The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is the latest of dozens of various religious institutions and churches that have divested their interests in fossil fuel companies. Among these is the World Council of Churches, which represents 150 million Christians worldwide. The Catholic Church, however, is not a member of the WCC. The Lutheran World Federation brings together 72 million members, who have been called upon by church authorities to likewise divest from fossil fuel holdings. This came just days after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Sii,” which largely blamed human activity for global climate change and environmental degradation.
In a June 22 statement, the Lutheran World Federation says that the move to divest is part of a “long-standing commitment to climate justice.” The LWF Council also called on member churches "not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise."
"Through this decision, we seek coherence and wish to send a strong moral signal that the world needs to operate a transformational change towards a low-carbon economy, phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energies by the middle of this century. We are encouraged that the Council has made the decision not to invest in fossil fuels and this puts action behind our commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050," the LWF statement declared.
Rev. Martin Junge, who serves as LWF General Secretary, said "It is an important milestone and we trust as a faith-based community we are making our own contribution within our one human family to address the challenge of climate change affecting our one common household." He said that the LWF and the WCC are joined a “broad global movement,” which is backed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "As a Lutheran Communion, we understand climate change as an issue of justice, peace, care for creation and protection for all peoples everywhere. We raise a special concern for the most vulnerable, in particular the poor, the indigenous people, and the voiceless."
Ellie Roberts, who serves as divestment campaigner in the United Kingdom for Operation Noah, commented about the LWF declaration, saying "With this commitment, the Lutheran World Federation has joined hundreds of fossil free churches worldwide, acting prophetically in the face of the climate crisis by moving their money away from fossil fuels. Representing 72 million Christians in 98 countries - and coming as Pope Francis calls on the world to unite in tackling climate change - we hope this decision will inspire other churches to divest as a matter of faith."
Speaking on behalf of GreenFaith, an interfaith environmentalist advocacy group, Rev. Fletcher Harper applauded the LWF for having long “empowered the world's most vulnerable communities to fight poverty and to work for better lives. In recent years, they've seen that climate change, and its droughts, heat, and destructive weather cycles, erases the progress made. They've decided that it's not right to profit from the industry that's behind climate change, and we salute that choice."
Earlier this year, both the Church of Sweden and the Church of England announced plans to divest their holdings in fossil fuels, such as coal. In April 2015, the national investment bodies (NIBs) of the Church of England announced a £12-million disinvestment from the extraction of thermal coal and petroleum from oil tar sands. The Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board said it not directly invest in any company that derives more than ten per cent of its revenues from the extraction of the abovementioned fossil fuels. Existing shares were sold. The NIBs also threaten to divest from companies who "are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy." Following the C of E announcement, Christine Allen of Christian Aid responded, "The Church of England has effectively read the last rites to the coal and tar sands industry," adding, "The message must be heard loud and clear: they have no place in a sustainable future, and, ultimately, other fossil fuels don't, either.