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Doctrine of Discovery 1

The Queen must apologize for the wrongs committed by Henry VII and repudiate the ‘Christian Doctrine of Discovery,’ the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has declared.

On 17 July, the triennial meeting of The Episcopal Church’s synod endorsed resolution D035: Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. The 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,’ the resolution explained.

The principle of the Doctrine of Discovery’ arose in 1493 when Pope Alexander VI gave Spain and Portugal the right to claim non-Christian lands in the new world and Africa, while Henry VII authorized John Cabot to take possession of all lands discovered for the Crown.

Beginning in 1823 the US Supreme Court held that Henry’s charter provided the legal basis for the American government’s ownership of Indian lands as Indian tribes were not independent nations, but ‘domestic dependent nations!

This doctrine, the resolution argued, had led to the ‘dispossession of the lands of indigenous peoples and the disruption of their way of life,’ and as such, was a bad thing.

The General Convention directed its presiding officers 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’ as made by the Tudors.

Rising to Speak in support of the resolution, the Bishop of Maine endorsed the proposal, saying it would be a symbolic righting of wrongs. There was no debate, and the resolution was adopted on a unanimous voice vote.

Hundreds of Special interest non-Church related resolutions are brought to General Convention at each session. Those that make it out of committee to the floor are usually adopted with little or no debate on voice votes. Resolutions of General Convention have no legal force under US canon law.

George Conger on Religious Intelligence

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Property wars

American dioceses may not sell parish properties to breakaway groups, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written, in a letter to the US House of Bishops. Bishop Jefferts Schori stated the Church expected a ‘reasonable and fair’ deal on any property settlement and ‘that we do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.’

This means, the Presiding Bishop said, that property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of [the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops], unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of [The Episcopal Church.]’

The Presiding Bishop added she understood that some American bishops might wish to permit Anglican bishops from overseas to preach, preside, confirm, or even ordain, but that diocesan permission cannot encourage anything that purports to set up or participate in another jurisdiction.’

These principals arose as the consensus’ view of her Council of Advice, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, in a meeting before General Convention. She added that these rules would be relaxed if the breakaway groups gain clarity about their own identity’ such that ‘if and when they engage apositive missional stance that doesn’t seek to replace The Episcopal Church, I do believe we can enter into ecumenical agreements that will make some of the foregoing moot.’

It is unclear by what authority the Presiding Bishop can dictate property policies to The Episcopal Church as she is not a metropolitan or archbishop, and the canons are silent as to these injunctions.

Bishop Jefferts Schori’s views come in direct opposition to those of her predecessors, who historically held that parish property disputes are internal diocesan matters, not subject to the review or oversight of the presiding bishop.

Speaking to the Diocese of Western Louisiana in 2006, former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said the interpretation of the national church’s property canons was a diocesan matter, and that the national church only became involved in parish property disputes if invited by the local bishop and diocesan standing committees.

The Presiding Bishop’s legal advice may not be enforceable in many US states, as contracts may not incorporate illegal provisions.

Episcopal News Service


Rapid rise

Seventeen days after being ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Kensington, the curate of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Hampton of the Diocese of London has been elected Bishop of Manicaland.

On 24 July the electoral synod of the Zimbabwe diocese elected as bishop the Revd Dr Julius Makoni to succeed his deposed processor the Rt Revd Elson Jakazi. Dr Makoni’s election must now go the House of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) for confirmation.

An ally of the former Bishop of Harare, on 23 September 2007 Bishop Jakazi joined Dr Nolbert Kunonga in writing to Archbishop Bernard Malango saying their dioceses had withdrawn from Central Africa in protest about what they alleged was a pro-gay bias in the Province.

The dean of Central Africa, Bishop Albert Chama of Northern Zambia, responded that it was impossible for them to withdraw the dioceses’ and on 19 October 2007 the Central African bishops declared the two were no longer bishops’ of the CPCA.

In April 2008 the former Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Peter Hatendi, was appointed interim bishop of Manicaland. However, Bishop Jakazi last year retracted his declaration of independence from the CPCA and had sought to block the election of a new bishop for the diocese, claiming he remained the rightful bishop. Litigation is currently underway between the CPCA and Bishop Jakazi

over the trusteeship of the Manicaland church properties. George Conger on Religious Intelligence


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The Anglican Church of Canada’s top aboriginal bishop says formally renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery – the historic legal claim underlying the conquest of the New World by Anglo-Italian sailor John Cabot and other early European explorers – ‘is a matter of basic justice’ for the First Nations dispossessed by the arbitrary regal pronouncement.

National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald, a US -born cleric who was trained in Canadabeforebecomingthe Anglican Church’s principal voice on native issues in 2007, was responding to news the US arm of the church has renounced the doctrine and asked Queen Elizabeth – the titular head of the global Anglican community – to ‘disavow and repudiate’ it publicly.

The resolution passed last month at an Episcopal convention in California could preview a similar proclamation by Anglican leaders in Canada when they gather next June in Nova Scotia for the church’s triennial General Synod, Canwest News Service reported on Wednesday.

‘I was at the [US] convention and participated in some of the discussions and preparation of the final resolution,’ said MacDonald, who served for ten years as the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Alaska. ‘It is very exciting.’

He said the Anglican Church in Canada ‘is very interested in this issue’ and a 2001 push to repudiate the doctrine was well received’ but not formally enacted at the time.

‘The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery is a matter of basic justice and the proof of our Gospel – whether we live it or just talk it,’ MacDonald said in an email on Thursday. ‘The bold statement of the US General Convention is an affirmation, inspiration, and a challenge to carry that work further.’

MacDonald noted Anglicans in Canada have already effectively rejected the medieval doctrine through reconciliation efforts on the residential schools tragedy and a push towards indigenous self-determination’ within the church.

‘We are working towards the implementation of the repudiation’ in advance of any formal motion, he stated, noting the church’s ‘Special focus on calling for Canada’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’

He added: ‘The Anglican Church is going through a review of its structure and policies in light of the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

The US resolution directed Episcopal Church officials to write to Queen Elizabeth and urge her to formally reject ‘the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery

The resolution referred Specifically to the charter King Henry VII granted Cabot before the Italian-born explorer sailed to North America in 1497. Probably the first European to reach the continent since the Vikings, Cabot landed that year in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia and claimed the future Canada – inhabited for millennia by a multitude of indigenous nations – for England.

Henry VII’s charter had authorized Cabot to take possession of any ‘isles, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world they be, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.’ Popes and monarchs throughout Europe espoused the Doctrine of Discovery at that time.

Among the many impacts of the European influx to the Americas during the centuries that followed was the disappearance of Newfoundland’s indigenous Beothuk people by the early 1800s.

While highlighting Cabot’s voyages to Canada, the Episcopal Church resolution also condemnedthe renewal of the Doctrine of Discovery in English royal charters granted in the sixteenth century to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an early colonizer of Newfoundland, and Sir Walter Raleigh, founder of the Virginia colony in the US south-east.

The doctrine led to the colonizing dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands in North America and to the dehumanization and subjugation of non-Christian peoples,’ the US resolution stated.

Canwest News Service