Repost of an email from the Pension Boards of the UCC [Editor: I usually refrain from posting articles from my faith community, the UCC. But this report is an exception – it’s encouraging to hear about interfaith efforts to control gun violence and promote environmentally-friendly projects through responsible investment policies. – R.S.]
Corporate Social Responsibility
FAITH & FINANCE IN ACTION
“…action to change laws, influence corporate behavior, and work together as a society to bring about life-sustaining change is the co-creative call of God in our lives to do much more.”
The Pension Boards, through its Faith and Finance Initiative, investment policies, and discernment around its social justice ministry, has responded to the overwhelming call of acting on the issue of gun violence in our country. The Pension Boards has joined with ecumenical partners in calling for specific action to reduce gun violence and live out our commitment to the UCC’s Three Great Loves initiative by engaging in life-sustaining rather than death-dealing action. An extension of our witness to the corporate world has resulted in bold action described in the article below. We invite your response.
The Pension Boards Adds Gun Screen to Investment Policy
Religious organizations, including the Pension Boards, have called for common sense measures to reduce gun violence without interfering in Second Amendment Constitutional rights of legitimate gun owners for several years, even before the most recent mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. PBUCC, however, decided that more action was necessary.
On August 1, 2018, the Investment Committee of the Pension Boards’ Board of Trustees voted to eliminate direct investment in U.S. companies engaged in the production of small arms ammunition or firearms, including pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, or sub-machine guns, and that derive 10% or more of revenues from sales.
Prior to the vote, on May 9, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee of the Pension Boards voted unanimously to recommend that the Investment Committee consider an appropriate screen, or policy, regarding firearms. Read the full article.
Catalyzing Corporate Change
In the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) newsletter, read about the more than 100 corporate wins ICCR members scored during the 2018 proxy season, demonstrating the environmental/social concerns shared by mainstream investors. ICCR is a coalition of over 300 institutional investors working together to promote more just and sustainable corporate practices. READ MORE
United Church of Canada Sells Fossil Fuel Holdings, Commits $6 Million to Alternative Energy to Save Creation
By Vincent Funaro , August 16, 2015|8:05 am
The United Church of Canada plans to invest nearly $6 million into alternative energy sources that it acquired from selling all of its assets in fossil fuels. The denomination views the move as a bold step toward stewarding the gift of creation.
“Care for creation and concern for the way that climate is impacting the most marginalized populations made this move an act of justice, of faith, and of solidarity with First Nations and other impacted communities,” said Christine Boyle, General Council commissioner of the United Church and a veteran climate advocate, according to the National Advocate.
The church will sell off around $5.9 million in holdings from 200 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies.
The United Church of Canada joins both Pope Francis and the Episcopal Church in their quest to help the environment.
“The vote says that this is a moral issue and that we really have to think about where we are putting our money,” said Betsy Blake Bennett, archdeacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska.
“At a point where we are losing species and where human life itself is threatened by climate change, the Church, by acting on it, is saying that this is a moral issue and something that everyone needs to look at seriously,” added Bennett.
The Episcopal Church’s position echoes that of Francis who released an encyclical dealing with climate change back June. It dealt with how climate change is affecting God’s creation and was supported by over 300 Evangelical leaders.
The 184-page “Laudato Si,” translated in English as “Praise Be to You,” included the pope’s response to these challenges from a spiritual perspective.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents of having created us,” Francis wrote.
“Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
Pope urges revolution to save earth, fix ‘perverse’ economy
By Nicole Winfield, Rachel Zoll and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, June 18th, 2015 @ 9:36am
VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a sweeping environmental manifesto aimed at spurring concrete action, Pope Francis called Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a “structurally perverse” economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”
Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral issue in his eagerly anticipated encyclical, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most.
Citing Scripture, his predecessors and bishops from around the world, the pope urged people of every faith and even no faith to undergo an awakening to save God’s creation for future generations.
The document released Thursday was a stinging indictment of big business and climate doubters alike, meant to encourage courageous changes at U.N. climate negotiations later this year, in domestic politics and in everyday life.
“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress,” he writes. “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.”
Environmental scientists said the first-ever encyclical, or teaching document, on the environment could have a dramatic effect on the climate debate, lending the moral authority of the immensely popular Francis to an issue that has long been cast in purely political, economic or scientific terms.
“This clarion call should guide the world toward a strong and durable universal climate agreement in Paris at the end of this year,” said Christiana Figueres, the U.N.’s top climate official. “Coupled with the economic imperative, the moral imperative leaves no doubt that we must act on climate change now.”
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist, said the encyclical is a “game-changer in making people think about this.”
“It’s not politics anymore,” he said, adding that science is often difficult to understand but that people respond to arguments framed by morality and ethics.
The energy lobby was quick to criticize the encyclical’s anti-fossil fuel message.
“The simple reality is that energy is the essential building block of the modern world,” said Thomas Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research, a conservative free-market group. “The application of affordable energy makes everything we do – food production, manufacturing, health care, transportation, heating and air conditioning – better.”
Francis said he hoped his effort would lead ordinary people in their daily lives and decision-makers at the Paris U.N. climate meetings to a wholesale change of mind and heart, saying “both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” must now be heard.
“This vision of `might is right’ has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all,” he writes. “Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus.”
The encyclical “Laudato Si,” (Praise Be) is 191 pages of pure Francis.
It’s a blunt, readable booklet full of zingers that will make many conservatives and climate doubters squirm, including in the U.S. Congress, where Francis will deliver the first-ever papal address in September. It has already put several U.S. presidential candidates on the hot seat since some Republicans, Catholics among them, doubt the science behind global warming and have said the pope should stay out of the debate.
“I don’t think we should politicize our faith,” U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a Catholic convert, said on the eve of the encyclical’s release. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”
Yet one of Francis’ core points is that there really is no distinction between human beings, their faith and the environment.
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, whose office wrote the first draft of the encyclical, acknowledged that the pope was no expert in science, although he did work as a chemist before entering the seminary. But he said Francis was fully justified in speaking out about an important issue and had consulted widely. He asked if politicians would refrain from talking about science just because they’re not scientific experts.
Francis accepts as fact that the world is getting warmer and that human activity is mostly to blame.
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he writes.
Citing the deforestation of the Amazon, the melting of Arctic glaciers and the deaths of coral reefs, he rebukes “obstructionist” climate doubters who “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.” And he blames politicians for listening more to oil industry interests than Scripture or common sense.
He praises a “less is more” lifestyle, one that shuns air conditioners and gated communities in favor of car pools, recycling and being in close touch with the poor and marginalized. He calls for courageous, radical and farsighted policies to transition the world’s energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable sources, saying mitigation schemes like the buying and selling of carbon credits won’t solve the problem and are just a “ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”
What is needed, he says, is a “bold cultural revolution.”
“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur,” Francis writes.
Some have dismissed the Argentine pope as pushing what they call Latin American-style socialism, but he answered those critics just this week, saying it was not a sign of communism to care for the poor.
Within the church, many conservative Catholics have questioned the pope’s heavy emphasis on the environment and climate change over other issues such as abortion and marriage.
Francis does address abortion and population issues briefly in the encyclical, criticizing those in the environmental movement who show concern for preserving nature but not human lives. The Catholic Church has long been at odds with environmentalists over how much population growth degrades the environment.
John Schellnhuber, the scientist credited with coming up with the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F), says it’s a “myth” that a growing population is responsible for environmental decay.
“It’s not poverty that destroys the environment,” he told the press conference launching the document. “It’s wealth, consumption and waste. And this is reflected in the encyclical.”
Zoll and Borenstein reported from New York. Associated Press writers Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Sweden, and Daniela Petroff in Vatican City contributed to this report.
NYC-area Lutherans resolve to divest from fossil fuels; culmination of efforts begun shortly after last year’s People’s Climate March
June 1, 2015 (New York, NY) – On Friday, March 29, the annual Assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod, one of the most populous geographical divisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), resolved to divest from fossil fuels within five years. The Synod Assembly also voted to ask the national body of the church to do the same at the Churchwide Assembly in 2016.
Reverend John Z. Flack, pastor of Our Savior’s Atonement in Washington Heights, Manhattan, introduced the two resolutions from the floor of the Assembly. One resolution calls on the Metro NY Synod to “cease any new investments in companies whose primary business is the exploration, extraction, production, or refining of coal, oil, or natural gas,” and to “ensure that, within five years, directly held or commingled assets” in such companies “are removed from its portfolio.” The resolution also urges member congregations to follow these steps.
The second resolution calls upon the 2016 Churchwide Assembly “to urge that, by May 1, 2017, all ELCA congregations and independent, cooperative, and related Lutheran organizations and investment corporations” take these same steps to remove fossil-fuel investments from their portfolios.
Both resolutions passed with very little opposition.
The resolutions were the culmination of work begun shortly after the People’s Climate March, a gathering of 400,000 people in New York City last September, calling attention to what many now refer to as the “crisis” of climate change. As Gerard A. Falco, Chair of the Synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, explained, “Lutherans, from our Synod and from across the country, were deeply involved in organizing the People’s Climate March and making it the success it was. The march galvanized public opinion, and our committee decided to build on that momentum to get these divestment resolutions passed.”
About $289,000 of the Synod’s current investment portfolio will be immediately re-allocated in response to the Assembly’s action. Altogether, the Synod’s investments total about $12 million.
With the passage of these resolutions, the Metro NY Synod joins the New England and Oregon Synods – and many other congregations and religious bodies, both in the US and abroad – in divesting from coal, oil, and natural gas companies because of their damaging effects on the climate. This religious divestment movement parallels the strong student-led campaign to divest colleges and universities, and the growing campaign to divest state and municipal pension funds.
Robert Rimbo, Bishop of the Metro NY Synod, said “With this action, our Synod joins the chorus of those who acknowledge that ‘if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.’ This is a fiscally responsible step, but it’s also the right thing to do. As Christians, we are called to care for all Creation. As Luther himself wrote, ‘God is essentially present in all places, even the tiniest tree leaf,’ so ‘to do harm to Creation is also to assault God. And when humans assault God, there is only one outcome, and it is not a good one for humans.’ With these resolutions, we’ve taken a further step in living out our Lutheran vocation.”
The Metropolitan NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America covers the five boroughs of New York City and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. The Synod has approximately 64,000 baptized members in 190 congregations served by about 300 pastors and 100 rostered lay leaders. For more information, visit http://www.mnys.org/. For the texts of the resolutions, go to http://tinyurl.com/MNYS-ELCA-resolutions.