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Christian organisations disinvest from fossil fuels

10 January 2020

Congregations, synods, and dioceses sign Epiphany fossil-fuel declaration

Sophie Phillips

Members of the congregation at Ivybridge Methodist Church, Devon, celebrate their divestment commitment

Members of the congregation at Ivybridge Methodist Church, Devon, celebrate their divestment commitment

TWENTY Christian organisations in the UK, including churches, dioceses, and synods, have agreed to disinvest from fossil fuels as part of the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches.

The declaration was created in November by the Christian campaign group Operation Noah as part of its campaign Bright Now. It encouraged churches across the denominations to combat climate change by disinvesting on the feast of the Epiphany, which fell on Monday.

“This is a powerful action that your church can take to respond to the climate emergency and highlight the need for urgent action,” the organisers said. “Even if your church doesn’t currently hold any fossil-fuel investments — for instance, if it only has a bank account — it can make a powerful statement by pledging not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.”

Eight Church of England churches — St Luke’s, Holloway, in London; Pudsey Parish Church, Leeds; and the six churches of the Alston Moor benefice, in Cumbria, in Newcastle diocese — were among the 20 organisations to respond.

The Vicar of Pudsey, the Revd Richard Dimery, said: “We have decided to divest from fossil fuels because, as Christians, we want to take seriously our response to the climate crisis. As a church, we are trying to improve our environmental responsibility, and this is an action of integrity which speaks clearly to the need to change the way we live, act, and speak about our world.”

A member of the PCC at St Luke’s, Holloway, Sarah Rowe, who brought forward the proposals on disinvestment, said that she had done so “to stand in solidarity with the climate vulnerable around the world, and with young people who are likely to suffer disproportionately. Our hope is that this declaration will inform our actions, our worship, and encourage the whole Church to make a positive difference. Our divestment commitment is an important part of that, and we hope many other churches will join us in going fossil free.”

Revd Richard DimeryThe congregation of Pudsey Parish Church, Leeds

The national investing bodies (NIBs) of the C of E — the Church Commissioners, CBF, and Pensions Board — continue to hold investments of about £120 million of the C of E’s £8-billion in assets in oil and gas companies, including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil. In 2018, the General Synod instructed the NIBs to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies by 2023 unless the latter could prove that they were on the path to tackling climate change (News, 13 July 2018).

The Roman Catholic dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster also joined the Epiphany declaration, becoming the first RC dioceses in England and Wales to disinvest from fossil fuels. The RC Bishop of Middlesbrough, the Rt Revd Terry Drainey, said that the diocese was aware of “people’s concerns for the care of our common home”, and had subjected its investments to “thorough scrutiny”. “The evidence and the urgency of the climate crisis are all around us,” he said.

The United Reformed Church Synod of Wales, South Western Synod, and the URC churches of Lavington, Bideford, in Devon, and Redland Park, Bristol, together with its Northern College in Rusholme, Manchester, also disinvested. In May, the URC Mission Council voted unanimously in favour of selling its investments — worth £2 million — in fossil-fuel companies (News, 17 May).

The five remaining disinvestors were the RC English provinces of the Congregation of Jesus, and the Presentation Sisters; Ivybridge Methodist Church, Devon; Stirling Methodist Church; and Devonport Baptist Church, Plymouth. They join the growing coalition of faith institutions worldwide who have disinvested from fossil fuels in the past five years.

The campaign manager for Bright Now, James Buchanan, said: “It is wonderful news that so many Christian organisations have made the decision to divest from fossil fuels. . . We hope many more churches will join them.”

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