by Colleen Earp
So far, the overture on directing the Board of Pensions and the PC(USA) Foundation to divest from fossil fuels and actively invest in renewable energies is already supported 13 presbyteries! (The overture is currently listed as OVT-006 on pc-biz.org until it is assigned to a committee for General Assembly.) This is a brave and prophetic effort toward having our denomination be a leader in climate justice work. The overture was originated in Hudson River Presbytery, part of the Synod of the Northeast, which has already decided to divest its own holdings from fossil fuel industries.
The twelve concurring presbyteries are spread out all over the United States. Also from the Synod of the Northeast are Boston, Northern New York, and New York City Presbyteries. Northwest Coast, San Francisco, and San Jose Presbyteries bring partnership from the west coast. There is support from the middle of the country in Southeastern Illinois and Heartland Presbyteries. Presbytery de Cristo brings representation from the southwest. And Pittsburgh, Shenandoah, and Mid-Kentucky Presbyteries connect us with the Appalachian Mountains, plateaus, and foothills, a region where the fossil fuel industry has a long history of influence and impact.
Two of the concurring presbyteries, Boston and San Francisco, have served as originating presbyteries for the fossil fuel divestment movement in PC(USA) at previous general assemblies. We are excited to have such wonderful partnership as we seek to do all we can to be good stewards of God’s creation. Rev. Stephanie Sorge Wing of Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois reminds us of the importance of this stewardship work: “[Climate change] is especially impacting the poorest, most vulnerable populations—those who we are consistently charged to care for throughout Scripture.” We are aware of at least ten more presbyteries in the process of concurring with this overture. Will yours be next to join us in this important work?
by Stephanie Sorge Wing
This is what Rev Stephanie Sorge Wing said on the floor of Shenandoah Presbytery before the body voted to concur with the overture to divest from fossil fuels.
25 years ago, 1700 scientists signed onto a paper that issued a clear warning about the many likely dangers of climate change if humans did nothing to curb it. A few weeks ago, an updated paper was released, signed by over 15,000 scientists from around the world. Their “second warning” recognizes that we are in far worse shape today than we were 25 years ago, and global warming poses an existential threat to humanity as we know it.
I understand that this Fossil Free overture to GA is something that Trinity brings every other year to Shenandoah for concurrence, and that it usually fails. The last time this happened was the same meeting when I was examined for membership here. You may remember that I was very nearly about to labor in the bounds of this presbytery on the spot.
Today I have a nearly 2 year old and a four year old. They don’t understand what climate change is yet, but when we drive through the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, my four year old notices the changing landscape. He sees the smokestacks that spew dark smoke, and he sees the giant wind turbines that do not. He sees the beautiful mountains and forests, and he sees the areas where mountains and forest used to be. In a few years, when he and his brother start to learn more about the ways in which fossil fuels hurt our environment, the health of the public, our air, and waterways, and in huge ways, our whole economy, I don’t want to have to tell them that we had a chance to do something in this part of the church and we failed to act.
The danger isn’t years away. It’s happening right now. Right now, the air quality in New Delhi, India is so bad that going outside is the equivalent of smoking more than two packs a day. Right now, victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are continuing to rebuild from extreme storms that are exacerbated by climate change.
Climate change is costing us. It’s costing us billions of dollars. It’s robbing us of places to enjoy God’s creation, and clean air and water that supports ecosystems and our own lives. Climate change is costing health, livelihoods, and lives. It’s especially impacting the poorest, most vulnerable populations - those who we are consistently charged to care for throughout Scripture. Recognizing all of this and more, the Session of Trinity Presbyterian Church requests for Shenandoah Presbytery to offer our concurrence.
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