Churches and Christian institutions divest from fossil fuels
Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth was among 20 UK churches, dioceses, religious orders and Christian institutions to announce their divestment from fossil fuels earlier this month (January)
The UK institutions announcing their divestment as part of the joint announcement include the United Reformed Church Synod of Wales and South Western Synod, the Catholic Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster, two Catholic religious orders and several local Methodist, URC and Church of England churches.
The announcement came on the feast of Epiphany (6 January), and at the start of a vital year for climate action in the UK, with the UN climate talks (COP26) coming to Glasgow in November. Civil society groups are working to build on the momentum of groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Youth Strike for Climate.
They joined the growing ‘Fossil Free’ divestment movement, where faith institutions make up 29 per cent of divesting organisations - the greatest proportion of divestment commitments globally. The global total of assets under management of divesting organisations has now surpassed $12 trillion.
Michael Shaw, minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church said: 'We started the process to become a silver Eco Church in 2017, and we achieved our goal last year. It was a natural next step for us to divest from fossil fuels, so our leadership team made this commitment.
'Unless we are prepared to make significant steps like divestment, then all our other steps will not make a difference. Our hope is that other Baptist churches, associations and Baptists Together, will follow suit.'
The Baptist Union of Great Britain made a decision to divest from coal and tar sands at the Baptist Union Council meeting in March 2019. A sizeable minority wanted immediate disinvestment from all fossil fuel extraction. The proposal that was carried, after some debate, stated that companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction will be excluded unless those companies are considered to be moving significantly to sustainable energy policies. This will be reviewed in two years.
Since then, a number of local churches in the UK have made the decision to fully divest from fossil fuels (including oil and gas, as well as coal and tar sands).
James Buchanan, the Campaign Manager for Bright Now, the campaign run by Operation Noah calling for divestment from fossil fuels, said, ‘It is wonderful news that so many Christian organisations have made the decision to divest from fossil fuels, including the first Catholic dioceses in the UK to divest.
'We hope many more churches will join them in taking this prophetic step out of concern for those most affected by the climate crisis – especially people living in the world’s poorest communities.’