25

Aug

2022

Over 60 UK local churches have now made divestment commitments. Could yours be next?

 

Local churches have long been an integral part of the fossil fuel divestment movement. As church communities align their investments with their values by divesting from fossil fuel companies, they help to remove the social licence of oil, gas and coal companies and encourage other organisations and institutions to follow suit.

While most local churches have no fossil fuel investments, increasing numbers of churches are deciding to make commitments never to invest in fossil fuels in a show of support for the divestment movement and to encourage their dioceses or national Churches to divest. Below, we share experiences from several churches that have joined the movement to stop funding fossil fuels.

All Hallows Church, Leeds joined the Easter Declaration for Fossil Free Churches in 2019 (photo credit: Deirdre Duff)

Engaging your local church on the ethical reasons for divestment

The decision to divest from fossil fuels is one that is founded on a moral and theological basis, and is usually a collective decision taken at a church council (or PCC) meeting. One way to begin to engage your church community on ethical investment is by using the Climate Sunday resources to reflect and pray together as a community about this issue.

Local churches influencing regional and national Church bodies on divestment

Local churches announcing their divestment can also use the opportunity to encourage regional and national Church institutions to make the same decision, by showing support for a fossil free future at a local level. The United Reformed Church Synod of Wales divested from fossil fuels after a resolution was brought by Beulah URC, a local church in Cardiff, which had divested its own fossil fuel investments a few months earlier.

Three local Methodist churches announced their divestment in April 2020 and called on the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to divest its fossil fuel investments, which happened in April 2021 as a result of these and many other efforts from Methodist divestment campaigners.

Similarly, Dunscore Parish Church used its divestment announcement to call on the Church of Scotland to do the same. The Church of Scotland later took significant steps to move away from investing in fossil fuel companies.

Church action on the climate emergency is an area where different generations can come together. One example of this is a campaign by a youth member of the United Reformed Church (URC), Isaac Harvey, whose local church, Vine URC, divested from fossil fuel companies. He made a short film which later influenced the United Reformed Church in its decision to divest from fossil fuels at a national level.

For the Love of Our Planet: Fossil Free Future (Producer and editor: Isaac Harvey)

Collaboration with others and publicising divestment decisions for a wider impact

Joining together in global divestment announcements is a powerful way in which local churches can increase the impact of their decision. Making a divestment commitment and joining with other faith organisations is a practical way of standing in solidarity with those experiencing the most severe impacts of the climate crisis.

When making a divestment commitment, your church can have a wider influence by gaining media coverage. For example, the Church Times reported on the Parish of Whitchurch with Tufton and Litchfield deciding to divest and join the global divestment announcement in May 2021. Its Priest-in-Charge, Revd David Roche, said: ‘Recently, our PCC undertook to make sure that as far as possible the parish was fully divested from fossil fuels, as part of a series of commitments made ahead of COP26. We believe it is vital that the Church takes seriously its role as steward and protector of all God’s creation, especially in this crucial make-or-break decade for climate change.’

Making a divestment commitment is one of a series of important actions a church community can take to respond to the climate emergency, alongside working towards an Eco Church award and other initiatives. Together these actions are a prophetic witness in the world that we can make the necessary changes both on a systemic and individual level.

Revd Clare Dowding, Rector of St Paul’s Marylebone and Area Dean of Marylebone, which joined the global divestment announcement ahead of the Lambeth Conference last month, said: ‘St Paul’s, as a recent recipient of an Eco Church Gold award, is committed to putting creation care at the heart of every aspect of our common life. This includes those few investments we have, which we have and will continue to ensure are supporting our planet rather than fossil fuel companies.’

What does making a divestment commitment involve?

In order to make a divestment commitment, your church would be asked to confirm that they have divested from fossil fuel investments, or will do so as soon as possible and within five years at the latest; or that they do not hold any fossil fuel investments and will not invest in fossil fuel companies in the future.

Even if your church or diocese does not currently hold any investments in fossil fuels, it can send out a strong message by pledging not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.

Steps to divest your local church

  • Speak with other members of your church about the climate crisis and the importance of fossil fuel divestment. First of all, you will need to find out how your church finances are managed – perhaps by asking your minister or church treasurer. Your church may just have a bank account or it may hold investments as well. Either way, your church can commit to divest.
  • Ask your church minister or treasurer if the issue can be discussed at your next church council meeting.
  • If your church makes a commitment to divest (within a five year timeframe), let Operation Noah know and communicate the decision to your investment managers.
  • Join the next global joint divestment announcement for faith organisations in November 2022 to amplify the impact of your commitment. Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org by 25 October 2022 for further information or to register your interest.

Download this resource or visit our Divest your church webpage to learn more about how you can encourage your local church, diocese and the Church of England at a national level to divest.

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