Members of the Bishop’s Committee for the Environment (BCE) have been busy during the past few months initiating conversations about divestment. As you know, delegates at 2013 diocesan convention passed a resolution asking the Board of Directors to develop a plan over five years to divest of direct ownership of stocks issued by the world’s leading fossil fuel companies. The resolution also instructed the BCE to “formulate an educational plan for implementation over the next year about the issues and questions surrounding the divestment of fossil fuel holdings”. Our educational plan is conversation, as we share information and ideas about divestment with individual and churches throughout the diocese.
I’m often asked, “Why divestment?” My answer is that divestment is one way to address the challenge of climate change. Climate change threatens the sanctity of God’s creation; the BCE’s mission is to heal and celebrate creation. But I would also like to emphasize that divestment is NOT the only way that the BCE works to address climate change. Here’s a brief list of the other actions that the BCE has taken on climate change.
- Since 2010 the BCE has awarded 29 Green Grants of about $500 each to churches in our diocese. The grants have resulted in over $130,000 in improvements to church facilities. These projects have saved energy and money while shrinking the churches’ carbon footprint.
- The BCE has offered workshops and coaching in the use of Portfolio Manager for Houses of Worship, the EPA’s carbon calculator. A group of ten churches, working together, have reduced their energy use and kept about 390 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere.
- The BCE encourages churches to start environmental justice and faith ministries. Eleven congregations are “Greening Congregations” with Earth Ministry. Two congregations have been certified by Green Faith and several are beginning the process.
- Although the BCE is deeply committed to the Genesis Covenant, the pledge made by the Episcopal Church to reduce energy use at all facilities it owns by 50% within 10 years (2019), it recognizes that goal is difficult to achieve in the Northwest where most energy is generated by hydro and other renewable sources. So we were eager to develop a carbon offset partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Philippines (EDSP). Bishop Rickel signed the agreement with Bishop Bustamante of the EDSP in February 2012. To date the EDSP has raised from seed and planted over 5000 trees which sequester carbon, combat deforestation, and provide income for rural churches and farmers. Individuals and churches in the Diocese of Olympia have donated over $12,000, offsetting about 750 metric tons of carbon each year.
So divestment is just one of the strategies the BCE uses to combat climate change. But divestment is an essential strategy. We all know that old saying: “Show me your checkbook and I’ll show you what you value”. The investments in the Diocesan Investment Fund show the world what our faith teaches about caring for creation.