Monday, June 23, 2014

Presbyterian Church (USA) Directs Socially Responsible Investment Committee {MRTI} to Discern and Act on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Press Release                                                                                        June 20, 2014

Presbyterian Church (USA) Directs Socially Responsible Investment Committee {MRTI} to Discern and Act on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Contacts: Robin Blakeman, 304-840-4877; Megan Gregory: 847-287-7794; Pamela McVety: 850-422-1440; Dan Terpstra 865-216-6974; Rev. Rob Mark: 617-680-7013

What:                         After a ninety minute discussion, Presbyterian Church (USA)’s 221st General Assembly has directed its socially responsible investment committee {MRTI} to discern and act on fossil fuel divestment. “The PCUSA’s vote to discern and act on divestment is important,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental group which has advocated fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment by religious institutions, “and must lead to divestment.  After decades of clear evidence about the grave threat posed by climate change and resistance to change by the fossil fuel industry, the time to act has arrived.” This means that the 222nd PCUSA General Assembly – in 2016 - will be further considering fossil fuel divestment. This follows referral of overture # 15-01 to the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee:

When:                         June 20, 2014

Where:                       COBO Center in Detroit, Michigan:

What:                         This biennial meeting brings together commissioners and advisory delegates from 172 presbyteries in the United States, as well as other delegates and observers from around the world. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture was one of the most talked about items up for discussion and debate.

Why:  The Fossil Free PCUSA group, and other supporters of the PCUSA divestment overture are deeply concerned about current and future effects of climate change. We look forward to working with MRTI on this critically urgent issue. Scientific research confirms that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change.  The impacts on agriculture, water, public health, and vulnerability to disasters are severe and will worsen as global temperature rises. In order to limit climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius, we must transition rapidly to renewable energy. This evidence is motivating people of faith in various communities, as well as students at multiple academic institutions, to embark on divestment campaigns. This reality is motivating people of faith in various communities, as well as students at multiple academic institutions, to embark on divestment campaigns.  The campaigns urge the financial agents of their respective organizations to withdraw stock and bond funds from investment accounts which contain fossil fuel company shareholdings. This action would align our investments with our values of Earth stewardship and social justice, and free resources to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.  We also hope that as part of a global movement, divestment by the PC(USA) can help build public awareness and political will to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.   

Sponsoring Groups:  
·         Presbyterians for Earth Care:
·         Presbyterian Peace Fellowship:
·         Presbyterian Eco-Stewards Program:
·         Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns:
·         Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns:
·         Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy:

Text of the PCUSA Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture, and the Motion to Refer to PCUSA MRTI: 

FAQ’s and other information:


This General Assembly is clear that discernment about the crisis of Climate Change must and will be accompanied by action to assure that our investments are fossil fuel free.
-          Rick Ufford-Chase, co-director, Stony Point Conference Center, and Moderator, 216th PCUSA General Assembly  

Our first intention was to affirm and appreciate the work done by 12 Presbyteries, not just 1 or 2, but 12 Presbyteries, to bring this critical issue of climate change before the assembly and encourage us to take action now!
Our second intention recognized how complex this work will be. We fully respect and support the operations of MRTI that have managed our church so well for decades. Therefore, we recommended a commission to work cooperatively with MRTI in developing an action plan, along with a timeline for complete divestment by June 2019
-        Gina Struensee, Ruling Elder Commissioner, Winnebago Presbytery, DCE First Presbyterian Church, Neenah, WI; author of minority report.

The Young Adult Advisory Delegates, of which I was one, voted for a stronger action in a minority report. Clearly, when our church decides to take action, it is powerful and transforming. We are not always quick to act. We don’t have much time for engaging in shareholder actions or activism. It’s time for PCUSA to speak with a strong, prophetic voice to break the gridlock on this issue so that we might finally be able to create positive change. Now is the time for bold, transforming action. Just think where we might be in a decade.
-          Ben Terpstra, Young Adult Advisory Delegate, East Tennessee

The Arkansas Presbytery voted for full discussion of this overture and is fully behind this grassroots movement. At Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center, we have the world’s first LEED Platinum certified building, and participants at the camp and conference center are taught about renewable energy sources and energy efficiency; we also have “Solar under the Sun” learning opportunities. We, in Arkansas, also have extreme fluctuations in weather over the past two years which concern us a great deal, and we have environmental problems related to fossil fuel extraction and shipping.
-          Mary Beth Lysobey, Ruling Elder Commissioner, Arkansas Presbytery

As a young person seeking to be faithful to God’s call to care for the Earth and love my neighbors, I want to give my tithes to a church that will use them to “serve and keep” the Creation (Genesis 2:15). By divesting from fossil fuels, and RE-investing in renewable energy, the PC(USA) can strengthen the global movement to mitigate climate change and protect the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable sisters and brothers.
-          Megan M. Gregory, Deacon, First Presbyterian Church, Ithaca (NY) , Overture 15-01 Advocate  

My spouse and I just had our first child. We named him Rowen after the Scottish Mountain Ash tree which is now threatened by a changing climate.  Climate change is frightening. And as a new parent, I want to do all I can to help make the future a less scary for all who come after us. Our son just recently discovered he has hands, and that they are connected to his body, and that he has some agency over them. Our Reformed faith reminds us of the same truth that, like our son, we sometimes don't realize that in God's grace, we have some agency to make real changes to the ways we have always done things in order to make our world less scary for future generations. It is my deepest hope and prayer that we as a denomination will "remember our hands" and make a clear commitment to divest over the next 5 years from fossil fuels. In so doing we do not lose our voice at all, but in fact make a powerful moral statement to our world that we as a church refuse to profit from that which threatens the very future of our planet. We have a wonderful way to shepherd this commitment through our MRTI and I am excited about how we can honor their incredible legacy of prophetic stewardship while making a clear commitment to divest. 
 Rev. Rob Mark, Teaching Elder, Church of the Covenant, Boston Presbytery, Eco-Stewards Program Coordinator

As the church we serve as the moral conscience of the nation.  To divest means we are making a prophetic statement our country needs to hear.
Rev. Paul Henschen, Ellendale, N.D., Overture 15-01 Advocate.

Presbyterians agreed to take on the issue of fossil fuel divestment today. Although no dead line for complete divestment was established most believe that the church will honor the world wide goal of five years for complete divestment of its over $200 million dollars, which may be the largest fossil fuel divestment to date  by any entity. 
 Pam McVety, Overture 15-01 Advocate, Scientist and Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida

The IPCC reports are increasingly urgent: humanity must disentangle ourselves from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy. Ethically, we cannot profit from earth’s destruction.
Rev. Dr. Patricia K. Tull, A.B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary

It is important that the church pay attention to the excesses of our society and the ways in which we do damage to creation and to our own future. The crisis we face calls for prompt action, and this divestment is a gesture in the right direction.
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

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