history,” and commits to developing educational materials on the Doctrine for the church. It also states its intention to join with ecumenical partners “to explore ways to compensate American Indians … for lands and resources that were stolen and are still being stolen and which are now the United States of America.” The Synod has additional educational content on the Doctrine of Discovery on its website. It also produced a short video titled: Discovered or Stolen: Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery (6:15) It gives a brief introduction to the Doctrine of Discovery and the United Church of Christ’s efforts at repudiation and reconciliation.

United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church General Conference overwhelmingly adopted a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery in 2012. The resolution calls on all levels of the Methodist Church to: “condemn the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal document and basis for the seizing of native lands and abuses of human rights of Indigenous Peoples.” It says that the United Methodist Church will work toward eliminating the Doctrine of Discovery as a means to subjugate Indigenous peoples of property and land.

World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches Executive Committee issued a Statement on the Doctrine of Discovery and its Enduring Impact on Indigenous Peoples in 2012. It denounced the Doctrine of Discovery “as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and as a violation of the inherent human rights that all individuals and peoples have received from God …” Further, it encourages WCC member churches “to support the continued development of theological reflections by Indigenous Peoples which promote indigenous visions of full, good and abundant life and which strengthen their own spiritual and theological reflections.”