LWF encouraged by member church action to review investments in fossil fuel companies

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, addressing the Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans: Photo: ELCA

General Secretary Junge at Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  

(LWI) – Key actions from the recent governing body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) included response to The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) call to its member churches to not invest in fossil fuels, advocacy for peace with justice in the Holy Land, and support towards migrants children and their families. 

At its 8-13 August meeting in New Orleans, United States, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to review its respective social teachings and Corporate Social Responsibility policies and procedures “with the goal of not investing in, and removing the largest fossil fuel companies as identified by Carbon Tracker, and investing in corporations which are taking positive steps toward a sustainable environment.” 

Voting members also called for the church’s benefits and retirement services agency Portico “to evaluate the viability of an optional fossil-free fund for retirement plan participants.”  

Addressing the Assembly prior to the vote, General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge explained LWF’s decision at the June 2015 Council meeting to not invest in companies engaged in or benefiting from fossil fuel-based activities was part of its commitment to climate justice. He said he was “very encouraged” by the “sense of urgency” with which the ELCA had taken up this call.

Responsibility for intergenerational justice 

“We don’t deal with climate change as an issue of abstraction, as an idea, but as an issue that is affecting sisters and brothers to whom we are linked up through communion relationships,” Junge noted, citing countries such as Brazil, Honduras, India, Myanmar and Namibia, often dealing with the reality of flooding and drought. “LWF knows about it. LWF feels about it, because it is touching the lives particularly of those most vulnerable,” he said. 

The general secretary emphasized that tackling climate change is also about taking responsibility for intergenerational justice. This focus became more apparent for the LWF through the advocacy of its all-youth delegation to the United Nations Climate conferences, including the December 2015 COP 21 in Paris, France, he added. 

“We won’t be able to tell our children and youth in the future how much we love and care for them if we are not able to show and share with them at the same time how much we care about creation,” Junge said amid applause. He noted the LWF Communion Office was already working on the Council’s request that the LWF become a carbon-neutral communion by 2050.  

“… with the goal of not investing in, and removing the largest fossil fuel companies as identified by Carbon Tracker, and investing in corporations which are taking positive steps toward a sustainable environment.”
ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Gratitude for ELCA’s support to LWF’s work 

The ELCA’s highest-legislative body also voted in favor of a strategy to advocate for and accompany migrant minors and their families and address the root causes of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle and Mexico region. Junge expressed appreciation for this consideration and thanked the ELCA for its support towards LWF’s humanitarian work with more than 2.3 million refugees in the world.  

The Assembly accepted the “Declaration on the Way” ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. At the heart of the document are 32 “Statements of Agreement” stating where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences, as well as remaining differences. The LWF general secretary said the document can be a helpful step on the way to a global agreement between Lutherans and Catholics on church, ministry and the Eucharist. 

In other actions, the church body endorsed proposals calling for support toward the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and other Christians in sustaining their presence in the Holy Land.  

The ELCA Churchwide Assembly met under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action.” 

(With contributions from ELCA news releases.)