The Assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod, a large division of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voted last week to divest the church from its fossil fuel holdings, church leaders said Monday.
Only about $289,000 of the synod's $12 million portfolio will be immediately reallocated, but the church voted to refrain from any future investment in fossil fuel companies and is petitioning the national church to do the same. The divestment vote comes amid growing pressure from environmental groups to "strand" fossil-fuel assets as well as growing concern among religious organizations over the effects of global warming.
"We don't know what the national church is going to do but I think they will be paying attention to the fact that at least three synods have voted to divest," said Gerard Falco, chairman of the New York Synod's environmental stewardship committee. A synod is akin to a diocese, and the New York Metropolitan Synod encompasses roughly 200 churches in the region with about 64,000 congregants.
Synods in New England and Oregon have taken similar divestment votes. Local church leaders said they will make a push next year for the national Lutheran assembly to drop fossil fuels as well.
The trend toward environmentalism among religious groups has made news in recent months.
Pope Francis is expected to deliver an "encyclical," a papal letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic church, this summer and some Catholic groups have begun mobilizing in advance.
"[Environmental stewardship] is a firm belief for Christianity and the Lutheran catechism," Falco said. "We shouldn't be profiting from something that's destroying."
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