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Continuing Education classes are open to all Lay School of Ministry participants who have completed their first two years of basic studies.

Each year the Lay School Board chooses a theme and invites instructors from around the country to cover our topics. We seek out instructors from our ELCA seminaries and colleges, as well as experts at public and private universities, colleges and other institutes.


2017-18 LSM Cont Ed Faculty/Topics
We have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.
Now what?

Two years ago, the Lay School Board (LSM) began planning our continuing education theme for the 2017-18 academic year.
“We Repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. What's Next?” Our synod (made up of 199 congregations) was one of the 18 synods that passed this resolution and memorialized the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to do the same
this August, which it did! It is one thing to pass a resolution. It is another thing altogether to live into it.

Our LSM board is taking the four resolves of this assembly resolution seriously (they call for study and engagement). We are planning an entire year of work, led by American Indian and other scholars, including time spent in American Indian nations in our synod listening to elders. Representatives of the LSM board, and members of our synod’s SWO Racial Justice Advocates, went to Chicago to meet at our church-wide office with Gordon Straw, Prairie Rose Seminole and Inez Torres Davis. Our goal was to map out what 9 sessions, 6 hours each, would look like. We wanted to hear from the three of them what should be covered and how it should be experienced. 

Here is the schedule for 2017-2018:

September 8/9 - Session 1: Doctrine of Discovery/history of colonization in the world and role of the church.

Anton Treuer

Workshop Scholar

Dr. Anton Treuer (pronounced troy-er) is Professor of Ojibwa at Bemidji State University and authour of 14 books, including Everytihng You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.  His equity, educaton and cultural works has put him on a path of service throughout the region, country and the world.

Warm Up:  Visit the website for Why Treaties Matter: http://treatiesmatter.org/

Session 1 The Anatomy of Oppression: The Doctrine of Discovery

Before the dawn of the agricultural age, human beings harvested food and one way or another placed their resources into a
common food cache.  Societies took resources from each according to ability and distributed them according to need. But after someone started locking up the food, we got oppression in many forms—slavery, feudalism, and colonization. The Doctrine of Discovery, developed by the Catholic Church, was a codification of the enabling philosophy for oppression; and it fused oppression dynamics and Christianity. Today,  Christian faith communities have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery
and begun to explore the role of Christianity in the oppresion of the indigenous peoples, with an eye on atonement, reconsiliation, and living the best tenets of their faith. Come learn about the Doctrine of Discovery, oppresion, dynamics, and lean in to the a healthy discussion about what healing really looks like.


Session 2 Supreme Law of the Land: Indian Treaties from the Revolution to Standing Rock

Native Americans are not just distinct cultural enclaves.  They are independent political identities with histories far older than the United States. What parts of the pre-contact sovereignty have remained? Which had changed?  What is a native nation? And what is the cultural tapestry in Indian country really like?   From the genesis of the American nation to the contemporary struggle at Standing Rock, let's take a deeper look at the first Americans to better understand the history of this place and inform our efforts to reconcile differences for the future generations. 

Follow Up:  Want to go deeper into Tribal Histoty and Language?  Try this.

Read Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

Watch First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language
          Free at Twin Cities Public Television: http://www.tpt.org/?a=productions&id=3

Watch The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code



October 13/14 - Session 2: Biblical and Confessional basis from which all of these conversations flow – why this is not optional for Lutherans!

Bishop Guy Erwin



The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected bishop of the Southwest California Synod in 2013. He is the first Native American to be elected bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the first openly gay person to serve as an ELCA bishop. Bishop Erwin is a member of the Osage Nation. After earning a Ph.D. from Yale University, he was Lecturer in Church History in the Yale Divinity School (YDS) where he taught History of Western Christianity as well as courses on Martin Luther, the Pietists and other specialties. He taught at California Lutheran University from 2000 until his election as bishop.

November 10/11 - Session 3:
History of the Indian Nations of Wisconsin, Act 31, the view from a Wisconsin public school classroom & stories of real interaction with tribes – Jeff Ryan and Paul Rykken.

December 8/9 - Session 4: History of Federal Law relating to Native Americans (which of course includes Treaties), including conversation about whatever is current on this topic, like Standing Rock is now – with Gordon Straw.

“The Nations Within: The Legal Context for Ministry Within Tribal Communities”

A crucial dynamic or tension exists when non-Indian congregations ask American Indians to speak to them about American Indians. Most often, non-Indian congregations want to learn more about “Native Spirituality” and the Natives’ “love for nature.” Or, they want to witness the “quaint” cultures they have heard about, asking American Indians to bring their “costumes” (They aren’t costumes; they are regalia.) and perform. Most often, American Indians don’t want to talk about or share these things. They want to talk about the legal context of their everyday lives. They want to talk about tribal sovereignty, legal jurisdiction and legal rights vs. human rights. Many congregations believe it is unwise to talk about politics in “church.” Many American Indians believe that not talking about politics, specifically Federal Indian Law, reduces them to mere objects of mission or relics of a fictional past. American Indians and members of non-Indian congregations can have wonderful, fruitful discussions about many things, if non-Indians realize that the “legal stuff” must be discussed and understood for authentic and respectful dialogue to begin.

Why start with the “legal stuff?” It is not possible to understand American Indian cultures unless one understands the conditions within which these cultures exist. No culture exists in a vacuum. Cultures are not abstract entities; they are living, evolving organisms. They grow and die. They have no “true form” to which they can be restored. They exist in the realities of the “everyday.” One of the primary aspects of racism against American Indian tribes and people is the romantic notions non-Indians have of them. If American Indians can be seen to be mere backdrops to European manifest destiny or as romantic figures of a bygone era, then non-Indians need not acknowledge the legal commitments made to tribal nations, the genocide of whole peoples, or the material benefits currently enjoyed by non-Indians from possession of stolen lands. The current obsession with “Native Spirituality” is an extension of this racialized view of American Indians. Rather than learning from real American Indians and tribal nations how they exist today, non-Indians want to experience “quaint spiritualities of nature worship,” that never actually existed among American Indians. To be part of an authentic ministry with American Indian peoples, we must learn about and wrestle with the relationship of tribal nations to the United States federal government.

Over the two days we are together, we will address four over-arching topics related to Federal Indian Law: 1) A historical overview of the federal government-tribal nation relationship and the foundations of Federal Indian Law, 2) The evolution of tribal governments, sovereignty, and tribal jurisdiction, 3) Landmark Cases in Federal Indian Law, and 4) Federal Indian Law Issues in Wisconsin, Then and Now. Each session (day) will include an opportunity for deep discussion of the topics presented, in addition to questions of clarification and guided questions for small group reflection. Admittedly, there is way more information to be digested than there is time allotted. My hope is that we cover enough ground for you to feel comfortable continuing these discussions with others in your congregations and with tribal members in your area. As my parish pastor was fond of saying, “You don’t need to know everything before you get started in a ministry, but doing a bit of warm up beforehand is recommended.”

January 12/13 & February 9/10 - Sessions 5 & 6: White privilege/racial justice training. Karen Ressel, Pine Ridge
Reservation. Karen will also share personal stories from her work at Pine Ridge and Africa.



Friday, January 12th Session 1:
Dr. Martin Luther King: “…you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”

Review and check-in on how we understand the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery in light of the past presentations. This session includes discussion of the vocabulary that we hear but may not have a clear understanding of what the words mean. Words like prejudice, stereotype, white fragility, white privilege, etc…

After the break we will learn about and discuss both internal and external racism, the concepts of race and whiteness, historical racial designations and the landmark laws and legislation that helped to create the systems that support white privilege.

Participants were asked to consider the following questions:

  • What is one question you want to discuss before the end of our time together?
  • What are some things you have heard about American Indians that you think/feel are stereotypes?
  • What is one thing about your white privilege you were unaware of? How might you change that?
  • What is something that you learned/heard tonight that you found helpful? Challenging?

Saturday, January 13th Session 2: Helen Keller: “Until the great mass of the people [are] filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”

In response to questions from the participants, a brief overview of the conditions of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were presented and discussed.

Participants were given time to go over the exercise called Unpacking the Invisible Backpack followed by discussion on culturally insensible phrases that perpetuate Native American stereotypes. The way in which our words support the system of white privilege was the key point of this segment of the presentation.

The importance of story in culture and identity is a key element of how we are informed and view the world. We watched the TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story” was viewed, and we talked about our own family stories and considered how those stories inform our identity. The participants were asked to consider what voices are not heard when we tell our stories, including the stories that are held about the formation of our nation and the “White” American Dream.

There is a misconception that many of the injustices endured by Native Americans happened a long time ago and are no longer relevant in contemporary times. We considered together that the Indian Civil Rights Act passed in 1968; the Indian Welfare Act passed in 1978; and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act passed in 1978.

The session ended with discussion on the common stereotypes that were submitted by the participants.

March 9/10 & April 13/14 - Sessions 7 & 8: Field Trips to different reservations in our synod. (Small groups divided by conference clusters.

May 11/12 - Session 9
: Review, Wrap-up and Planning for the future.  Prairie Rose Seminole.



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