Last week’s Center for Indigenous Ministries invitation to develop a Truth and Healing Council is a call to remember vocation and homeplace. Done well, this work breaks the fetters of Indigenous and non-Indigenous historical trauma and moral injury. Once free, we may again live the natural inclinations of our created birth—lives of satisfying work, neighborly kindness, healthful care, and love of creation. More so, this freedom allows us to recognize, once again, the landscape of our birth is actively nurturing us along our human journey.
For Disciples, truth is not so much the when and where we “got off the rails” with our Indigenous kin as it is acknowledging the birth of our institution was on the rails of US nationalism and extraction. Truth be told, those 19th century rails became stronger when we developed theological “railroad” ties to stake and hold them in place.
When Alexander Campbell wrote “The Destiny of Our Country” (August 1852 edition of the Millennial Harbinger) and said,
In our countries destiny is involved the destiny of Protestantism, and in its destiny the destiny of all the nations of the world. God has given, in awful charge, to Protestant England and Protestant America—the Anglo-Saxon race—the fortunes, not of Christendom only, but of all the world.
he blended the call of the Great Commission and the concept of a Chosen People. In doing so, he sanctioned a notion that Disciples were uniquely chosen by God to bring the Gospel to “all the world.” There were two reasons for this unique chosen-ness. First, the Disciples were special because they were primarily of “the Anglo-Saxon race.” Secondly, they were “American.” When Campbell writes “God has given, in awful charge, to…Protestant America” he centers Disciple theology geopolitically and stakes Disciple identity to the rail of US nationalism. Certainly, this belief offends modern Disciple sensibilities. However, it is helpful to know the racist structure Disciples are struggling to dismantle today, was imbedded during the Church’s institutional birth.
A Truth and Healing Council will help us become better aware of how our long-held theology and institutional relationship with US nationalism damaged the Indigenous landscape; traumatized Indigenous peoples of Canada and the US; and morally injured non-Indigenous peoples. Out of such awareness, Disciples may begin a restorative process which might lead to a time when our Indigenous and non-Indigenous children live their created identity of satisfying work, neighborly kindness, healthful care, and love of creation.