Why the Presbytery of San Francisco divested from Fossil Fuels as an act of Faithfulness: Peace Camp Devotional by Leonard Nielson

This devotional is a part of the June 2020 Presbyterian Peace Camp: A Virtual Week of Learning, Prayer, and Action. Rev. Leonard Nielson is the Associate for Mission and Church Assets in the Presbytery of San Francisco.

In our Constitution, all property including our money “is held in trust for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian church, to be used as a tool for the accomplishment of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world.” 

In the Great Commission, God’s people are tasked with telling the good news to all people, and with teaching people to do the things that Christ has commanded us. 

One thing Christ has commanded us is related in the parable of the talents. That parable has a disturbing aspect to it:  the master entrusts his servants with varying amounts of wealth, but nowhere in the story does the master explicitly tell his servants what to do with it. And yet, they are still called to account for what they did with it. 

The Presbytery of San Francisco was blessed with some money that we decided to invest in the mission of the church. When we set up our investments, there were few high-yield mutual funds which excluded fossil fuels.  And that troubled our conscience. When the issue was raised again last year, we discovered that the investment market had changed.  Strong and credible mutual fund investments which had little or no fossil fuels and far less environmental risks were suddenly available because the market had demanded it. The desire for investing well with greener options had driven the market to create more environmental-justice investing options. 

We divested our  portfolio last year, the first Presbytery to do so, reducing by 95% our fossil fuel related investments.   And one year later, those investments are doing better than those we had owned before. 

You can do the same in your church and in your personal life. Drive the market, create the change that you want to see.  It’s what Jesus is expecting of us.   

Join PPF and Fossil Free PCUSA for a conversation about how to get this conversation and action started in your presbytery. That conversation will take place on August 19 at 8 p.m. ET. Register here.  

If you missed the teach-in about fossil fuel divestment and how it’s related the call to #DefundthePolice, you can watch the recording here