United Methodist Church Refuses To Treat Fossil Fuels Like Porn

climate protestThe United Methodist Church voted against divesting fossil fuel investments, and in so doing refused to place the fossil fuel industry on par with that of pornography and alcohol.

The divestment issue has roiled many inside the church. It came to a head during the General Conference 2016, a quarterly hearing of the United Methodist Church’s top-policy makers. The question ultimately came down to which was the best way to influence energy producers to focus efforts on climate change: engagement or purges.

Engagement won the debate, with the pro-divestment crowd losing in a 258-461 vote — the church’s top brass, as a result of the decision, has now agreed oil companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron should not be screened from investments made to support retired clergy members and church employees.

Those opposed to screening out oil investments claimed the church would have better luck reaching companies on the inside rather than from the outside.

“If we divest with companies, The United Methodist Church loses a voice at the table,” Barbara Boigegrain, top executive of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, told delegate members at the meeting.

Boigegrain added if the church approved a fossil fuels screen, then “nine to 15 percent of the investable universe” would be off-limits to the church’s pension fund. The church also screens out potential investments from other industries it considers morally abhorrent, such as private prisons, alcohol, munitions, tobacco and pornography.

Rev. Amy Lippoldt, a Great Plains Conference delegate, told delegates May 3 they should consider engagement to divestment, because “responsible engagement is what the board is asking us to let them do ‚Äì to let them stay at the conversation table until there is no other option.”

Divestment advocates at the church disagreed, arguing the church, were it to divest, would set a good example to other countries hoping to take up some of the measures made during last year’s Paris climate summit.

“Their leaders need clear signals from their constituents that people support a rapid transition … A major global denomination’s commitment to divestment would provide such a signal,” Rev. Jenny Phillips, a coordinator of Fossil Free UMC, said during the conference.

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