Three Methodist churches divest from fossil fuels


Lancaster Methodist Church, Stroud Methodist Church and Banner Cross Methodist Church in Sheffield have decided to end their investments in fossil fuel companies.

In making this decision, the three churches involved have demonstrated prophetic leadership on the climate crisis. They also called on the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to complete divestment from fossil fuels this year.

The Methodist Church and divestment

Their decision follows the motion passed at Methodist Conference in 2017, which called on the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to divest from any oil and gas companies whose business investment plans are not aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a ‘global temperature rise well below 2°C’ by 2020.

Lancaster Methodist Church said that it would complete the process of fossil fuel divestment within the year. It added that, if the Central Finance Board report to Methodist Conference in 2020 did not pledge to fully divest from fossil fuels, then it would move its funds to an alternative bank or fund manager.

Lancaster Methodist Church (Photo credit: Rude Health 2014)

Stroud Methodist Church stated its intention to move its investments to the fossil free fund due to be launched by Epworth Investment Management in the coming weeks, while Banner Cross Methodist Church in Sheffield is currently exploring its options.

Five Methodist churches have now announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels. In December 2019, Ivybridge Methodist Church in Devon became the first Methodist church in the UK to announce its divestment from fossil fuels. In January, Stirling Methodist Church became the first Methodist church in Scotland to divest as part of the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches.

A Christian response to the climate emergency

The churches involved highlighted the Christian imperative to care for creation and take urgent action in response to the climate emergency, particularly given the warnings of scientists about the drastic consequences we will face without a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Revd Simon Topping, Minister of Stroud Methodist Church, said: ‘Our Church Council is very conscious of the climate emergency we all face and the need for urgent action. We did not feel it was right to be investing in further fossil fuel extraction when the scientists are telling us that we need to be investing in renewable energy now if we are to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. The Church Council members hope their decision will act as a reminder that the earth is sacred because it is created by God and should be cherished and protected by people of faith.’

Revd Steve Charman, Minister of Lancaster Methodist Church said: ‘At Lancaster Methodist Church, we feel that avoiding fossil fuels is an essential step during the climate emergency. As such, divesting our funds from any investments connected with fossil fuels is a Christian imperative.’

Sean Ashton, a member of the Banner Cross Methodist Church leadership team said: ‘We are an Eco Church and we take looking after God’s creation seriously. Most of the known fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if we are to limit warming to 1.5°C, and investing in fossil fuels risks being left with stranded assets. It therefore made perfect sense, both environmentally and financially, to divest from fossil fuels.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager for Operation Noah, said: ‘We are grateful for the prophetic leadership demonstrated by Lancaster Methodist Church, Stroud Methodist Church and Banner Cross Methodist Church. We hope many other local Methodist churches, Circuits, Districts will join them in fully divesting from fossil fuels and urge the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to complete divestment from fossil fuels in 2020.’

Join the Global Divestment Announcement

Together with our friends at the World Council of Churches, the Global Catholic Climate Movement and Green Anglicans, Operation Noah is planning a global divestment announcement for faith organisations on 18 May 2020, to coincide with Laudato Si’ Week.

If you would be interested in getting your local church or Christian organisation to make a divestment commitment and join the global divestment announcement, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org before 12 May 2020 for further information or to register your interest.

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