Fossil Fuel Divestment Press Conference

Sunday, June 19, 2016

4:00 P.M. PT

Oregon Convention Center Exhibit Hall Booth 109-111

On Sunday June 19, 2016, ten moderators of the Presbyterian Church will endorse the proposal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest itself of all fossil fuel investments in the national church endowments and pension funds. Part of a growing international movement to abate climate change, the proposal will be voted on later in the week by the commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly (PC(USA), meeting in Portland. The epistle from the moderators is printed below.

Led by Rev. Susan Andrews, Moderator of the 215th Presbyterian General Assembly, the moderators will reflect on the passage from Matthew 6: 21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.” According to Andrews, “Stewardship of creation is about as Presbyterian as you can get. We must cease to profit from the destruction of creation. Presbyterians can bring an important voice to the urgent effort to reduce carbon emissions and to abate the impact climate change while we still can. Because of all of the jobs provided by this industry, the vote to divest from fossil fuels is a difficult decision in the Presbyterian family, a test of our faith in a creator God.”    

The ten moderators include nine moderators of past General Assemblies of the PC(USA) and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC), an ecumenical observer at the assembly.

They are:

            Harriet Nelson, Moderator, 196th General Assembly
            Benjamin Weir, Moderator, 198th General Assembly
            John Fife, Moderator, 204th General Assembly
            Robert W. Bohl, Moderator, 206th General Assembly
           Jack Rogers, Moderator, 213th General Assembly
            Fahed Abu-Akel, Moderator, 214th General Assembly
            Susan Andrews, Moderator, 215th General Assembly
            Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator, 216th General Assembly
            Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator 218th General Assembly
            Marta Muñoz, Moderator of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia

Thirty presbyteries from all regions of the nation endorsed the overture calling for fossil fuel divestment. The environmental organization Fossil Free PC(USA) has worked to educate Presbyterians on the issue and to support the divestment action. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), a peacemaking group, studied the impact of climate change on the future of war and violence. In 2015, PPF voted to divest its endowment of the top 200 fossil fuel extraction companies and is also working to support the fossil fuel divestment proposal before the 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA).   

 

The Epistle from the Moderators:

From:   Harriet Nelson, Moderator, 196th General Assembly
            Benjamin Weir, Moderator, 198th General Assembly
            John Fife, Moderator, 204th General Assembly
            Robert W. Bohl, Moderator, 206th General Assembly
            Jack Rogers, Moderator, 213th General Assembly
            Fahed Abu-Akel, Moderator, 214th General Assembly
            Susan Andrews, Moderator, 215th General Assembly
            Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator, 216th General Assembly
            Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator 218th General Assembly
            Marta Muñoz, Moderator of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia

To:       Commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly

Re:      Where Your Treasure Is…

Thank you as teaching and ruling elders for taking the time to serve on our highest governing body, the 222nd General Assembly. You are in our prayers as you discern the will of God and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the PC(USA) on all the issues before this Assembly.

The purpose of our letter is to ask you to support and approve the overture On PC(USA) Fossil Fuel Divestment–From the Presbytery of San Francisco (09-01).  We are writing to summarize the moral basis for this critically important decision.

In the past, our Church has decided that profiting from certain economic activities is incompatible with our faith. When an industry continually, over years, causes enormous harm while resisting calls for change, we have moved beyond education, engagement and advocacy to divestment. The PC(USA) has taken this approach with tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and pornography along with for-profit prisons industries.

Because of the grave and urgent threat of climate change and the fossil fuel sector’s well-documented and unyielding refusal to change, it is no longer morally or ethically right for the PC(USA) to profit from companies that are creating ecological destruction and human suffering on such a monumental scale.

Climate change degrades all of God’s creation.  It disproportionately impacts those living in poverty and in the least developed countries; the elderly and children; and those least responsible for the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The fossil fuel industry has known about these impacts, from its own research, since the late 1970’s.  In response, it has used its enormous political and financial power to fund the climate skeptic movement, to prevent climate change legislation from passage in the US Congress through its lobbying efforts, and continues to receive billions in government subsidies while spending billions searching for new sources of fossil fuels that we can't afford to burn. This is not an industry that is demonstrating an intention to change at anything approaching the scale needed to create a livable future. 

PC(USA) must continue to press for climate change legislation, to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints. These actions are already PC(USA) policy, but they are not enough. We urge the PC(USA) to divest from our holdings of fossil fuels.

We are aware that many of our members are themselves caught up in the fossil fuel industry. We have jobs there, we have financial investments there, we support our congregations with dollars that are not green, and we ourselves are complicit in the use of fossil fuels every single day. Our practice of confessing our sin with one another is the first step toward meaningful change. We have seen the church offer a witness that is both prophetic and pastoral in similar circumstances. We can take the lead in extending a moral call to imagine a different future, while simultaneously working to develop communities of faith that explore the practical use of alternative energy.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also” (Matthew 6:21). Because we believe in a just and loving Creator, and God’s creation is at critical risk, we urge you to be a prophetic assembly by supporting and voting in favor of divestment.

We remain faithfully yours in the service of Jesus Christ.

Who We Are: Founded in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) is a nationwide community of Presbyterians committed to active nonviolence. PPF is a place to live our faith and the biblical mandate from the prophet Isaiah to “beat your swords into plowshares and learn war no more.” Be Bold! Nonviolence Works.  

 

CONTACT:

Rick Ufford-Chase, Co-Moderator, PPF

rickuffordchase@gmail.com

 

Emily Brewer, Co-Director, PPF

emily@presbypeacefellowship.org

865-804-1706

 

Abby Mohaupt, Fossil Free PC(USA)

awmohaupt@gmail.com

815-985-8325

 

fossilfreepcusa.org

presbypeacefellowship.org