A large umbrella group of churches representing more than half a billion Christians worldwide announced Thursday that it would pull all of its investments in fossil fuels, saying it had determined the investments were no longer ethical.
The World Council of Churches, a global coalition of 345 churches, made the decision to no longer fund oil, gas, or coal at its central committee meeting in Geneva, and recommended that its members do the same. “The committee discussed the ethical investment criteria, and considered that the list of sectors in which the WCC does not invest should be extended to include fossil fuels,” read the finance policy committee report.
The WCC’s member churches — which include the 25 million-member Church or England and the 48 million-member Ethiopian Orthadox Tewahedo Church, among others — will not be forced to divest themselves, but advocates say the announcement represents broad support among Christians for action to fight climate change.
“The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves — and that there’s no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels,” Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, said in a statement. “This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further.’”
Though the WCC’s announcement doesn’t require its member churches to divest, its recommendation may give some the push they need. The Church of England, for example, already announced that it was considering redirecting its investments in an effort to battle climate change. The Church of England holds an endowment of more than $9 billion.
The WCC is far from the first religious group to pledge divestment from fossil fuels. In June, New York’s Union Theological Seminary became the first seminary in the world to cut oil, gas and coal investments from its $108.4 million endowment.