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Church Leaders Bring Fossil Fuel Divestment Closer to Home

The U.S. Episcopal Church divests $380 million from fossil fuels. Credit: Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons.
The U.S. Episcopal Church divests $380 million from fossil fuels. Credit: Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons.
July 13, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas – To combat climate change, U.S. Episcopal Church leaders recently voted to divest $380 million in holdings it has in businesses involved with fossil fuels.

Betsy Blake Bennett, an archdeacon from Nebraska, attended the recent convention in Salt Lake City. She says the next task is to begin conversations in local Episcopal parishes, which control some $4 billion, to consider reinvesting in clean energy.

"Look at our portfolios, see if where our money is matches the gospel values that we preach,” she states. “Life is sacred and creation is sacred, and it's our duty to not let everything die without putting up a fight."

Bennett says plans for talks are already underway in her diocese, but adds others may join in as late as winter during annual parish meetings.

The Christian denomination did not elect to divest its largest holdings – $9 billion in pension funds.

Bennett notes the challenges to dropping fossil fuel investments are not unique to the church. She acknowledges concern about lower returns on portfolios, and potential job losses. But she's hopeful the message from the convention will help parishes focus on the long-term impact.

"Keeping in mind that no one is going to be exempt from this,” she points out. “It's important to kind of look down the road and ask questions about what our community might look like at the end of the century if we don't do anything about climate change."

The Episcopal decision comes on the heels of Pope Francis' recent call for action on climate change.

Earlier this year, the United Methodist Church announced it was taking coal out of its $21 billion portfolio.

The United Church of Christ was the first U.S. denomination to divest, dropping fossil fuels from some $750 million in holdings two years ago.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX