Resolution on Natural World Investment Screen

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Resolution in support of an investment screen expressing United Methodist Social Principles on The Natural World.

Passed by the 2014 California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Whereas unintended consequences deriving from attempted directives to divest from certain industries for social purposes include the possibility of legal liability for the violation of trust agreements, and

Whereas the United Methodist Church has had a strong and historic positive experience guiding investment decisions by adopting screens within its investment policy that state principled objectives rather than “picking stocks”, and

Whereas the Social Principles are organized into sections (The Natural World (160), The Nurturing Community (161), The Social Community (162), The Economic Community (163), The Political Community (164), The World Community (165)) and the first of them, The Natural Community has heretofore not been represented within the United Methodist system of investment screens, and

Whereas the desire to reflect our social principles in investment applies not only to General Agency funds, but also to Annual Conference Foundations and other endowments, United Methodist institutions and local churches,

Therefore Be it Resolved that the California Nevada Annual Conference Committee on Advocacy and Justice, Conference Board of Pensions, and Council on Finance and Administration convene a consultative process with the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to explore an investment screen which would guide United Methodists’ investment decisions specifically related to The Natural World (¶160) section of the Social Principles, and

Be It Further Resolved that the goal of the consultative process be a progress report at the 2015 California Nevada Annual Conference Session and the timely submission of General Conference legislation for the denomination as a whole.

 

Find out more about  efforts by United Methodists around the country to divest from fossil fuels at the Fossil Free UMC website or Fossil Free UMC FaceBook Page.

Resting Up after Annual Conference

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I’m still resting up after last week’s trip to Burlingame for the 2014 California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  I took three of my grandchildren with me.  They attended the Annual Conference youth program during the day, and we spent time together at night.

Alex and Malina, both ten years old, were recognized by Bishop Warner Brown for raising money, rolling coins, and bringing it forward in a big jar for the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, which provides nets for children in Africa. Alex spoke to the group (about 1000 people) and answered the Bishop’s question of why he had worked on this. Alex said (to great applause), “There’s no difference. They’re just like us.” The Bishop gave them each a big hug. Malina said later, “He was proud of us.”

I had drafted two of the resolutions that conference attendees worked on during the day.  The first, “A Call to Stop Drone Killings,” passed on the Consent Calendar with no debate.

The second, “Go Fossil Free,” was a call to our United Methodist Board of Pensions to divest from fossil fuel companies as a response to climate change.  It passed in the preliminary voting Section with a two-thirds favorable vote.  It would probably have passed on the floor of Annual Conference, but with much debate.  After brainstorming with colleagues, another approach came to mind.  A substitute resolution was drafted: “Resolution in support of an investment screen expressing United Methodist Social Principles on The Natural World.”  Instead of urging the Board of Pensions to divest from oil, coal, and gas companies on a company-by-company basis, this substitute resolution engages several of our Conference Boards in a collaborative effort with the Board of Pensions to establish an across-the-board screen that would accomplish the same thing.  I spoke in favor of the substitute, and it passed with no debate.   The resolution also calls for a report to be made at next year’s Annual Conference and “the timely submission of General Conference legislation for the denomination as a whole.”

I’ll be posting each of these resolutions here within the next couple of days, along with the rationale behind each of them.  I’ll also write more about the process of changing the fossil fuels divestment resolution to a resolution on establishing an investment screen.

Other important resolutions also were passed, including “No More Deportations,” “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” “Healthcare for All,” “Truth in Imports from Palestine/Israel,” “Prison Reform:  Ending Mass Incarceration.”  We also passed a “Resolution on Conflicting Mandates,” which prioritizes our denomination’s principles of inclusion above exclusionary and discriminatory statements related to GLTB people.  Our Annual Conference is strongly inclusive, and this resolutions is a reflection of that inclusiveness.

Good work, and fun times with the kids.  And now that I’m home…  more rest.

My Response to Doublespeak on Environmental Issues

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

There is currently a debate among environmental activists about how to frame issues of concern.  Do we use language that will be acceptable to as many people as possible, in order to build bridges with Tea Party members and other conservatives?  Or do we speak directly to the heart of the problem of climate change and destruction of the earth, including identifying the necessity of transforming worldviews, lifestyles, and the system that is wreaking havoc all over the earth?

Clearly, I’m in favor of the latter.  I see no point in holding back, hoping that by moderating our message people who are on the other side of these issues will get on board.  It’s time to speak truth to power, expose falsehoods and denial, and pull out all the stops.  It’s time to take strong and courageous stands for the earth community and for future generations.

Today I wrote a response to a Letter to the Editor in my hometown newspaper, the Grass Valley Union.   The original letter included doublespeak commonly used by ultra-conservatives to denigrate environmental issues and concern for the common good.    Here is my response:

“James Butler’s March 14th letter about the suction dredge mining ban included examples of doublespeak, or  “language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.”   Mr. Butler may not realize it, but here are the misrepresentations:

“Agenda 21 can’t “dictate” anything.  It is a non-binding set of principles developed through the United Nations in a participatory process .  The guidelines are completely voluntary and unenforceable.

“The idea that our local government is “forcing UN socialist ideas down our throats under the guise of protecting the environment” is ludicrous.  Many locals want to protect the environment and rural quality of Nevada County.  The United Nations is not “socialist,” but includes countries with capitalist, socialist, and mixed economies.  Calling “sustainability” and “common good” buzz words doesn’t take away their actual meanings, which are positive.

“Our democracy faces many very real challenges, including the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the pending “McCutcheon” decision, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is binding and would give secret tribunals power  to overturn our democratically enacted laws.  These are bad for sustainability, bad for the common good, bad for democracy.

“Confusion, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation are the last things we need.”

I have written more extensively on the issue in a previous blog posting called Agenda 21 vs. the TPP.  

Hope for Transformation

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As 2013 ends and 2014 begins, I carry hope in my heart for transformation, not just personal, but social.  The phrase “another world is possible” is, for me, a matter of faith.

There are many children in my life.  I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who live nearby.  I teach Sunday School.  What will the world look like when these beautiful children grow up?  I am invested in their future.

What do we tell our children about the great environmental dangers and social injustices that we face–about climate change, about war and violence, about foreclosures and unemployment and lack of health insurance, about cutbacks to services for the poor and tax cuts for the rich, about corporate domination of the political process?  How do we explain our inability to create a society that sustains life?  How do we equip them for the great challenges they will face?  Not by putting our heads in the sand, or focusing solely on our personal lives, or pretending that there is nothing we can do.  Rather, we can cultivate hope and set an example by taking part in actions that are transformative, both personally and socially.

This is a spiritual issue, for the ruling powers dominate through money and violence, and none of us are immune.  To the degree that we internalize the values of our culture and bow to the system of domination, we further the sickness of our age.  As we awaken to the extremity of our situation and realize that the system of domination itself needs transforming, we either succumb to futility and despair or find the inner resources that enable us to cultivate hope.

This is, in itself, an opportunity for personal transformation.  As we are transformed, we become agents of transformation, joining with others to create beautiful and compassionate alternatives that demonstrate the better world that is possible.  By taking hopeful actions, we become more hopeful, and make the world a more hopeful place.

For the sake of the children.  For the sake of the future.

A Call for Climate Justice

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Yeb Sano, fasting for climate justice.

People around the world have responded swiftly and generously to the devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever recorded.  In the wake of this disaster, it is important for us to go beyond simple relief efforts.  We must heed the warnings of climate scientists who point to present disasters and future dangers, including sea level rise and increasingly deadly storms linked to climate change.

In November, 2013, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, leaders from more than 190 nations met in Warsaw, Poland, for the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations (the 19th Conference of the Parties, or COP 19).  Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator from the Philippines, broke down in tears, made a powerful and emotional appeal for bold action, and pledged to fast for the duration of the talks unless commissioners come to a substantial agreement addressing climate change.

Many people around the world have joined him in fasting.  An interfaith group in Warsaw has joined the fast, stating that, “As we engage in COP19, it reminds us to relate the negotiations with our responsibility as a believer. We cannot live in isolation, but we must care for each other. As a principle of equity, we fast and reduce because we can for others who cannot.”

On November 20, the tenth day of Yeb Sano’s fast, developing nations walked out of the climate talks because of the refusal by wealthier nations to heed their call for a financial mechanism to address “loss and damage” caused by climate change.   This protest highlighted the fact that fossil fuels emissions now causing climate change have mostly come from industrialized nations, especially the United States.

The vast majority of scientists acknowledge that climate change is real, largely caused by human activity, and happening now.  If you have doubt about this, visit The Consensus Project,   Skeptical Science , or The Climate Reality Project.   People of faith, conscience, and reason should not avoid raising the alarm. Future and more frequent disasters will be coming if we don’t respond to this threat.   This is especially important because the people of the Philippines, the Maldives and other island nations, Africa, and other hard-hit countries are pleading with those of us in wealthier, more powerful nations to take climate negotiations seriously.  We must enter into solidarity with the people of the Philippines and other developing nations that are affected “first and worst” by climate change, and join them in calling for climate justice.

Go here for other blog posts by Sharon about climate change.

 Sharon Delgado  was part of the United Methodist delegation to the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro during the 1992 Earth Summit, where the original Framework Climate Convention was negotiated.  In the 1990s, she wrote about climate change for the General Board of Church and Society and for the National Council of Churches.  She is a trained presenter with the Climate Reality Project, and has been speaking and writing about climate change for many years.