News Release: Riverside Church Moves to Divest on Eve of Climate March

April 25, 2017

Historic Riverside Church Moves Toward Divestment, Energy Efficiency, & Sustainability
On Eve of 2017 People’s Climate March, Rockefeller Funded Church Announces Next Phase of Climate Advocacy

Morningside Heights, NY – Long known for its commitment to social justice and moral leadership on the national stage, The Riverside Church in the City of New York announced today the next phase in its environmental stewardship and socially responsible investment strategy. In response to the urgent global climate crisis, the historic church is matching its robust environmental activism with institutional commitments to greening both its facilities and $140 million endowment.

On the eve of the 2017 People’s Climate March, Riverside’s Finance Committee and Beloved Earth Community announced plans for a strategic audit of the church’s investments to determine what, if any, ties it has in the Carbon Underground 200 – the 200 publicly traded firms with the largest holdings in oil and gas. The audit is the first step in a five year plan to strategically divest from the Carbon Underground 200 in as financially sustainable and prudent a way as possible. The Riverside Church has already eliminated any holdings in coal from its portfolio. Over the same time period, the 85 year old gothic cathedral is partnering with Con Edison to retrofit its entire facility, which encompasses two city blocks, with LED lighting. The project is estimated to save the church nearly $350,000 over 5 years.

“We are a diverse congregation with many different perspectives, but ultimately we find our shared identity in the direction to do justice in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Amy Butler. “Riverside’s decision to strategically divest from the Carbon Underground 200 underscores our shared commitment to be a faithful witness to God’s reconciling grace in the world.”

This decision by the church follows last year’s announcement detailing its mission-based investment strategy and builds on the church’s many efforts already in place to invest in an environmentally sustainable way. Through this approach, the church seeks both to carefully steward its financial resources while upholding its mission of justice and care for the earth.

“As progressive faith-based leaders, we recognize now more than ever the moral imperative of a cogent and forward-thinking action plan in response to a growing list of today’s social ills,” said Lisa Hinds-Salmon, Chair of Riverside’s Finance Committee. “We share a long history of activism at The Riverside Church. The very real threat of climate change presents us with yet another opportunity to discover the active response that fits with our values and reflects the diversity of thought within our community.”

The Riverside Church was built in 1930 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and maintains an endowment of over $140 million seeded by the Rockefeller family. John D. Rockefeller Sr. famously became one of the wealthiest men in the country in the late 1800s as owner of Standard Oil, the largest oil production company of its time. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, established by grandchildren of Rockefeller Sr., announced its intention to divest from fossil fuels in 2014. The Riverside Church is part of a growing movement of religious communities, non-profits, educational institutions, and philanthropic organizations which have, collectively, made divestment commitments covering over $5 trillion in assets globally.

“We are aware of our responsibilities towards the planet and together with our brother and sister organizations, including the UCC church and Union Theological Seminary, we are committed to raising awareness on a global level that fossil fuels need to be rapidly phased out. It is just wrong to ruin our one beautiful planet, the place where everything we’ve ever known exists,” said Beth Ackerman, chair of the Beloved Earth Community at the church.

Located in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side, The Riverside Church in the City of New York is one of the leading voices of Progressive Christianity, influential on America’s religious and political landscapes for more than 85 years. Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Currently led by The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the interracial, interdenominational, and international church has long been a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, President Clinton, the Dalai Lama, and countless others. Visit or find us on social media to learn more about our rich history and the latest news and events.

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