Prodded by environmentally conscious church members in Southwest Portland, the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has endorsed divesting church-held stocks in oil, coal and other fossil fuels corporations.

Church representatives met in Eugene last Saturday and voted 102 to 94 on a resolution urging the 4 million-member church to stop buying fossil fuels stocks and sell current holdings within five years, according to Michael Hall. He’s the leader of The Environmental Stewardship Committee of St. Luke Lutheran Church, located near Gabriel Park.

“It was Bill McKibben’s idea,” Hall says of the initiative. “A bunch of our folks went to his presentation in Portland.”

McKibben, who frequently lectures in Portland and elsewhere, is an author, environmental activist and Middlebury College professor who co-founded, a global leader in the fight against climate change. The group’s name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a level that scientists have calculated is a safe level. By one measure, the globe recently hit 400 parts per million.

There are about 115 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in Oregon, and each sends representatives to the Oregon Synod gathering, Hall says.

The national church holds stock investments for its synod endowment, employee pension plan and seminary investments, he says.

St. Luke members hope the Oregon-passed resolution will now be considered at the annual assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to be held in August in Pittsburgh.

“Even if we don’t make it to the floor in that meeting, word of this is going to resonate in our church,” Hall says.

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