From the Director Column – by Denise Anderson
I recently attended the 11th assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe, Germany. The theme of the gathering was “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,” and at almost every turn, siblings from indigenous cultures served in visible leadership in prayers and plenaries. A pre-assembly gathering brought together delegates from over 40 indigenous nations from around the world and examined what reconciliation would mean from an indigenous perspective. Reconciliation must include restoring wholeness in creation, which was the theme of that pre-gathering. It must be said that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, as fires, pollution, and rising sea levels threaten indigenous land, water, and food sources worldwide. Atrocities toward indigenous peoples have been committed against bodies and the lands they inhabit, and the decimation of the land only perpetuates the decimation of bodies.
Along with the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery that gave theological undergirding for and ecclesial blessing of ethnic cleansing and displacement of indigenous communities on multiple continents over centuries. Among other actions, the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church adopted a Resolution on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit People (MMIWG2S). The assembly also instructed the Office of the General Assembly to issue apologies and reparations for the racist closure of the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Juneau, Alaska, a predominantly Tlingit/Alaskan Native congregation forced into dissolution in 1963. True reconciliation will require continued truth-telling and confrontation of these histories.
Yet, we acknowledge that the whole of Native history and life is more than the traumas inflicted upon these communities. Natives have been self-governing and stewarding Turtle Island (North America) long before the arrival of Europeans. Indigenous wisdom continues its perpetuity. Generations that would have otherwise been cut off from their communal history find ways to reclaim their language, culture, and identity. And indigenous resistance to the exploitation and degradation of the planet serves as a model for all who would stand up to the current climate crisis.
The Rev. T. Denise Anderson,
Acting Director, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries