Category Archives: Fossil Fuel Divestment

An Open Letter to the Board of Directors Regarding Their Decision to Continue Investing in the Fossil Fuel Industry

An Open Letter to the Board of Directors

An Open Letter to the Board of Directors

Click image above to read the letter.

Explanation

Dear Friends,

February 13 and February 14 are Global Divestment Days. People around the world – students, church members, outdoor enthusiasts, parents – are participating in activities and events which draw attention to the dangers posed by the continued use of carbon fuels. As you may know, a resolution requesting that the Board of Directors divest of two fossil fuel stocks in the Diocesan Divestment Fund, Exxon and Chevron, passed at the 2013 diocesan convention.  On January 15, 2015, after consideration and polling of invested parishes, the Board of Directors declined to divest.

The Bishop’s Committee for the Environment regrets this decision. The Open Letter to the Board of Directors summarizes its reasons and its determination to continue the conversation. Together as a church we must consider the consequences of climate change for our earth, for its threatened species, and for its poorest people.

The BCE will consider ways to support the growing divestment movement within our church and within our communities.  Please don’t hesitate to join this conversation. Our monthly meetings (2nd Thursday of the month, 6 PM) are open to all.  Phone conference is available for those throughout the Diocese of Olympia.

Faithfully,

Nancy McConnell

Fossil Fuel Divestment Update – Nov. 7, 2014

2013 Diocesan Convention Joins Other Church Bodies in Saying “Yes, Divest!”

Archbishop Desmond TutuIn light of the unfolding crisis of climate change and over two decades of inadequate response from U.S. and world leaders, delegates at the 2013 Convention of the Diocese of Olympia passed a resolution requesting the Board of Directors to divest of direct ownership of stocks issued by the world’s leading fossil fuel companies.

Since November 2013, the Board of Directors has conducted polls to solicit advice from the vestries and bishop’s committees for those congregations invested in the Diocesan Investment Fund.

Though the Board’s decision remains pending, a notable roster of church bodies and other faith institutions have committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry in the meantime.

Notable Divestment Commitments:

  • The World Council of Churches
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
  • The Church of Sweden
  • 6 Dioceses in the Anglican Church of New Zealand
  • 3 Dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia and the Anglican National Super, Australia
  • The United Church of Christ
  • Union Theological Seminary, New York
  • University of Dayton (Catholic university)
  • … and many other religious institutions, not to mention a growing number of cities, colleges, and charitable foundations that are divesting.[1]

Furthermore, in October 2014 both the annual conventions for the Episcopal Dioceses of Nebraska and Western Massachusetts have passed resolutions that call on the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund to divest from fossil fuels and to reinvest a percentage of these funds into clean, renewable energy.

Theologians & Religious Leaders Sign Statement for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Over 80 prominent theologians, ethicists, and religious leaders, including Walter Brueggemann and Abp. Desmond Tutu, have signed a statement that urges faith communities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. [2] An excerpt from this statement follows:

“This industry has used its financial power to prevent legislation and binding agreements to reduce carbon emissions, spending over $400,000 per day to lobby the U.S. government alone. It secures unthinkably large government subsidies – $1.5 billion globally per day, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2013, the industry spent over $60 billion exploring for new fossil fuel reserves, far beyond the $24 billion invested globally in renewable energy. This level of spending dwarfs the resources that can be mobilized by advocates for a sustainable future. […] What must faith communities do? They must divest and reinvest now.”

More about Fossil Fuel Divestment


[1] Other notable commitments include Stanford University (divesting from coal companies) and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. A regularly updated list of organizations that have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels is available at http://gofossilfree.org/commitments.

[2] The full statement and a list of signatories are available online at http://goo.gl/uBHcCN.

BCE Activities

Bishop's Committee for the Environment: Celebrating and Healing God's CreationMembers 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.

Faithfully,

Nancy McConnell

Fossil Fuel Divestment: Diocesan Education Resources Now Available

Greetings from the Bishop’s Committee for the Environment!

In November 2013, the Convention of the Diocese of Olympia approved a resolution supporting divestment from fossil fuels. The resolution asked the Board of Directors to implement a plan within five years to divest from direct ownership of stocks issued by the world’s leading fossil fuel companies. Also, the resolution requested that the Bishop’s Committee for the Environment (BCE) “formulate an educational plan for implementation over the next year [2014] about the issues and questions surrounding the divestment of fossil fuel holdings”.

Thus, on behalf of the BCE, I want to share with our fellow members in the diocese the following education and discussion resources for fostering discussion of fossil fuel divestment among our respective congregations, especially among members of vestries, bishop’s committees, and all to whom responsibility for church governance is entrusted. The resources are available electronically by clicking on this link or on the individual links below.

Educational Resources on Fossil Fuel Divestment

We hope that these education and discussion resources will encourage a spirit of discernment and respectful dialogue as members of congregations across the diocese reflect on our common mission as the Church (e.g.,“to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom”, “to seek to transform unjust structures of society,” “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation”, etc.) while particularly focusing on the unfolding crisis of climate change, the fossil fuel industry’s (and our own) role in this crisis, and what fossil fuel divestment as a response would mean for the Diocese of Olympia (and beyond). Furthermore, we offer these resources to inspire hope and courage in the face of climate change as we seek with you to live out more faithfully our baptism in Christ.

Over the next few months, we look forward to conversations with you about fossil fuel divestment, especially before September when the Board of Directors plans to poll the congregations invested in the Diocesan Investment Fund for a second time. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns or would like to schedule a speaker on fossil fuel divestment, please contact bce@ecww.org.

Faithfully,

Nancy McConnell, Chair

Bishop’s Committee for the Environment