By Roy L Hales
“We have sinned,” the President of America’s most prominent seminary wrote in Time Magazine. She was not referring to a sex scandal or embezzlement, but rather the Union Theological Seminary’s stock portfolio. In the past, many mainstream churches have spoken against Climate Change in the past. Now they are divesting themselves of fossil fuel investments.
In 2013, The United Church of Christ became the first US denomination to renounce fossil fuels.
A dozen US religious institutions – Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Quakers – have now taken the plunge.
Last week the World Council of Churches (WCC), which announced its decision last week.
“There was an explicit wish at the Finance Committee to include fossil fuels as one of the sectors where the WCC will not invest in, based on decisions to divest from fossil fuels taken by member churches in different parts of the world,” explained Guillermo Kerber, who co-ordinates the organization’s work on Care for Creation and Climate Justice.
“This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further,’” purred Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org.
His praise was premature. The WCC has taken a stand, but this is not endorsed by all of its members.
As you will see in the video below, there has been a debate within the Anglican church. While everyone agrees that Climate Change is the greatets challenge of our generation, some believe the church would be more useful as a shareholder that exerts a influence on the fossil fuel industry.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), argued that it is time for the church to separate from itself and lists some churches that have already divested themselves of fossil fuel investments.
“We already have the technology we need to keep us under the two degree temperature rise, we just need policy and targeted finance to help deploy it,” Figueres said.
One of the best known Anglicans is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has called for an anti-apartheid style boycott and disinvestment campaign.
Some Anglican churches in Australia and New Zealand have also taken a lead.
Pope Francis made it clear that he regards “exploiting the earth” as “a sin.”
He has also said, “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation.”
However the leader of our planet’s 1.2 billion Catholics has yet to voice any indication of whether these beliefs will influence his church’s investments.
(Image at top of page: Inside Canterbury Cathedral – Courtesy Robyn Cox, CC by SA, 2.0)