Thanks be to God that many of the resolutions that will come before the 2015 General Synod are getting more and more attention as Synod approaches! I would urge all UCC members (not only Synod delegates) to take time to read Resolution 16, Urging Socially Responsible Investment Practices.
This resolution – submitted by United Church Funds, Inc. and The Pension Boards – urges each body and ministry of the church to recognize that our financial assets are a powerful tool that can and should be leveraged in socially responsible ways (lines 206-209) – and that by doing so, we will make those companies in which we invest better, and thus make our world more just. I support this 100%, and join UCF and PBUCC in urging all churches, ministries and individual UCC members to do so.
Further, I support the call for shareholder advocacy for social justice witness on issues that the UCC has made known in past pronouncements and resolutions of General Synod in ways that are appropriate to each one (lines 212-216). Again, I support this 100%, and join UCF and PBUCC in urging all churches, ministries and individual UCC members to do so.
I strongly support the ministries of UCF and the PBUCC (lines 223-226) and persistently express gratitude for how both institutions strengthen the witness of the UCC. In particular I have been a tireless promoter of the Beyond Fossil Fuel Fund launched by UCF in November 2014. The creation of this fund – which now welcomes investments from other denominations as well as the UCC – represents an important “UCC first” and I promote it as such in my preaching.
I also support (lines 228-234) the need for each individual and ministry to share our social justice witness, including our experiences of socially responsible investing, through regular reporting at General Synods. Whenever we gather as the whole church, it is critical to remind ourselves of our collective witness.
So to summarize, I strongly support 4 of the 6 “be it resolved” calls advanced by Resolution 16, and I would happily and enthusiastically support this resolution if the hearing limits the “be it resolved” to the above 4 sections.
The problems with lines 218-221 have been identified elsewhere. As almost always happens, when delegates review a resolution in a Committee, those delegates make the resolution better. As I have noted above, this resolution has much to commend it. Lines 218-221 go against the spirit of the resolution itself. Instead of celebrating the ways the various settings and ministries of the church can make each other better, lines 218-221 ask Synod to bless the various settings and ministries of the church as we wall off our consciences from one another. I urge the Committee to strike these lines from the resolution.
My concern with lines 236-241 focuses on line 239: the phrase “respect the limitations.” As I noted above, one of the truly great outcomes of the 2013 General Synod was that 16 months after Synod passed the resolution Urging Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies UCF found a way to go “beyond the limitations” of their existing funds. Far from excusing inaction by appealing to their “limitations” (which this language in line 239 of Resolution 16 would support) UCF created a new fund -- the Beyond Fossil Fuel Fund. This groundbreaking effort required UCF to dedicate resources beyond their normal operations. It was UCF’s moral resolve, supported by the vote of the 2013 Synod, that prompted UCF to go beyond their limitations and seek out the $20 million of pledges that were needed to launch a new Beyond Fossil Fuel Fund. And thanks be to God they did!
In the spirit of making each other better, and recognizing that the unique contribution of the UCC throughout history is to push society beyond the perceived limitations that keep us from leading the lives to which God calls us, I would urge the Committee to strike the phrase “respect the limitations” on line 239.
Just as my collaboration with UCF in the run-up to the 2013 Synod made the resolution Urging Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies better, I urge the Committee to take into consideration the concerns I have raised here, and make Resolution 16 better.
For a related blog post by Environmental Justice Intern Patrick Cage, click here.
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...