But many disagree. This week a group of ELCA leaders (6 bishops, 2 leaders of the Native American Lutheran Association and a group of local pastors and lay people) visited Standing Rock. We talked with tribal leaders, with people in the encampments, and with law enforcement officers. All of our conversations were civil, everything we did was surrounded by prayer. Nobody wants this thing to blow up. Everyone wants a peaceful settlement, especially the people who will continue to live there, both tribal and non-Indian, after the pipeline dispute is over.
Why is this our business? In 2016, both the Montana Synod and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which, among other things, pledged to walk with the tribes in their quest for justice. And in 2010, the Montana Synod adopted an Apology to the tribes of Montana, and promised to stand with them in the future. In short, this is our business, because we pledged accompaniment. This is also our business because it is not simply a local dispute. It is not simply about one pipeline on one piece of land.
Many people assume that what is going on at Standing Rock is protest. There are certainly elements of that. And there are some people there whose primary agenda is protest. But not the vast majority. The whole response to the proposed pipeline began last spring with prayer. A group of tribal members gathered on a hill overlooking the Missouri and prayed together for a long time. Not a quick pro forma blessing, but extended prayer. Prayer continues to be the bedrock of this movement. Everywhere we went we were asked to pray--with law enforcement, with pilgrims, with tribal leaders. The separation of church and state that we cling to so fiercely in the rest of civic life was simply not an issue. This is a deeply spiritual movement.
So what is a group of bishops doing there? Presence. We followed in the footsteps of many faith leaders from other denominations and faith groups by simply showing up. By bringing coats and hats and blankets and firewood, by praying, by listening and simply by being there.
Jessica Crist, Bishop