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SWCA Synod at the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly


Voting members from the Southwest California Synod Assembly with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. The nine voting members included Bishop Guy Erwin and Vice President Randall Foster. Brian Etienne, Karen Moyer, Tempie Beaman, Caleb Crainer, Shannon Savage-Howie, Jennifer Amos Burgos, and Joseph Bulock were elected as voting members at the 2015 SWCA Synod Assembly.

Bishop Erwin spoke in favor of the Memorial for the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery at the Churchwide Assembly. The text of his statement follows:

I’m Bishop Guy Erwin of the Southwest California Synod, an enrolled member of the Osage Tribe of Indians, on whose reservation I was born. And I speak in favor of the memorial for the repudiation of the so-called “doctrine of discovery.”

One might well ask why a symbolic action like this is important for our church to take – after all:

We can’t undo what has been done to native people in our nation’s long and complex history.

We can’t return what has been taken away from some and given to others.

We can’t, by an action like this, heal or repair the harm still felt by the native population-who suffer disproportionately from poverty and its effects: despair, malnutrition, and suicide.

But we can say, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, that for us and for our house, we will no longer participate in the great lie that has declared native lives to be of lesser value than those of European settlers.

We can say that we will no longer promote the destructive myth that North America was an essentially empty land, waiting to be filled by God with industrious settlers.

We can say that we value and celebrate the lives and cultures of native people, as we did last night when we let the Houma tribe welcome us to their land, and not we them to our assembly.

And we can acknowledge that our nation–born for liberty and pressing ever toward equality and justice-was founded in tragedy: in dispossession, depopulation, and imported slavery. We cannot advance justice today by forgetting injustice yesterday.

But today, as the ELCA-as the church-we can draw a symbolic line under this tragic legacy, reject this racist notion, and tell the whole world what we have done.

This we can do. Amen.