Drawing from Matthew 6: 21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also,” ten Presbyterian moderators are endorsing the call for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest its resources from all fossil fuel investments in national church endowments and pension funds
While meeting this week in Portland, Ore., the 222nd General Assembly of the PCUSA will debate several proposals concerning the issue of fossil fuel divestment including the proposal to divest from fossil fuel companies, an alternative to that proposal and a report on Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies from the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee.
“Stewardship of creation is about as Presbyterian as you can get, said the Rev. Susan Andrews, moderator of the 215th General Assembly. “We must cease to profit from the destruction of creation. Presbyterians can bring an important voice to the urgent effort to reduce carbon emissions and to abate the impact climate change while we still can. Because of all of the jobs provided by this industry, the vote to divest from fossil fuels is a difficult decision in the Presbyterian family, a test of our faith in a creator God.”
The nine moderators of past PCUSA assemblies plus the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC), an ecumenical observer at the assembly, wrote a letter to the GA commissioners asking them to approve the divestment overture from San Francisco Presbytery calling it a “critically important decision.”
- Harriet Nelson, moderator, 196th General Assembly
- Benjamin Weir, moderator, 198th General Assembly
- John Fife, moderator, 204th General Assembly
- Robert W. Bohl, moderator, 206th General Assembly
- Jack Rogers, moderator, 213th General Assembly
- Fahed Abu-Akel, moderator, 214th General Assembly
- Susan Andrews, moderator, 215th General Assembly
- Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator, 216th General Assembly
- Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator 218th General Assembly
- Marta Muñoz, moderator of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia
“Because of the grave and urgent threat of climate change and the fossil fuel sector’s well-documented and unyielding refusal to change, it is no longer morally or ethically right for the PCUSA to profit from companies that are creating ecological destruction and human suffering on such a monumental scale,” the declares the letter from the moderators.
It continues that the denomination “must continue to press for climate change legislation, to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints. These actions are already PCUSA policy, but they are not enough. We urge the PCUSA to divest from our holdings of fossil fuels.”
The entire letter reads:
Re: Where Your Treasure Is…
Thank you as teaching and ruling elders for taking the time to serve on our highest governing body, the 222nd General Assembly. You are in our prayers as you discern the will of God and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the PCUSA on all the issues before this Assembly.
The purpose of our letter is to ask you to support and approve the overture On PCUSA Fossil Fuel Divestment–From the Presbytery of San Francisco (09-01). We are writing to summarize the moral basis for this critically important decision.
In the past, our Church has decided that profiting from certain economic activities is incompatible with our faith. When an industry continually, over years, causes enormous harm while resisting calls for change, we have moved beyond education, engagement and advocacy to divestment. The PCUSA has taken this approach with tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and pornography along with for-profit prisons industries.
Because of the grave and urgent threat of climate change and the fossil fuel sector’s well-documented and unyielding refusal to change, it is no longer morally or ethically right for the PCUSA to profit from companies that are creating ecological destruction and human suffering on such a monumental scale.
Climate change degrades all of God’s creation. It disproportionately impacts those living in poverty and in the least developed countries; the elderly and children; and those least responsible for the emissions of greenhouse gases.
The fossil fuel industry has known about these impacts, from its own research, since the late 1970’s. In response, it has used its enormous political and financial power to fund the climate skeptic movement, to prevent climate change legislation from passage in the US Congress through its lobbying efforts, and continues to receive billions in government subsidies while spending billions searching for new sources of fossil fuels that we can’t afford to burn. This is not an industry that is demonstrating an intention to change at anything approaching the scale needed to create a livable future.
PCUSA must continue to press for climate change legislation, to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints. These actions are already PCUSA policy, but they are not enough. We urge the PCUSA to divest from our holdings of fossil fuels.
We are aware that many of our members are themselves caught up in the fossil fuel industry. We have jobs there, we have financial investments there, we support our congregations with dollars that are not green, and we ourselves are complicit in the use of fossil fuels every single day. Our practice of confessing our sin with one another is the first step toward meaningful change. We have seen the church offer a witness that is both prophetic and pastoral in similar circumstances. We can take the lead in extending a moral call to imagine a different future, while simultaneously working to develop communities of faith that explore the practical use of alternative energy.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also” (Matthew 6:21). Because we believe in a just and loving Creator, and God’s creation is at critical risk, we urge you to be a prophetic assembly by supporting and voting in favor of divestment.