If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not within us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. – I John 1:8-10
Three instances I am aware of where churches recently acknowledged past sins related to racism toward Native Americans:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted at its national gathering held in New Orleans on the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. As reported in the Montana Synod weekly newsletter this past week, “At our Montana Synod Assembly we passed a memorial asking the Churchwide Assembly to repudiate the doctrine of discovery, as did 16 other synods. The doctrine of discovery originated as a papal bull declaring that any lands that were not populated by Christians were subject to being conquered. The doctrine, which was embedded into US law in the 19th century, continues to justify the treatment of indigenous people as less than fully human. The Assembly affirmed the repudiation overwhelmingly.”
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church in May in Seattle, Washington passed a resolution acknowledging the role of the Methodist Church in the Sand Creek Massacre. The Clergy of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the UMC adopted a resolution in June to censure John Chivington, who was an ordained and presiding elder who led the Massacre at Sand Creek in southeast Colorado in 1864 whereby his soldiers inhumanely and without mercy killed approximately 230 defenseless Cheyenne and Arapaho persons, ¾ of whom were women, children and elderly men and wounding 200 more.
A few weeks ago, we asked for your signature on the petition in support of the repatriation of remains of the children who died at the Carlisle Boarding School. Your signatures went to Rosebud, SD on May 10th for a government to government consultation. As a result, the US government has promised repatriation. Native leaders greatly appreciated the support. The Boarding School Healing Coalition now asks for our support of a petition to acknowledge the harm from the boarding schools, most of which were operated by Christian churches “to kill the Indian to save the man.” Sign the petition for the creation of a “Truth Report: The US Boarding School Policy, History, and Legacy.”
Racism is the most important unresolved problem today in America. It’s not just about what happened 130, 150 or 500+ years ago, but the aftermath based on a social construct of race, not on biology, used to justify the taking of land and natural resources that still negatively impacts lives today.
I ask that every individual and every congregation to take stock of and accept racism’s harm and to confess to our mistakes, conscious or not, so as to facilitate changes and to allow for healing. Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.
P.S. Your financial contributions are greatly needed and appreciated. To contribute, click here. Or mail your contribution to WAC, PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073.
Thanks go to the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church for its recent contribution of $5,000, currently our largest contributor for our operating budget, and to the other denominational giving to continue our work for justice. Denominational giving makes up less than ½ of WAC’s budget. We rely on people like you and local congregations to maintain our critical voice in Wyoming.