This weekend, Presbyterians and others interested in learning more about climate change and fossil fuels will gather in Knoxville, Tenn., for worship, education and small group discussions.
The event is organized by members of First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Fossil Free PCUSA, a group calling for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to immediately stop investing in fossil fuel companies and to divest from all current holdings in the next five years.
“How can we as a denomination have a vested interest in a conversation about climate change if we’re not divested?” said Dan Terpstra, ruling elder at First Presbyterian.
The PC(USA) has already divested from industries like tobacco, alcohol and gambling, Terpstra said. Like these industries, the fossil fuel industry is one whose entire business model should not be supported by the church.
“From a Christian perspective, this becomes an issue of cross-generational justice,” Terpstra said.
Today, economically poor countries suffer the most from climate change. In the future, generations to come will feel the negative effects of climate change.
The goal of this weekend’s event is to raise awareness about the effects of climate change and to get people talking. Eventually, Fossil Free PCUSA wants presbyteries to pass the divestment overture so that it can be brought to the 221 General Assembly in 2014.
At least three congregations — in Boston, Palo Alto, Calif., and Oak Ridge — have already approved the overture.
“This is a really critical topic that we need to talk about as a denomination,” Terpstra said.
After an ecumenical worship service, participants will dine on a 100-mile potluck, which will feature ingredients from within a 100-mile radius of Oak Ridge. The day will conclude with a lecture by Bill McKibben, a well-known author, educator and environmentalist. McKibben will also lead a small-group discussion about strategies and the moral and ethical perspectives on divestment.