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The UCC to divest fossil fuels stocks. Should the Episcopal Church?

The UCC to divest fossil fuels stocks. Should the Episcopal Church?

The United Church of Christ has decided to divest itself of fossil fuels stocks or else retain those that meet certain standards.

The New York Times reports:

The United Church of Christ has become the first American religious body to vote to divest its pension funds and investments from fossil fuel companies because of climate change concerns. The Protestant denomination, which traces its origins to the Pilgrims in 1620 and has about 1.1 million members, voted on Monday to divest in stages over the next five years. But it left open the possibility of keeping some investments if the fossil fuel companies meet certain standards. The Rev. Jim Antal, who is president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ and who helped lead the divestment campaign, said it was motivated by the climate change campaign, which is also urging colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Nurya Love Parish asks on the blog churchwork if the time has come for the Episcopal Church to follow suit.

I thought that was an excellent question, and I didn’t know the answer, so I started poking around the internet. I discovered just enough to make me think that a roundup of resources was in order.

Here’s what I found:

GreenFaith has a new program called Divest and Reinvest, and just recorded an hour-long webinar on June 20 introducing it. Their Executive Director, the Rev. Fletcher Harper, is on Twitter.

The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts is definitely considering divestment; its trustees have published a statement about their reasons and process.

According to this article, the Diocese of Massachusetts is also being pushed to consider divesting.

The Rev. Bob Massie, an Episcopal priest, is a leader in the fossil fuel divestment movement and brings the lessons he learned as a leader of the South Africa divestment movement. I can’t tell from Google whether the Episcopal Church has called on him, but Google has its limits.

The University of the South (Sewanee), an Episcopal college, has a divestment movement on campus.

The Episcopal Church already has the Episcopal Climate Justice Network which would logically be part of a conversation about divestment. That conversation would also likely need to include the Episcopal Ecological Network and other Eco-Justice ministries.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention Resolution B023 passed in 2012. It states that

The 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church, to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy beyond and away from fossil fuels (including all forms of oil, coal, and natural gas) and toward safe, sustainable, renewable, community controlled energy…

What do you think? Is this a sensible strategy to address climate change?


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If investment in fossil fuels is so immoral that the Church must divest from them, it seems to follow that the Church ought to also demand that it, corporately, and its members, individually, stop supporting the industry by buying its products. Until the day that ECUSA is ready to ditch the internal combustion engine (including all goods transported by trucks, trains, and planes that consume fossil fuels), heating oil, electricity generated by such fuels, etc., that this is simply one more feel-good proposal that accomplishes little.

Bill Dilworth

Eric Bonetti

Work to promote renewables and other forms of non-fossil fuels? Absolutely.

Divest our existing portfolio and invest in technologies that are, in most cases, not financially viable, at a time when TEC already is under financial pressure? Catastrophic mistake.

Donna Hicks

Doesn’t corporate engagement precede divestment? And if so, how long, how many years, might that take? And does TEC have clear policy to move towards divestment? And would TEC leadership support such a move?

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