Study Guide

“The Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ” Study Guide

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In August 2014, a group of Mennonite church and lay leaders formed a coalition with the aim of sharing information, passion and varied resources to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. For more than five centuries, the Doctrine of Discovery and the laws based upon it have legalized the theft of land, labor and resources from Indigenous Peoples across the world and have systematically denied their human rights. This Doctrine originated with the Christian church in the 15th century and we believe it is now the church’s responsibility to undo it in the name of Christ.

Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition partners include Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Central Committee – Central States, Mennonite Creation Care Network, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, and Suriname Indigenous Health Fund. The Coalition is made up of various committees working at different levels of institutional and grassroots change. Information about the committees and how to get involved can be found on our website at

This Study Guide originated as a proposal of the Education Committee of the Coalition. It is intended to accompany the documentary film we produced in 2015 in collaboration with Eclectic Reel Grassroots Video Production, “The Doctrine of Discovery, in the Name of Christ.”

The Study Guide was coordinated and written by Katerina Friesen, chair of the Education Committee, with direction and input from the following committee members:

• Jennifer Delanty, Moderator of Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference

• Elaine Enns, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries

• Luke Gascho, Mennonite Creation Care Network

• Iris de León-Hartshorn, Director of Transformative Peacemaking, MC USA

• Joanna Shenk, Associate Pastor, First Mennonite Church of San Francisco

Many thanks to these members, to Sheri Hostetler for serving as a reviewer from the Coalition Steering Committee, to Ken Gingerich for contributing his amazing design skills, and to Tim Nafziger for his work making this available on the Coalition website!

We are also deeply grateful to our ten contributors to the Bible Reflections component of this Study Guide! Contributors and their contributions include:

• Iris de León-Hartshorn: “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” Luke 16:19-31

• Randy Woodley: “The Gospel of Vulnerability,” Luke 15

• Katerina Friesen: “Trail of Death, Trail of Life,” Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Luke 14:25-33

• Safwat Marzouk: “Ancestral Narratives: An Alternative to Conquest,” Genesis 26:1-33

• Mziwandile Nkutha: “Tabula Rasa and Terra Nullius: Biblical Misinterpretations that Justified

Colonialism,Deuteronomy 1:8, 1:25

• Regina Shands Stolzfus: “Collateral Damage,” Judges 11

• Sarah Augustine: “I am a Canaanite Woman,” Matthew 15:21-28

• Wati Longchar: “Market Culture and the Image of God,” Genesis 47:13-22

• Elaine Enns and Ched Myers: “Deuteronomy and Solidarity,” Deuteronomy 5:6-7, 5:15, 15:12-15, 16:12-13, 24:18, 22

• Jennifer Henry: “Justice is the Fast that God Requires,” Isaiah 58:1-12

We hope this resource can be a useful tool for congregations as we learn, pray, and work to undo the Doctrine of Discovery!

—Katerina Friesen, on behalf of the Education Committee

Download the Study guide

All files are in pdf format.

A Note to Facilitators
Module 1: Introduction

Module 2: What is the Doctrine of Discovery?
Module 3: In the Name of Christ
Module 4: Living the Doctrine of Discovery
Module 5: Undoing the Doctrine of Discovery
Study Guide Outline
Glossary of Terms

Bible Reflections

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