The Money Conversation You Need to Have at Charge Conference
By The Rev. Jenny Phillips | Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

IDEAS_Divestment_JennyOne of our primary tasks at charge conference is to talk about money and the ways in which we use it to express our values. For example, audited financial records serve as a sort of snapshot of the values of a congregation.

That’s why the Book of Discipline calls us to use this meeting as a time to remind ourselves of The United Methodist Church’s policies and positions on investing. Discipline ¶ 247.20 states, “The charge conference shall promote awareness of and concurrence with policies relative to Socially Responsible Investments (¶ 717), the Social Principles (¶ 160-166), and The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church.” In other words, part of our work is re-reminding ourselves of the values we bring to our financial decision-making, and figuring out how to live into those values.

This year, The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference voted to examine these values in a specific way—by learning about fossil fuel divestment. Institutions worldwide are selling their investments in oil, coal and natural gas. We need to discern whether or not The United Methodist Church should join this movement alongside the United Church of Christ, the World Council of Churches, and other religious groups.

United Methodists worldwide are calling for divestment because we recognize that climate change is undermining the core ministries of the church, including ministry with those who are homeless, hungry, and sick. Climate change contributes to more extreme weather events, causes agricultural conditions that lead to higher food costs, and creates conditions for the spread of deadly diseases. When we invest in fossil fuel companies, our financial success becomes intertwined with the acceleration of climate change and its terrible impacts on the most vulnerable people among us.

The decision to divest is a decision that joins The United Methodist Church’s voice with the global chorus calling our world leaders to take climate change seriously, and to do it immediately. Our planet is at the brink of irreversible changes that will make life for future generations much, much harder. Our decision to stop profiting from the destruction of the planet extends our mission field from the present into the future.

Here are some ways to bring this important conversation to your charge conference:

    • Announce plans to offer a Bible study, sermon series, or intergenerational activity on climate change and fossil fuel divestment.
    • Invite participants to engage in the Fossil Fuel Divestment Role Play. It’s an activity that takes 20-40 minutes and is a great way to learn about the issue.
    • Include an article on climate change and divestment among the documents you distribute.

During your meeting’s prayer time, pray for wisdom as we discern how we can best invest God’s resources to honor God’s creation.

The Rev. Jenny Phillips serves as the Minister for Environmental Stewardship and Advocacy for the PNWUMC.

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