Climate change

MARLBOROUGH — A local church has decided to divest from companies that deal primarily in fossil fuels, following the lead of other churches affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

In late July, the Federated Church of Marlborough sold off about $50,000 worth of stocks in Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, according to an item from the church’s trustees written for a newsletter. The church’s portfolio manager reinvested the money in other stocks, including NextEra — a Florida-based energy company that has some fossil-fuel holdings but has invested heavily in wind and solar.

The divested stocks represent a small portion of the church’s overall investments, according to church officials.

Church Council President Marjorie Shepardson said pushing for action on climate change fits in the church’s larger mission.

“I believe working to avert a climate crisis is a moral issue because we ought to pass on a clean, livable planet to future generations,” she said in an email. “It also involves economic justice because often the poor are the hardest hit.”

Shepardson said the church council voted to divest after the green team — a small group of church members working on environmental issues — recommended it.

Last year’s report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which warned of potentially devastating consequences as soon as 2040 if countries don’t act to curb greenhouse-gas emissions — underscored the urgency, Shepardson said.

The Marlborough church has three affiliations: United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ.

In 2013, the United Church of Christ’s national synod approved a resolution calling on churches to divest from fossil-fuel stocks or use their status as shareholders to push companies toward change, among other actions on climate.

A number of the denomination’s churches have removed fossil-fuel stocks from their portfolios, including many congregations in Massachusetts and several in Vermont. In 2013, members of the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Warwick, Mass., voted to get rid of 70 shares of ExxonMobil stock that had been donated to the church, according to a post on the website of the UCC’s Massachusetts conference.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Shore-Goss, pastor of the Marlborough church, said he hopes the collective actions of many churches will send a message.

“As a church in ourselves doing it, it doesn’t make a big dent,” he said. But divestment by dozens of churches, along with the national denomination, “may bring up some attention and help, hopefully, inspire the fossil-fuel companies to reexamine what they’re doing and how we are getting our power.”

The Federated Church of Marlborough has made other efforts to be greener, including installing solar panels on a church-owned building earlier this year. An energy audit of church facilities is planned, with the goal of making them more energy efficient, and the church has approved a resolution supporting federal carbon-pricing legislation, Shepardson said.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234,

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pbooth@keenesentinel.com.

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