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PC(USA): Divest and Reinvest

December 10, 2015

On Tuesday, I delivered an impassioned plea for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join the movement to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy. An overture to this effect was adopted by my local church council in September and sent on to the Hudson River Presbytery. The Presbytery, with near unanimity, voted to recommend the overture for consideration by the General Assembly next summer.


I’m Jeff Geary, the pastor of the White Plains Presbyterian Church and it is the council of the church I serve that commends this overture to you.

I’ve been thinking about our theme for the day – smell, and I couldn’t help but think about the powerful smell of gasoline. You know it; you’ve had it on your hands; on your clothes; its hard to get rid of – fossil fuel is a part of every one of our lives.

But by the time my son is my age – he is nine right now – by the time my son is my age that smell will have to be largely a memory. And if there is a habitable planet for any possible grandchild I might have, this smell of gasoline must be almost unknown to them.

In the past year, more than 2,000 individuals and nearly 500 institutions have withdraw investment from coal, oil, and gas companies in order to tackle the extractive industries that are killing our planet. To date these withdrawn funds amount to over 3.4 trillion dollars, making those same funds available instead for much needed investment in clean energy and renewable resources. Prior to the COP21 Climate Talk taking place in Paris right now, Christina Figueres of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change has said that “Investing at scale in clean, efficient power offers one of the clearest, no regret choices ever presented to human progress.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment has a simple logic: If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then its wrong to profit from that wreckage. No change will EVER happen if fossil fuel companies continue to have the support for doing the same thing they’ve done for generations. Divestment will not solve our climate problems, but we must use the power we have to stop investing in dangerous sources of energy and, instead, invest in clean efficient power.

When this opportunity came before our church council, our clerk-elect said it was a no-brainer – because she has two little boys. I think about the young girl in our congregation who has been calling her four grandparents every day for the last week because they live in the city of Chennai, India, currently experiencing historic, climate driven, flooding. I think of the family from the Middle East whose home may be an uninhabitable desert by the end of the century. I think of the family that lives across the street and participate in worship and are in this country because it is not safe for them to raise their daughters amidst the violent petro-politics of Nigeria.

The congregation I serve is a GreenFaith congregation, which means we have committed ourselves to doing everything we can to resist the burning of our planet so that these children have a future. Last week Pope Francis named the climate path we are on, suicide. The agreement taking shape in Paris right now is going to fall short of what is necessary. It takes small steps when a leap is necessary. I urge you to join this social movement and pass this overture on to the General Assembly.


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