Friday, November 6, 2015
Montreal Anglicans Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels
The Anglican Diocese of Montreal is working on ways to sell off, or “divest,” shares and other investments in coal, oil and gas companies from the diocesan investment portfolio.
The move comes following a resolution made at the annual synod of the diocese, attended by almost 160 active clergy and lay delegates in mid-October.
The diocese is made up of around 10,000 Anglicans in over 80 parishes in southwestern Quebec, including Montreal Island, Laval, the Laurentians, the South Shore and part of the Eastern Townships, along with nearby areas.
The majority of delegates who favoured the resolution in a show-of-hands vote was obviously overwhelming and Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, in the chair, did not ask for a count. A few delegates, however, questioned whether delegates were sufficiently well informed and suggested the matter be left to investment experts.
But comment on the resolution was largely in support.
“The continued use of fossil fuels threatens humanity,” Richard Matthews, rector's warden at St. Phillip’s Church in Montreal West and a member of the diocesan stewardship of the environment committee, told delegates. He said the resolution will also “send a message to young people about the relevance of Anglicanism.”
Raymond Noël, a parishioner of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Mark in Dorval, said the diocese has little to worry about when it comes to the financial impact of divestment and in fact there are data that show that shares of fossil fuel companies are a risky investment and even suggest that investors who divest from them do better than others.
“There is a wealth of scientific date proving the veracity of climate change and indicating that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause.”
Backers of the resolution argued that fossil fuel divestment would actualize basic Anglican principles calling on Anglicans to be good stewards of God’s creation.
The Rev. Sophie Rolland, rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Pointe Claire, said sin is not always individual. The resolution helps to show “how we participate in communal sins as well.”
“This is an example of how we can be Christ in the world,” said the Rev. Alain Brosseau of the downtown Church of St. John the Evangelist.”
The Rev. Elizabeth Welch of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Mark said the resolution indicates that “a different life, a different world, is possible.”
The resolution urges the diocesan finance committee “to take, in a timely manner, all reasonable measures in its power” to divest from shares in lists of 100 coal companies and 100 gas and oil companies identified by a U.S. firm known as Fossil Fuel Indexes.
Delegates were told that the diocese does have holdings in such companies but diocesan staff could not provide details right away. Investments of the diocese are largely through a mutual fund called the Anglican Balanced Fund, managed by an investment firm. It was expected to take some time to cross-check the holdings of the fund against the lists of the Fossil Fuel Indexes and report back to a diocesan council on a detailed divestment policy.
The diocese has for years had a policy of not investing in companies involved in armaments, tobacco, gambling, alcohol or pornography.