The Acts of Convention

Year   
         

Resolution Number: 2009-D035
Title: Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Substituted
Final Text:

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention repudiates and renounces the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God, and that this declaration be proclaimed among our churches and shared with the United Nations and all the nations and peoples located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries. This doctrine, which originated with Henry VII in 1496, held that Christian sovereigns and their representative explorers could assert dominion and title over non-Christian lands with the full blessing and sanction of the Church. It continues to be invoked, in only slightly modified form, in court cases and in the many destructive policies of governments and other institutions of the modern nation-state that lead to the colonizing dispossession of the lands of indigenous peoples and the disruption of their way of life; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church review its policies and programs with a view to exposing the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery and eliminating its presence in its contemporary policies, program and structures and, further, that this body directs the appropriate representatives of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, to inform all relevant governmental bodies in the United States of its action and suggest similar and equivalent review of historical and contemporary policies that contribute to the continuing colonization of Indigenous Peoples and, further, to write to Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, requesting that her Majesty disavow, and repudiate publicly, the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery; and be it further

Resolved, That each diocese within The Episcopal Church be encouraged to reflect upon its own history, in light of these actions and encourage all Episcopalians to seek a greater understanding of the Indigenous Peoples within the geo-political boundaries claimed by the United States and other nation states located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries, and to support those peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights as peoples to be respected; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention direct the Office of Government Relations to advocate for the U.S. government’s endorsement of the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” which the United States has refused to endorse (only the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia have failed to sign on).

Citation: General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Anaheim, 2009 (New York: General Convention, 2009), pp. 371-372.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Author: Dr. John Chaffee
Originating House: House of Deputies
Originating Committee: Committee on National and International Concerns

House of Deputies

The House of Deputies Committee on National and International Concerns presented its Report #26 on Resolution D035 (Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery) and moved adoption of a substitute.

Original Text of Resolution:

(D035)

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention declare the Christian Doctrine of Discover - the dogma that Christian sovereigns and their representative explorers could assert dominion and title over non-Christian lands with the full blessing and sanction of the Church - as evil and opposed to our understanding of the inherent rights all humans and peoples enjoy derived from God, and that this declaration be shared with all nation states located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries along with the United Nations; and be it further

Resolved, That this body direct the appropriate representatives of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to write to Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, requesting that her Majesty disavow, and repudiate publicly, the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery; this doctrine is found in the Royal Charter (Letters Patent) that Queen Elizabeth II’s predecessor, King Henry VII, issued to John Cabot and his sons in 1496 and subsequently reaffirmed by the charters of Henry Gilbert in 1583 and Walter Raleigh in 1584 and the Virginia Company charters of 1606 and 1609. These led to the colonizing dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands in North America and to the dehumanization and subjugation of non-Christian peoples (which the monarchy termed “heathens” and “infidels”); and be it further

Resolved, That each diocese within The Episcopal Church be encouraged to reflect upon its, The Episcopal Church’s, and the Anglican Communion’s injustices committed against Indigenous People and encourage all Episcopalians within The Episcopal Church to seek a greater understanding of the Indigenous Peoples within geo-political boundaries claimed by the United States and other nation states located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries, and to support those peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights as peoples to be respected.

Committee Substitute:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention repudiates and renounces the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God, and that this declaration be proclaimed among our churches and shared with the United Nations and all the nations and peoples located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries. This doctrine, which originated with Henry VII in 1496, held that Christian sovereigns and their representative explorers could assert dominion and title over non-Christian lands with the full blessing and sanction of the Church. It continues to be invoked, in only slightly modified form, in court cases and in the many destructive policies of governments and other institutions of the modern nation-state that lead to the colonizing dispossession of the lands of indigenous peoples and the disruption of their way of life; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church review its policies and programs with a view to exposing the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery and eliminating its presence in its contemporary policies, program and structures and, further, that this body directs the appropriate representatives of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, to inform all relevant governmental bodies in The United States of its action and suggest similar and equivalent review of historical and contemporary policies that contribute to the continuing colonization of Indigenous Peoples and, further, to write to Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, requesting that her Majesty disavow, and repudiate publicly, the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery; and be it further

Resolved, That each diocese within The Episcopal Church be encouraged to reflect upon its own history, in light of these actions and encourage all Episcopalians to seek a greater understanding of the Indigenous Peoples within the geo-political boundaries claimed by the United States and other nation states located within The Episcopal Church’s boundaries, and to support those peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights as peoples to be respected; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention direct the Office of Government Relations to advocate for the U.S. government’s endorsement of the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” which the United States has refused to endorse (only the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia have failed to sign on).

Motion carried

Substitute resolution adopted

(Communicated to the House of Bishops in HD Message #197)

House of Bishops

The House of Bishops Committee on National and International Concerns presented its Report #53 on HD Message #197 on Resolution D035 (Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery) and moved concurrence.

The House concurred

(Communicated to the House of Deputies in HB Message #288)

Resolution Concurred by Both Houses, July 17.

Abstract:   The 76th General Convention repudiates the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, and encourages the Church to reflect on their history in light of the doctrine's impact on indigenous peoples; and that the Church advocate on behalf of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Notes:  

Note 1: According to sources on Wikipedia and the Doctrine of Discovery Study Group,"The Discovery Doctrine is a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, initially in Johnson v. M'Intosh in 1823. Under it, title to newly discovered lands lay with the government whose subjects discovered new territory. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments."

Note 2: Resolutions 2009-B011 and 2009-C059 were discharged because the matter had already been acted on in 2009-D035.