Welcome to St. Louis! I have been a resident of this intriguing and complicated city for the last two and a half years and I am also an active member of the Presbytery of Giddings- Lovejoy – your host presbytery this week. I am speaking to you today as the Overture Advocate for Overture 08-01 which calls for denominational divestment from fossil fuel companies. I also speak as the former Moderator of the 215th General Assembly.
I have four grandsons – Declan (5), Raymond (4), Quinn (3), and Elijah (1). According to earth scientists when these little boys are my age, the sea level will have risen 6 inches – immersing large parts of the Florida Peninsula, and coastal areas around Long island and Norfolk – not to mention Pacific islands where some of the poorest people in the world live. All because of global warming, caused in large part by the insatiable hunger of North Americans for fossil fuels. And that doesn’t even describe the severe weather patterns, droughts, floods, and life- threatening diseases caused by carbon pollution. This is not the world I want to live in – or that I want to bequeath to my grandsons. I believe that to perpetuate this desecration of God’s glorious creation is nothing short of blasphemy.
Two years ago, the General Assembly asked MRTI to create a process of corporate engagement that would measure and judge the efforts being made to control fossil fuel emissions made by companies holding PCUSA investments funds – all as a way of encouraging these companies to do the right thing. And MRTI has faithfully and competently carried out that General Assembly mandate.
And yet progress has been incremental even as the devastation of global warming escalates - destroying lives, crops, islands, animals, and environmental health. There is an urgency to this issue that must be met with decisive and prophetic action. A multi-year process of corporate engagement is not an adequate response to this sense of urgency. I believe that divesting from fossil fuel companies – and then reinvesting funds in renewable energy companies – will more boldly proclaim to our communities and our families that abundant life for all God’s creatures is our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I have been a proud Presbyterian for 69 years, and have cherished the prophetic witness that our denomination has made over the years related to global and justice issues. But, today, it is hard for me to be proud – when we continue to invest our sacred money in companies that are helping to destroy the earth. The Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalists, the Church of England, the United Church of Christ, the Lutheran World Federation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the City of San Francisco, and 30 other religious, educational, and municipal organizations – have all divested from fossil fuel companies. By continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry I believe that we in the Presbyterian Church USA are on the wrong side of history.
It was at the last General Assembly that I learned about the Pax Global Environmental Markets Fund – the option now open to all Presbyterians with Retirement Savings Accounts. I immediately went home and transferred all my Retirement Savings through the Board of Pensions into that environmental fund. The returns on those investments have been equal to or greater than they would have been in other funds, but the financial bottom line was not my main motivation. I want to make sure that the values I cherish – including creation care for the earth - are reflected in the decisions I make about my hard- earned money.
Last year, my husband, Sim, made an even braver decision. When his mother died several years ago he inherited some of her family’s Chevron stock – a legacy passed down by generations of Kentucky Arterburns. For a while, he held onto the stocks for sentimental and legacy reasons. But then he realized that money is not the legacy he wants to leave to Declan and Ray and Quinn and Elijah. He wants to leave a legacy of beauty and justice and financial integrity. So Sim sold all his Chevron stock at a considerable loss, and has reinvested it in companies that uphold the values of life that we both hold dear.
In the Genesis creation story, Adam and Eve are shaped and called forth to keep and to till the earth. And in Genesis 9, God promises never again to destroy the earth through flood or environmental disaster. Friends in Christ, as heirs of that covenant promise, we are called to do the same.
For the love of God, for the love of the earth, for the love of grandchildren and generations to come, I urge the Commissioners of the 223rd General Assembly to vote in favor of Overture 08-01.
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