An overture (15-01) urging the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to divest from fossil fuel companies will be before the Assembly Committee on Immigration and Environmental Issues at the 221st General Assembly in Detroit, June 14-21.

The overture, submitted by Boston Presbytery, says that fossil fuel use is on a trajectory that will create catastrophic environmental consequences. “If fossil fuel companies simply fulfill their business model, the earth will become irreversibly inhospitable to life as we know it,” the overture maintains.

It calls for the PC(USA)’s Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies and to remove all investments in coal, oil and gas companies within five years. The overture has received concurrence from 11 presbyteries: Arkansas, Florida, Geneva, Hudson River, Mid Kentucky, Monmouth, Northern Plains, San Francisco, San Jose, Redwoods and Twin Cities.

If the overture passes, the PC(USA) would become the second U.S. denomination to commit itself to divestment from fossil fuel companies. The United Church of Christ’s General Synod during its gathering last summer approved a plan that for fossil fuel divestment.

Other business before the Immigration and Environmental Issues Committee includes:

  • An overture (15-02) from the Southern New England Presbytery to affirm sustainable development and the “precautionary principle” ― a precept that holds an action shouldn’t be taken if scientific evidence suggests that the results could be dangerous. If embraced by U.S. law, the precautionary principle “would fundamentally shift the burden of proof of the safety of products and processes for the public,” the overture contends. Presently, according to the overture, when there are uncertainties surrounding the safety of a new technology, freedom of action trumps precaution and alternatives. In contrast, the precautionary principle places the burden on the developers of new technologies to show they are safe.  The overture cites genetically-modified crops, toxic chemicals, and nanotechnology as technologies that pose a threat.
  • An overture (15-03) from Seattle Presbytery that asks the General Assembly to “affirm the decision of civil authorities to conduct a full, programmatic review and assessment of the impact of expanded coal export projects in Washington and Oregon to energy markets in Asia on human health and the well-being of communities along the Northwest rail lines.” The overture says the dust generated by the transport of coal in barges and trains from states such as Wyoming and Montana to ports in the Pacific Northwest presents health risks. It also notes the health and environmental risks caused by burning coal.
  • An overture (15-04) from Central Florida Presbytery to recognize the formation of the Presbyterian Immigration Defense Initiative. This campaign, the overture says, advocates for the human rights of new immigrants and works with those “seeking justice under a broken immigration system.”

All matters related to immigration and environmental issues will be considered by Assembly Committee 15 ― Immigration and Environmental Issues. Pat Cole, a communications specialist in the Funds Development office of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will cover Committee 15 for the General Assembly Communication Center.