Faith and pipeline investment aren't a good mix for the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.
The church at 949 West 49th Ave. is divesting Enbridge stocks from its portfolios and is urging its 400 members to do the same- a transition which has gotten easier now that credit union Vancity has removed the pipeline company from its socially responsible investments.
"We've been opposing fossil fuel use since 1993 because of increasing global warming," said Karl Perrin, chair of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver's Environment Committee, in an email to the Courier. "When we first heard about Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion years ago, we knew we would oppose expansion of tar sands pipelines, especially crossing B.C."
When Vancity announced last week that it would divest Enbridge holdings from its socially responsible investments for not meeting environmental, social and governance criteria, the church was relieved.
John Taylor, chair of the church's investment committee, explained that the church had divested holdings in Meritas Jantzi social index funds in July because they included Enbridge stocks. But the move to divest in Vancity's SRI's was slowed, as there was active communication about wanting to put pressure on Enbridge from the inside.
Vancity's divestment move now means the church won't have to find alternative investments on its own. Taylor said the Unitarian Church of Vancouver holds $100,000 in ethical funds with Vancity. The divestment of Meritas Jantzi funds amounted to $60,000. "I had mixed emotions," said Taylor in reaction to hearing Vancity's announcement. "Sad that we were admitting defeat in convincing them [Enbridge] not to build the pipeline, and somewhat elated that Vancity had made the decision, would go out and stand up for our principles."
A Vancity representative was not available for comment by press time. The church's resolution to oppose pipeline construction by Enbridge and expansion by Kinder Morgan was approved in June. "These resolutions are not common," Perrin said, explaining that the church last divested in Exxon Mobil a few years ago after the company gained a reputation as the worst tar sands exploiter."
Not all religious groups are taking a stand against oil companies, however.
Paul Schratz, spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, said that the archdiocese doesn't get involved in political issues since its members may hold different stances on topics like the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, which covers 71 parishes from the Metro Vancouver Area, Fraser Valley and the Sunshine Coast, will be meeting later this week to look at excluding Enbridge and Kinder Morgan stock from its investment portfolio.
Along with divesting its own portfolio of the oil giants, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver is urging its members to do the same. Perrin said the church isn't asking members to divulge their personal information with the church, but he guesses that at least 200 members and adherents have Enbridge sock in the SRI mutual funds, "whether they know it or not."
"One of the purposes of the resolution was to make them aware that virtually all SRI mutual funds held Enbridge stock because it was considered 'the best of a bad lot.' Their Keystone Kops nonreaction to the Kalamazoo River spill called their good reputation into doubt," Perrin said.
Taylor explained that the investment committee would be available to speak with and advise members on financial changes, and some have taken advantage of the offer.