Yesterday a letter was presented at a press conference in support of an overture from the Presbytery of San Francisco calling the entities of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to divest from fossil fuel companies. The letter was written by Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator of the 216th General Assembly (2004) and signed by nine former moderators, including the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow and the Rev. Dr. Susan Andrews who spoke at the press conference. Rev. Reyes-Chow recently blogged about his support of divestment here.
The PC(USA) is not new to divestment as it seeks to shape its financial investment policies around the values of her theology and ethics. In 2014 the denomination rose to national prominence as it voted to divest from companies determined to be perpetuating violence between Israel and Palestine.
Divestment is controversial, perceived by some to be removing the PC(USA)’s voice from the table and by others to be a prophetic statement in support of God’s creation.
At the press conference, the Rev. John Fife, moderator of the 204th General Assembly (1992), said, “Never in the history of this nation, and beyond this nation, has any meaningful social change occurred without making the move from advocacy, protest and education to active non-violent resistance strategies.”
Rev. Fife knows something about prophetic advocacy, protest, and education. In the 1980s Rev. Fife pastored Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, and helped lead a massive Sanctuary Movement in the U.S. as thousands of refugees fled the violence of civil war and death squads in Central America. He was eventually convicted for actively helping refugees cross the border illegally, though he spent no time in jail.
Rev. Fife went on to say that he believes the overture will help move the church into the place of nonviolent resistant to the status quo of consumption, one of the most important ethical issues of our day.
The Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett beautifully described the issue before Committee 9 as “a tale of two approaches”—divest from fossil fuel companies (Item 09-01) or leverage our investments to initiate change and enter a period of discernment and study around divestment as a tool (Item 09-02).
What Greg lifts up is how the tide has moved to the point that few, if anyone, argue against or deny climate change.