First Church UU divesting from fossil fuels

July 18, 2014
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First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist (UU) is taking steps to completely divest itself from fossil fuel stocks.

“It’s a moral statement. That’s what we’re trying to make,” Church trustee James Michel said. “We see ourselves as part of, hopefully, a rapidly growing movement.”

“The idea of divestment is simply to weaken political power of the fossil fuel industry, which we think is way too great at this point,” Michel said.

The church has an endowment of about $500,000. Roughly 5 percent of that, or $25,000, is in fossil fuel stocks, Michel said.

Michel told the Gazette that the Trustee Board voted unanimously last month to remove all the church’s investments from fossil fuels. The resolution calls for immediate divestment of individual fossil fuel stocks, prohibits the purchase of new fossil fuel stocks, and mandates that other, more complex holdings, such as mutual funds, be divested within three years.

“We will do some analysis of our mutual fund holdings for presence of egregious stocks and make decisions to stay or not in that mutual fund,” Michel said.

According to a release Michel shared with the Gazette, First Church is part of a growing national divestment movement, which includes other Massachusetts Unitarian Universalist Congregations and other faith communities such as United Church of Christ, which has decided to divest nationally, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of over 300 churches that represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, also endorsed fossil fuel divestment this month.

First Church’s trustees have been discussing the move since last fall, Michel said.

“The main concern was, from the investors’ point of view, one always wants a balanced portfolio, that our portfolio would perform poorly if we left that part of [the portfolio] diversity. After research, we decided that would not have a major negative impact” and so decided to divest, Michel said. “We decided to move the proceeds from the individual fossil fuel stocks that we are liquidating into a Socially Responsible Investment fund.”

First Church is located at 6 Eliot St. in Monument Square. Its website is firstchurchjp.org.

First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist at 6 Eliot St. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist at 6 Eliot St. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)