Rejoice! The World Council of Christians, an international group of 345 churches, has voted to divest from fossil fuels. Given that the WCC is compromised of nearly 600 million churchgoers around the world, that means that a lot less of that money Christians put in their offering plates on Sunday mornings will wind up in the hands of oil tycoons.
Technically, none of the affiliated churches will be forced to change how they invest their money. Instead, the decision is a recommendation for the churches to pull their existing investments from nonrenewable energy sources. Binding or not, it’s encouraging news to see that churches representing over half a billion people around the world have agreed that is important to stop giving money to companies that aggravate climate change.
The WCC labeled its decision an “ethical” matter. That’s refreshing news, particularly for Americans who have recently witnessed corporations use religious beliefs as a way to avoid covering employees’ birth control. From a morality standpoint, it would hopefully be at least equally as compelling for Christians to ensure they aren’t giving money to corporations that actively destroy the planet.
Notably, there seems to have been a religious resurgence in caring about global warming. Although, particularly in the United States, religious people are often viewed as conservatives and conservatives are considered anti-environment, this generalization does not always hold up. Believing that God created the earth, many churchgoers think that protecting the planet is an important part of their faith.
Although the Catholic Church is not affiliated with the WCC, Pope Francis has also recently instructed his followers to start taking climate change more seriously. “Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” he said. “Safeguard Creation. Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!”
Care2 has been following the stories of colleges and universities that have made the leap toward fossil fuel divestment, but the WCC, due to its size, is probably the biggest victory for the green movement yet. “The World Council of Churches may be the most important commitment we’ve received yet,” said Tim Ratcliffe of 350.org.
Though the WCC appears to be the largest religious organization to announce divestment, it is certainly not the first. Already this year, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Union Theological Seminary in New York have announced plans to redirect money from their massive endowments.