Scottish Synod takes first step to disinvest from fossil fuels

07 June 2019

Adam Becket reports from the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod in Edinburgh

SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH

The Revd Diana Hall addresses the Synod

The Revd Diana Hall addresses the Synod

THE Scottish Episcopal Church will start to look at disinvesting fully from fossil fuels after its General Synod voted on Thursday to change its ethical investment policy.

The Synod, meeting in Edinburgh, had originally been asked to vote on a motion, proposed by the Church’s investment committee, to update its ethical investment policy “to reflect the use of pooled funds” and “to transfer all or part of the current segregated ethically screened fund to appropriate pooled funds”. A pooled fund is a portfolio of different investments managed by a third party.

This was voted down by members, however, and a new motion was tabled at the last minute by the Rector of St Anne’s, Dunbar, the Revd Diana Hall. It stated that “the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels”.

Ms Hall argued that the Synod could put the Church on a fresh path to be a prophetic voice on ethical investment. She urged that the motion be passed for the “good of our world”.

She said: “My generation, and the generations in this room, are letting young people down. . . If we continue invest in fossil fuels, we actively contribute to climate chaos.”

She was supported by the Revd Dr Jenny Wright, Assistant Curate of Old St Paul’s, Edinburgh, who said that the ethical-investment policy spoke to the world about what kind of Church the Scottish Episcopal Church was. “We cannot be seen to invest in companies that are inconsistent with Christian values,” she said.

Beth Routeledge, a lay member from Glasgow & Galloway diocese, said that, by disinvesting from fossil fuels, the Synod had a chance to provide a “living, prophetic, and radical voice”.

The Revd Liz Baker, Rector of the Highland Perthshire Linked Charge, warned that some people “care more about cash than they do about the Kingdom”.

The opportunity to discuss disinvestment had emerged because the Investment Committee had sought to revise its ethical investment policy, in light of its investments into pooled funds.

The committee’s convener, Adrian Tupper, said that the current policy, which he was proposing to amend for pooled funds, reflected the Church of England’s ethical advisory group — that investment in companies where more than 15 per cent of their income was derived from restricted categories, such as armaments, gambling, tobacco, pornography, and thermal coal and tar sands, would be stopped.

Ms Hall argued that this motion left the Church “in dereliction of its moral duty”, and quoted the climate activist Greta Thunberg, who said: “Our house is on fire.”

The passing of the new motion means that an advisory group will be formed to develop a strategy to enable the Scottish Episcopal Church to completely disinvest from unethical sources of revenue.

Last year, investors in charge of the Church of England’s General Synod instructed those managing its £8-billion funds disinvest from fossil-fuel companies by 2023, unless the companies could prove that they were on the path to tackling climate change. (News, 8 July 2018).

 

The motion in full passed by the Synod reads:

That:-

•the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels and to extend the list of restricted categories for direct investment and pooled funds;

•pending agreement of a revised ethical investment policy,
the current ethical investment policy be retained; and

•there be formed an Ethical Investment Advisory Group to develop a strategy to enable the Scottish Episcopal Church to completely disinvest from unethical sources of revenue.

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