Mainline churches divesting themselves of fossil fuel investments

“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, and now they are divesting themselves of fossil fuel investments.

Power in Prayer – Courtesy Leland Francisco via Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

In 2013, The United Church of Christ became the first US denomination to renounce fossil fuels, and a dozen US religious institutions – Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Quakers – have now taken the plunge.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) which announced its divestment 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

Vatican Window – Courtesy Derek Kay via Flickr (CC by SA, 2.0)

His praise was premature, as the WCC has taken a stand, but this is not endorsed by all of its members.

There has been a debate within the Anglican church. While everyone agrees that Climate Change is the greatest 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.

Top photo credit: Inside Canterbury Cathedral – Courtesy Robyn Cox via Flickr CC by SA, 2.0

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