Any clues as to what’s the relationship between the City of Victoria, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Anglican Church of Ottawa?Although very different in nature, these are three Canadian institutions that have taken up the call to divest by pulling their investment funds away from the coal, oil and gas industries.
Divestment will not the end of the climate problem, by any means. But in the past it has been a proven pursuit that contributed to meaningful change. Backed up by churches, divestment strategies were used to expose the segregation of black people through apartheid in South Africa; they were also used to create broader public awareness about the harmful effects of the tobacco industry. In short, the call to divest is a boycott of sorts that chips away the social and moral license of fossil fuel companies to continue to operate in the way they have been. According to former Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu the math is simple: “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.” (The ethics of reaping interests or profits from where one has not sown requires a whole other discussion!)
Just as it did in the past, today’s divestment movement is also sending an important message through the public megaphone. In fact, according to 350.org and its Fossil Free campaign just in the past months more than 100 organizations have made new commitments to divest from the fossil fuel industry. This adds up to what are now more than 500 universities, cities, municipalities, pension funds, and religious organizations around the world who have committed to divest over $3.4 trillion.
Thankfully churches and faith institutions worldwide are the largest players advancing this movement, with over 27% of the total divestment pie. Among others, these include The Episcopal Church in the USA, The Church of Sweden, The Church of England, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, but also dozens of dozens of other ‘small’ parishes and congregations that are contributing their own grain of sand.
Here in Canada change is slower but is also taking root, with 12 churches and 3 denominations leading the way. (Kudos to our Vancouver-friend Christine Boyle from Fossil Free Faith who is standing behind this project, moving the entire United Church of Canada to divest.)
All this to say that – albeit it’s limitations (and those of the Wall-streetified financial system) – at Earthkeepers we believe that divestment is both a moral duty and also a possibility for churches in this part of the Salish Sea we now call Vancouver. On the one hand it send ripples of awareness to society at large, and by doing so it exposes the rude and bullish behavior of most fossil fuel corporations. But most importantly, divestment also allows churches to be more faithful to their calling. Instead of reaping from an industry that is wrecking the planet, it allows churches to put their money where their mouth is and become a better example of what it can look like to bring God’s love to bear on all of life.
Contact us if your congregation wants to pursue a conversation and begin to take steps towards divestment. We’re glad to assist and walk with your church to do so.
Image borrowed from Fossil Free’s Facebook page.