Written by Barb Powell
In anticipation of a larger church-wide discussion on climate change, officers of the United Church of Christ today (June 27) released an open letter advocating that the UCC’s resources not be invested in fossil fuel companies.
The letter –– addressed to delegates arriving in Long Beach, Calif., for the denomination’s 29th General Synod –– was distributed to church leaders ahead of a resolution coming before the Synod urging divestment from fossil fuel companies.
“We believe that God is calling the United Church of Christ to become the leading religious voice on climate change and environmental racism and, as officers of the church, this public leadership requires us to state our conviction that our church’s resources not be invested in fossil fuel companies,” the letter stated.
But the letter also acknowledged that divestment is but one strategy among many for applying economic leverage, and that worldwide dialogue must ensue, particularly with the global south, where the impact of climate change is greatest.
The UCC’s officers also committed to facilitating church-wide conversations on the environment, engaging with global partners on various environmental issues, encouraging positive investments in renewable energy, and resourcing the church on issues of environmental racism. They called for aggressive shareholder action, including “green fund” investment options across the life of the church.
The resolution to be addressed by delegates to the UCC’s General Synod, meeting June 29-July 2 at the Long Beach Convention Center, is sponsored by the UCC’s Massachusetts, Southwest, New York, and Central Atlantic Conferences. The General Synod is the main deliberative body of the United Church of Christ.
Here is the entire text of the open letter sent by the UCC’s officers to delegates to the denomination’s 29th General Synod:
“Grace to you, and peace, from our Savior Jesus Christ!
“We are keenly aware of the conversations occurring throughout our church regarding how best to move forward boldly and responsibly on the critical issues of climate change and environmental justice which are before you. As your officers, we want to be responsive to the needs of the whole church including those who faithfully advocate for decisive action to save the earth from a disastrous future and those whose investments might be affected by a call for divestment from fossil fuel companies.
“We believe that God is calling the United Church of Christ to become the leading religious voice on climate change and environmental racism and, as officers of the church, this public leadership requires us to state our conviction that our church’s resources not be invested in fossil fuel companies. We state this position not as those who claim to possess all wisdom, but in humble recognition of the complexity of the issues before us. Humility demands that we recognize, among other things:
“* The fiduciary responsibility to invest workers’ pensions in a prudent manner, as well as the assets of churches and faith-based organizations.
“* Divestment is only one strategy for applying economic leverage. Positive investment and corporate engagement are also viable strategies.
“* The global south is most impacted by climate change, and we have not had dialogue with our global partners on fossil fuel divestment.
“Recognition of complexity does not negate the calling of the Stillspeaking God to decisive action. Scripture says that creation itself longs to be set free from decay (Romans 8:21); we must respond to that longing in light of current realities. Accordingly, we call for a multi-pronged approach to the environmental crisis upon us:
“1. Building upon the momentum of Mission 4/1 Earth, we commit to facilitating church-wide conversations on the environment and faithful, decisive actions to protect it.
“2. We commit to engagement with our global partners on a variety of environmental issues, including climate change.
“3. We call for shared decision-making across the life of the church on positive investments in renewable energies and the removal of investments from fossil fuel companies.
“4. We will resource the church on issues of environmental racism and lead the way in advocacy.
“5. We call for aggressive shareholder action to ensure that corporations operate in environmentally responsible ways.
“6. We call for “green fund” investment options so that each of us, across the life of the church, can be called to thoughtful and informed decision-making about how our personal and institutional resources are invested.
“Roy Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, said recently in Cleveland, “Climate change is a serious and complex problem that society may not be able to fix and will just have to deal with.” As officers of the United Church of Christ, we respond by saying that climate change is a serious and complex problem that God calls the church and all humanity to address boldly and faithfully.
“We fully trust that God’s Vision will prevail as we work together as the UNITED Church of Christ toward a just and sustainable world as made manifest in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President
Mr. W. Mark Clark, Associate General Minister
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries
The Rev. James Moos, Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries”