Decision Would Further United Methodist Pension Board’s Divestment of Coal, Announced in January 2015
In honor of Global Divestment Day 2015, Fossil Free UMC, a United Methodist climate change movement, calls on the United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to screen investments in petroleum and natural gas companies.
On January 22, 2015, the Board announced a ground-breaking decision to be the first religious pension fund in the United States to screen coal from its investments. “Creating a coal investment screen is more than an act of fiduciary duty. It’s an expression of The United Methodist Church’s core values,” says Rev. Jenny Phillips, coordinator of Fossil Free UMC. “As a denomination, we can’t continue to say we’re against climate change while saying we’re for fossil fuel profits.”
“The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is taking the first step in acknowledging that investing in fossil fuels undermines The United Methodist Church’s ministries with the most vulnerable among us,” says Rev. Phillips. “Our denomination is on the front lines of climate change mitigation and recovery efforts worldwide. It doesn’t make sense for our pensions and ministries to depend on the flourishing of the companies that are wreaking this havoc.”
With $21 billion in assets, The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is the largest church pension fund in the United States. “The pension fund still has hundreds of millions of dollars invested in petroleum and natural gas. Pension leaders argue that their shareholder advocacy can improve the practices of fossil fuel companies,” according to Rev. Phillips. “But staying at the table with these companies isn’t going to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The task at hand isn’t like asking Nike to stop making shoes in sweatshops. It’s like asking Nike to stop making shoes.”
Fossil Free UMC is a movement of United Methodists who want to add coal, petroleum and natural gas to the list of United Methodist socially responsible investment screens. In 2014, Fossil Free UMC supported successful legislation calling for the study of fossil fuel divestment in the Baltimore-Washington, California-Nevada, Pacific Northwest, and Virginia annual conferences. Now Fossil Free UMC is working with leaders throughout the denomination to support legislation adding coal, petroleum and natural gas to the entire denomination’s investment screens. The legislation will be considered at General Conference 2016, to be held May 10-20 in Portland, OR. To learn more, contact Rev. Jenny Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.fossilfreeumc.org.