Telling and Teaching the Truth: The Church’s Obligation to Education about the Ongoing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery

From Churches Beyond Borders: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

As another school year commences, we are reminded that the educational systems we have handed down to our children often teach national narratives that perpetuate white supremacy by deleting and ignoring the histories and contributions of Indigenous People and other marginalized communities and peoples in both Canada and the United States. The ongoing legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and the sinful acts of racism in North America are rarely if ever taught in our school systems or churches with the fullness and import that is necessary and just.

When Christians engage history with honesty, humility and a spirit of confession, it is clear that the church was and is complicit:

  • In the hunting and killing of Indigenous Peoples,
  • In the dishonorable breaking of thousands of treaties that federal governments made with First Nations and Native nations,
  • In the forced removal of Indigenous Peoples from their original homelands,
  • In the relocation of Indigenous Peoples into reserves and reservations where poverty, starvation, desperation, missionization, addiction, and suicide were allowed to become the rule for generations of Indigenous people,
  • In the making of long-term federal policies that enforced family separation,
  • In the stealing of Indigenous children away to brutal assimilation camps known as Indian boarding schools in the US and residential schools in Canada,
  • In the ongoing plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,
  • In the coverup of all of these evils, including through systemic efforts to erase Indigenous Peoples from our collective memory.

Scripture reminds us that the truth is costly. In Proverbs 23:23 we read, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (NRSV). Our churches’ work to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery begins with the costly work of telling the truth.

Only then will we be able to start making good on our promises as churches and, together across borders, to seek truth and healing for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples by:

  • Providing educational opportunities for all of our churches’ people,
  • Leading advocacy efforts for legally mandated inclusion of accurate and truthful history and narratives of Indigenous people in our educational systems at all learning levels,
  • Standing in solidarity with residential and boarding school survivors and their descendants,
  • Doing the necessary research to reveal as much truth about this shameful part of our churches’ histories.

As a sign of our cross-border commitments to the work toward truth, healing, justice and accurate education, we invite all members of our churches to commemorate September 30, 2021 ( as a day for truth and healing. We encourage you to learn about residential and boarding schools, honour survivors, and remember those who never made it home from the schools. On September 30, we invite you to wear orange as a sign of remembering, solidarity, and commitment to seeking healing. You may also choose to wear orange to Sunday worship on September 26.


+Elizabeth Eaton
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

[signed] +Susan C Johnson
National Bishop Susan C. Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

+Michael Curry
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Church

+Linda Nicholls

Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls
Anglican Church of Canada


Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Anglican Church of Canada

The Episcopal Church

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”