Photo courtesy of Mark Charles

Mark Charles spoke about the spiritual cost of the Doctrine of Discovery during an MCC webinar in January 2021.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) staff in the U.S. have embarked on a year of learning about the roots of racism and injustice in the church, lamenting the pain that continues and taking action to reduce complicity with racism.

This initiative is called The Color of Compromise because it focuses on reading Jemar Tisby’s book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. Monthly small group discussions will follow the reading of each chapter.

In addition, staff will participate in quarterly webinars led individually by leaders who are Hispanic, Asian or Black. A video of the first webinar, held in January, can be seen online. 

The webinars are open to members of the public, who MCC encourages to study the book on their own.

Join with us by listening to the webinars and studying "Color of Compromise" with your own group.

“These speakers and Tisby’s book will allow MCC to examine how we, as a part of the church at large, have been complicit in racism,” said Ann Graber Hershberger, MCC U.S. executive director. “As we enter MCC’s second hundred years, we want to envision and move forward to a fuller reflection of the body of Christ.”  

This internal study is part of a long term plan to deepen racial equity in MCC.

The first webinar was led by Mark Charles, a Native American Christian, former pastor, Navajo activist, public speaker and author on Native American issues. He spoke about the spiritual cost of the Doctrine of Discovery.

This series of papal bulls (edicts issued by Roman Catholic popes) dating back to the 15th century provided theological justification and a legal basis for European governments ruled by the church to seize land and dominate people not ruled by Christians, leading in the U.S. to the genocide of Native Americans.

“That’s what happened when the colonists came to what is now the United States. We didn’t discover this land, we dehumanized it,” Charles said about colonizers in an MCC video about the Doctrine of Discovery in 2016. “What we called expansion was actually ethnic cleansing." 

Webinar: The spiritual cost of Doctrine of Discovery

In this webinar, Mark Charles, a Navajo activist, speaker, and author, presents on The Spiritual Cost of Doctrine of Discovery.

In the January webinar, Charles asked the question: "How did the church get from the teachings of Jesus, who said things like 'love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you,’ to a Doctrine of Discovery that said you can kill people who don’t look like, speak like, worship like or act like you?"

He called on Christians to remember that Jesus spurned an earthly kingdom when the Devil tempted him, instead instructing his followers to commit themselves to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Reading his own writing from 2018, Charles said, “Remember my brothers and sisters, Jesus did not come to create a Christian Empire. He came to make disciples. He came to offer his body as a living sacrifice. He came to plant a church."


NOTE: Mennonite Central Committee is grateful to presenters for sharing their wisdom and experience.  Views expressed are their own, and not necessarily those of Mennonite Central Committee.