UCC environmental work honored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
Written by Emily Schappacher
October 4, 2013
The United Church of Christ will receive a Visionary Award from Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light in recognition for the denomination's environmental efforts and achievements. The award honors the UCC's significant actions toward environmental sustainability, most notably its resolution urging divestment from fossil fuel companies, along with other actions, passed at General Synod 2013, and its Mission 4/1 Earth campaign, the church-wide earth-care initiative held for 50 days this spring.
"The UCC is delighted to be recognized for its work on environmental justice and its resolution regarding fossil fuels," said the Rev. Meighan Pritchard, the UCC's minister for environmental justice. "We continue to focus efforts on how best to help congregations confront the realities of climate change, toxins in our environment, environmental justice, and environmental racism. We are thankful for this honor – may we strive to be worthy of it."
The award will be presented at PA IPL's annual meeting, titled "One Creation, Many Faiths: A Call to Action on Climate Change," Oct. 5 at Colonial Park UCC in Harrisburg, Pa. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations will also receive an award for its Green Sanctuary Certification program and for its resolution calling for a denomination-wide conversation about divesting from fossil fuels passed at its national assembly in July.
"The award recognizes those who have called us all to be more mindful of the moral and ethical consequences of our actions, to protect Creation from the threat of climate change, and to preserve the earth for generations to come," said the Rev. William Thwing, president of the board of directors of PA IPL and pastor of St. Paul's UCC in Johnstown, Pa. "This year, PA IPL will present awards to two church bodies that have demonstrated exemplary leadership by urging their members and others to act boldly to put their values into action."
The resolution to urge divestment, along with other actions, was brought to General Synod 2013 by the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC, and its passage made the denomination the first major religious body in the U.S. to vote to work toward divestment from fossil fuel companies. The resolution calls for enhanced shareholder engagement in fossil fuel companies, an intensive search for fossil-fuel-free investment vehicles, and the identification of "best in class" fossil fuel companies by General Synod 2015, and a plan to divest UCC funds in any fossil fuel company not identified as "best in class" by 2018.
Resolutions calling for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining and for UCC buildings to work toward carbon neutrality were also passed at General Synod 2013.
Hundreds of UCC congregations throughout the country took part in Mission 4/1 Earth from April 1 to May 16. As one church, the UCC generated 613,418 earth-care hours, planted 141,166 trees worldwide, and wrote 52,697 letters of environmental advocacy. Congregations submitted more than 2,000 reports to the UCC national offices documenting their various earth-care efforts – from installing solar panels, to protecting endangered species, to planting community gardens, to conserving water.
"PA IPL applauds [the UCC] for [its] careful discernment and public recognition that addressing climate change is an important part of faithful witness and that many challenging efforts will be necessary to slow emissions significantly," said Thwing.