Magazine article The Christian Century

Faith Communities Divest from Holdings in Fossil Fuel Industry

Magazine article The Christian Century

Faith Communities Divest from Holdings in Fossil Fuel Industry

Article excerpt

Worried about global warming, a growing number of churches and other faith groups are divesting their holdings in fossil fuel companies that release large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"The warning in scripture that 'the wages of sin is death' could not be more literally true than it is in the case of fossil fuels," said Serene Jones, president of New York's Union Theological Seminary, whose board voted earlier this summer to divest its $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuel companies.

"While we realize that our endowment alone will hardly cause the fossil fuel giants to miss even half a heartbeat, as a seminary dedicated to social justice we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God's creation we simply must act."

Jones talks about her seminary's divestment from fossil fuel holdings as an act of repentance that may resonate well beyond the school.

"It is on moral grounds that we pursue divestment, and on theological grounds that we trust it matters," she said. "The Christian term for this reckless hope in the power of God to use our decisions of conscience to transform the world is resurrection, and I have faith in the power of resurrection."

Other religious institutions that have recently voted to divest from fossil fuels include the World Council of Churches (July 10), the Unitarian Universalists (June 28), and the United Church of Christ (July 2013). Many smaller and regional groups--such as the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Shalom Center, and the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--have also approved fossil fuel divestment.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in June voted to study the issue.

Motivating these moves among the faithful is the concern that their investments ally them with companies identified as among the most damaging to the environment.

Many religious supporters of fossil fuel divestment were further spurred by the National Climate Assessment, a federal report written with the help of 300 experts and the National Academy of Sciences. It concluded that climate change is proceeding at a faster pace than previously thought. …

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