Episcopal Diocese of Central New York Hosts Ecumenical Panel Discussion Repudiating Doctrine of Discovery


December 4, 2023

UTICA, NY – On Saturday, December 2, 2023, Grace Church in downtown Utica, New York, played host to a momentous day-long celebration of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York featuring an ecumenical panel discussion on repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. The distinguished panel included the Episcopal Bishop of Central New York, the Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe, the Rev. Lee Miller II, Bishop of the Upstate NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Most Rev. Douglas J. Lucia, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, was a special guest, adding significant joy and encouragement to the occasion.

The panel focused on achieving several crucial goals, including: increasing understanding of the historical impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on the ministry of the three denominations, naming and initiating a repentance posture for the complicity and benefits each denomination derived from the harmful impacts of the Doctrine, sharing insights gained from relationships formed with local Haudenosaunee elders, and inviting attendees to join in the work of repentance and healing in relationships with indigenous communities throughout central and upstate New York.

Bishops Duncan-Probe, Miller, and Lucia have been meeting regularly for years, fostering deep and authentic ecumenical relationships. Their shared commitment to bringing healing in the name of God to indigenous peoples in the area formed the bedrock of this historic event.

Each bishop shared their personal journey of becoming aware of the Doctrine of Discovery, a fifteenth-century papal bull justifying the seizure and colonization of lands not inhabited by Christians that has had lasting harmful religious and legal impact on indigenous populations across the globe. They also discussed how their denominations have been shaped by and worked to repudiate this historical doctrine.

The panelists will continue their discussions and shared work. All three bishops will participate in another panel on December 8-10 at Syracuse University as part of the conference, “The Religious Origins of White Supremacy: Johnson v. M’Intosh and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.” They emphasized the ongoing work of deepening relationships with local Haudenosaunee leaders and invited their denominational organizations to join in relationship-based healing efforts.

The day was bookended by messages from The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who is known for his inspiring and powerful preaching. Bishop Curry delivered messages calling for those present to be deeply rooted in the joy of God’s love. His presence brought hope and joy to attendees, especially members of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. 

The event drew a full house, primarily composed of Episcopalians from around the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York which stretches from the international border to Pennsylvania and from Elmira in the west to Utica in the east. Attendees engaged in smaller workshops throughout the day addressing racial healing, climate change, and healing-focused advocacy work. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Reconciliation, led a workshop on Sacred Ground, the primary racial healing program of the Episcopal Church.

The day concluded with a festive Eucharist, echoing the theme of finding joy in the work of loving a world often dominated by hurt and darkness. A musical prelude from the Magical Musical Squad, a youth-led arts effort directed by Annette Adams Brown and Marcia Hagan emphasized joy with three selections, including two written by the youth of the group, “Magic in the Music” and “Love is.” Musical offerings were rounded out by representatives from the Karen Episcopal Community that meets at Grace Church Utica and Diäŋdït Episcopal Chapel of East Syracuse. 

Entering a new liturgical year, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York has declared an intentional Year of Joy which will revolve around needs-focused diocesan ministry in the central New York area. As a religious community dedicated in its baptismal vows to the dignity of all persons, the diocese will be focused on healing racial divisions, especially through building a

stronger relationship and new reality with the Haudenosaunee and continuing to take an active and visible role in seeking safety and justice for our LGBTQ+ siblings and neighbors. Additionally, in recognition of the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a crisis of loneliness across all ages, the diocese renewed its commitment to finding ways to connect people across differences and in creative ways. 

“We’re are excited about our growing ministries,” said Bishop Duncan-Probe. “We’re eager to continue work that builds community, connection , safety and health for all of God’s beloved people and we invite all  people to join us as a community working for peace, dignity, and justice.” 

 About the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York:

The Diocese of Central New York is a community of 11,000 faithful Episcopalians driven by a shared vision of a world healed by love. To learn more about the diocese, visit cnyepiscopal.org.

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The stylized red cross of the Diocese of Central New York