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At its 2022 Conference in June, the Methodist Church of Great Britain unanimously endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, becoming the largest denomination in the UK to join the movement calling for an end to all new oil and gas exploration around the world and for a fair, just transition the supports workers and communities in the transition to renewable energy.
Proposed by Revd Ian Rutherford, City Centre Minister at Methodist Central Hall in Manchester and a member of the Methodist Church’s Zero Carbon Group, the motion noted that the treaty was already supported by over 2,900 scientists, academics and researchers, as well as by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Christian Aid.
‘We knew that we wanted to say something about climate this year, so as a Church, we wanted to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty,’ Rutherford said. ‘If cities can do it, if countries can do it, why can’t national churches do it? We want to phase out fossil fuels.’
In 2021, the Methodist Church of Great Britain divested from all fossil fuel companies. David Palmer, Chief Executive of the Methodist Church’s Central Finance Board, which oversees £1.3 billion of investments, said then of the decision to divest: ‘The patience of the Church has run out’, adding, ‘The pace of change across the oil and gas sector has been inadequate’.
Rutherford says that speaking out about the dangerous impact of fossil fuels is just the latest issue the Methodist Church has campaigned on over the course of its rich history advocating for social justice.
‘When (John) Wesley was founding the Methodist Church, it was slavery. He was one of the first Christian leaders to come out against slavery when the Church was making a lot of money off of it. Climate is today’s big issue. We need to show leadership on it.’
In endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Methodist Church joins over 50 cities and governments – including London, Paris, Toronto, Sydney and Los Angeles – and over 1,300 organisations, including Tearfund, Laudato Si’ Movement, GreenFaith and Operation Noah.
Rutherford said that now that they have endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and divested from all fossil fuels, the next step is for the Methodist Church to ‘go further’ and make ‘positive investments in climate solutions.’ ‘It’s one thing to disinvest, it’s another thing to positively invest in climate solutions,’ Rutherford said. ‘That’s what we need to see.’