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Investing in Our Faith

As Presbyterians prepare to head out to their 221st General Assembly, two overtures they will wrestle with concern divestment from fossil fuels. Rev. Mohaupt tells us the story of Ovt 018 ― On Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies ― from San Jose Presbytery concurring with 10 other presbyteries.

In the fall of 2011, I started at McCormick as their first Th.M. student. I signed on for another year of study after my M.Div. when I realized that I didn’t feel called yet to leave seminary. 

I studied Eco-feminism and pastoral care and wrote my thesis around the assumption that all creation is made of one family and the creation stories of Genesis call us humans to live in that family as healthy parts of the whole.

McCormick had bred in me a deep sense of curiosity and I was delighted to spend time exploring and creating a pretty new subset of eco-theology. Toward the end of my year on the program, I felt called to parish ministry and was accepted as an intern and pastoral resident at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA.

I quickly fell in love with this congregation and was enthusiastic about their Cool Planet Climate Change Working Group. This small group in the congregation encouraged the rest of the congregation in their eco-friendly habits. In November 2012, they organized a group of people to go hear Bill McKibben, a climate change activist, speak. McKibben laid a compelling case for the present reality of climate change  and suggested divestment from fossil fuel companies as a way to fight back against our species’ addiction to oil.

Coming away from McKibben’s lecture, Cool Planet soon realized that climate change is not just a moral issue, but a theological one as well. Together, we began to write an overture to General Assembly to ask our denomination to do what now over 600 colleges and universities have done: divest from fossil fuel companies.

The Biblical call for us to care for creation extends also to our care for each other. Our futures are connected. And while we as a denomination have affirmed our call to care for creation, we profit from fossil fuel companies. The Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation have been told that they need to make the highest return on their investments, and they’ve also been told not to invest in industries that harm people (we do not, for example, invest in gambling, firearms, pornography, and alcohol). Fossil fuel companies should be added to this list. While those companies have been profitable, we cannot make investments on profit alone. As Christians, even our money must be witnesses to our faith in Jesus Christ, the one who came bearing the good news that God loves us.

More than a year later, that overture has been approved by twelve presbyteries and is on its way to General Assembly. My time at McCormick taught me more than just how to understand Presbyterian polity, which has been invaluable in this process. My additional year at McCormick prepared me to support my congregation theologically and biblically in their work. I could not have imagined that that extra year of study would have so quickly been utilized by God and God’s people.

Rev. Abby Mohaupt (MDiv ’11, ThM ’12) is the Pastoral Resident at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA. She splits her time between the congregation and a rural community in Pescadero, CA, where she supports the work of Puente, a resource center for the South Coast. For more information about the Overture to Divest from Fossil Fuels, visit http://www.fossilfreepcusa.org or http://www.facebook.com/fossilfreepcusa

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