The UMC’s First Fossil Free Fund + A New Road Ahead

By Rev. Jenny Phillips

The United Methodist Church has a fossil free investment fund! Wespath announced today that the Equities Social Values Plus Fund is fossil free as of April 1. This is a huge step in acknowledging the deep desire of United Methodists across the connection to to align the church’s investments with the creation care values expressed in the Social Principles.

Wespath created this fund in response to the call of annual conferences across multiple jurisdictions for the denomination to add fossil fuels to its socially responsible investing guidelines. This fund is an important opportunity for those annual conferences that have already committed to fossil fuel divestment, as well as those that will divest from fossil fuels in the coming years. Wespath notes that it "is exploring offering a complementary fixed income (bond) fund with similar exclusions."

Rev. Jenny Phillips demonstrates for fossil fuel divestment at General Conference 2016.

Rev. Jenny Phillips demonstrates for fossil fuel divestment at General Conference 2016.

The movement that prompted this historic action is a movement of United Methodists who care deeply about the climate crisis and are called to transform the systems that bind us to a fossil fuel economy. They are active in their local churches and communities and have discerned that their faith requires them not only to repent for their personal complicity with climate change, but also to do all in their power to hasten the transition to a low-carbon future. They are women and men of all ages from across the United Methodist connection, some who have been activists and advocates for years, and others for whom this was their first foray into the public conversation on climate. These people are brave and creative and wise. I’m honored to have worked alongside some of them, spent hours on the phone and email with many of them, and am humbled to acknowledge that there are many who have participated in this work who I may never know.

Marie Kuch-Stanovsky advocates for fossil fuel divestment at General Conference 2016. Photo by UMNS.

Marie Kuch-Stanovsky advocates for fossil fuel divestment at General Conference 2016. Photo by UMNS.

The announcement of this new fund comes as Fossil Free UMC begins the next phase of its good work. I am stepping back from my role coordinating this work, and am delighted to share that Marie Kuch-Stanovsky is the new Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC. Marie has been an ardent advocate for fossil fuel divestment in the church, developing smart strategy and design, and advocating for our legislation at multiple levels, including in her role as Pacific Northwest Conference lay delegate to General Conference. Marie is in the process of gathering input and cultivating support to cast a vision for Fossil Free UMC’s next chapter of advocacy. I hope you will support the work by making a donation to build this movement.

As Marie continues the Fossil Free UMC movement, I will carry our values as I grow into a new role. Last summer, the Western Jurisdiction elected me to the board of Wespath. Having been an external critic of this agency for nearly three years, it has been a been a humbling experience to become a part of it. It can’t have been easy for the staff and incumbent board members to welcome me into the room, but I have been received with remarkable grace. I am grateful for the chance to amplify your voices in investment discussions even as I open myself to hearing and understanding perspectives different from my own.

Thank you, dear ones, for constantly inspiring and challenging me. You are in my prayers as you carry on this good work. I can’t wait to see what you do next!