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Members of St John’s Eco Church group with rector David Hill, second right, and treasurer David Atwood, right.

Members of St John’s eco group with rector David Hill, second right.

Local church signs declaration for fossil-free churches

St John the Evangelist church in St Leonards has given its support to the movement for withdrawing investments from fossil fuel companies, and is a signatory to today’s declaration by like-minded Christian churches calling for a shift out of fossil fuels to clean alternatives. Nick Terdre reports.

Last October the parochial church council of St John the Evangelist in Pevensey Road passed a unanimous motion “not to invest in fossil fuel companies,” the first church in East Sussex to do so.

The news was reported by campaign group Divest East Sussex, to which the rector of St John’s, David Hill, said: “At St John’s we are trying to save the world in both senses.”

In fact St John’s has no direct investments in fossil fuels, Father Hill told HOT, but wished to make a statement of intent to encourage others with greater influence on investments.

An eco group formed of members of the congregation promotes good environmental practice at the church, such as using energy from renewable sources where possible, and improving energy efficiency, he said.

Easter Declaration

The Easter Declaration, released today, states: “As we celebrate the joy of the risen Christ this Easter, we the undersigned wish for our investments to be a sign of hope, contributing to the flourishing of God’s creation, both now and for generations to come.

“We support the campaign for fossil free Churches and, conscious of the impact of climate change on our sisters and brothers around the world – especially those living in poverty – we recognise the urgency of the need to shift from fossil fuels to clean alternatives and ensure a brighter, cleaner future for all.”

The declaration has been organised by the Bright Now campaign for fossil free churches, whose campaign manager James Buchanan told HOT, “’We are delighted that St John’s Church in St Leonards-on-Sea has taken this step, and we hope that many others will join them.

“It is time for all investors concerned about climate change to get out of the problem and get into the solution by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.”

The declaration is signed by eight local churches of various Christian denominations and the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire. “Several Churches have completed full divestment from fossil fuel companies, including Quakers in Britain, the Church of Ireland and the United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland,” Mr Buchanan said.

Millions invested

“However, most UK Churches continue to invest millions of pounds in oil and gas companies such as BP, Shell and ExxonMobil. The Church of England currently has at least £123 million invested in oil companies (according to 2018 figures published in the Financial Times) and the Methodist Church has £55 million invested in oil companies (according to the latest available [2017] figures).”

But both churches have taken steps towards divestment: last summer the CofE General Synod passed a motion in support of divestment from oil and gas companies that have not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement targets by 2023, while in 2017 the Methodist Conference passed a similar motion with a deadline for divestment of 2020.

And the United Reformed Church will be debating divestment from fossil fuels at a national level next month, Mr Buchanan said.

Faith-based organisations account for 28% of the 1045 institutions worldwide which have committed to divesting funds worth $8.7 trillion out of oil, gas and coal companies since 2012, campaign group 350.org reports on its Go Fossil Free site.

Posted 13:45 Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019 In: Campaigns

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