Speech to Church of Ireland General Synod 2015

This speech was given at the Church of Ireland Synod debate on the Report of the Representative Body.

I would like to draw your attention to the revised policy statement on Socially Responsible Investment on page 89 which was approved by the RB in March 2015 and published in General Synod 2015 Book of Reports.  I welcome the focus on Environmental, Social and Governance issues.  But I believe it does not go far enough.

At the bottom of p89 the policy states, 
"The RCB actively seeks to avoid investment in business which would be inconsistence with the ethos and mission of a Christian organisation."
The question is, is it ethical to invest in fossil fuels?  

In each of the last three years, of the ten largest equity holdings in the RB General investments fund, five of them where in fossil fuel companies. Should the Church of Ireland continue to invest in energy companies that contribute to the growing threat of climate change?  

This is not just a political issue, it is also a theological one.

In John Stott’s last book, The Radical Disciple, published in 2010 he writes about Creation Care, and on climate change he says,
“Of all the global threats that face our planet, this is the most serious.” “One cannot help but see that our whole planet is in jeopardy. Crisis is not too dramatic a word to use.”
There is a growing movement calling for churches to divest from fossil fuels,

Just five weeks ago 17 Anglican bishops and archbishops from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network published this letter.  They call on Anglicans everywhere to act. Let me quote,
“We call upon political, economic, social and religious leaders in our various constituencies to address the climate change crisis as the most urgent moral issue of our day.”
2015 will be a historic year for climate change.  In December 196 nations will meet at the COP21 Climate Change Summit in Paris to decided how to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Churches can speak and act with a prophetic voice to lead society in change.  

In fact, they already are.  Just a few days ago the Church of England announced they are to divest from fossil fuel energy companies.

Next month Pope Francis will publish an encyclical on climate change and poverty.  At a summit last week in the Vatican the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said,
“[The encyclical] will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience,” 
May I ask, what actions will the Church of Ireland take about climate change in 2015?

On this very day, in this place 6 years ago, in the Presidential address the Archbishop of Armagh and the Most Revd Alan Harper, said about climate change.
"The church can and must exert maximum moral influence within all those societies throughout the world where Christians are to be found."
May I suggest that we act now and speak with a prophetic voice to society in Ireland in 2015. May I humbly ask that the executive committee instructs the RCB to update its ethical investment policy and announce the Church of Ireland is to divest from fossil fuel energy companies that contribute to climate change.

To continue with these investments is not merely greed and folly but it is also something close to sacrilege.


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