Corrections to May 4, 2022, “Climate Crisis at GA225” story

A letter from the Presbyterian Outlook team.

Photo by Alex Zaj on Unsplash

It has come to our attention that a recently published opinion piece “7 overtures will address the climate crisis at GA225, but does the assembly’s format allow for the necessary conversations?” contains details that require correction, could be deemed misleading or lack context. We regret any errors published by the Presbyterian Outlook as we seek to serve the church with accurate and balanced perspectives on a variety of topics.

The author writes that “denominational staff is recommending divestment” to the General Assembly. The article should state that recommendations are being presented by the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee, with the support of related committees and advocacy groups, and not staff members of the PC(USA). Also, this recommendation is contained in ENV-10, not ENV-03 as published.

The author’s criticism of the progress of divestment recommendations, namely that “it has taken eight years to recommend divestment from just five companies” and that “the shareholder engagement process has proceeded at a snail’s pace,” does not adequately represent the timeline or working procedures of the General Assembly.

Although a recommendation to divest from fossil fuels was presented at the 221st General Assembly (2014), the item was forwarded to General Assembly 222 (2016) for further consideration and subsequent criteria for divestment were approved by General Assembly 223 (2018) to align with the guidelines set forth by the Divestment as Ethical Strategy policy passed by the 196th General Assembly in 1984. Recommendations resulting from these criteria were among items that the 2020 General Assembly was unable to take up because of limited time, instead referring it to this year’s assembly. A more accurate statement, aligned with the progress and guidance of the General Assembly outlined here, would be that it has taken four years since adequate criteria were established (2018) for this recommendation to come before the assembly.

Finally, the characterization of staff opposition to categorical divestment may be the author’s opinion, but we are unaware of any substantiated sources to reach this conclusion. We acknowledge that, under the direction of MRTI and actions approved by the General Assembly, denominational staff have guided the investment entities of the denomination – namely the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions – to align their investment strategies with the guidelines set forth by the General Assembly and within the legal framework established for each group.

The Presbyterian Outlook wishes to thank the author of this article along with those who submitted responses. Voices advocating for change are needed to propel the church along the great moral arc toward justice. We also acknowledge that, although laborious, discerning ecclesial practices are needed to move the church forward. These voices have long existed and will continue to exist, in balanced tension.

To this end, we ask for your patience and understanding as we strive to accurately present the many ways in which Presbyterians faithfully and passionately engage this and other topics.

The Outlook editorial team