The World Council of Churches says it will not invest in fossil fuels its main governing body has decided as part of its ethical policies, commitment to caring for creation and reversing climate change.
"The WCC wants to be careful in its investments, avoiding what we see as unethical in businesses today.
"And through our investment policy give signals as to practices that we believe are not serving a sustainable future," WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said.
"The use of fossil fuels must be significantly reduced and by not investing in those companies we want to show a direction we need to follow as a human family to address climate changes properly."
The decision will have an impact on discussion about energy to an upcoming Interfaith Summit on Climate Change from September 21 to 22 in New York, prior to the United Nations Climate Summit.
The climate change meeting is being organized by the WCC and Religions for Peace in New York.
The WCC decision was made in a finance policy committee report that the body accepted earlier in the month and details were released in a July 17 statement.
"The committee discussed the ethical investment criteria, and considered that the list of sectors in which the WCC does not invest should be extended to include fossil fuels" the report said.
Before the announcement some WCC member churches were already committed to the divestment of their former investments in fossil fuels.
It said these included the United Church of Christ in the United States, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden.
The WCC has 345 member churches in 140 countries representing some 560 million Christians worldwide.
WORKING ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The churches' body began working on climate change in the early 1990s, and it said that over 20 years it has actively helped foster a movement for climate justice touching millions of people around the world.
The call by former WCC staff member and South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for divestment and boycotts of the fossil fuel industry, was a clear signal that more could be done, said Dr. Guillermo Kerber who coordinates the WCC program on Care for Creation and Climate Justice.
While the WCC has a relatively small investment portfolio compared to many other institutions, it takes care in how it handles even these smaller amounts, said the WCC's finance director, Elaine Dykes.
"The WCC holds 8.7 million Swiss Francs in endowment investments and 8 million Swiss Francs in short-term deposits and money-market funds," Dykes said. "There is no direct investment in fossil fuel industries.
"While the ethical investment guidelines apply to the WCC only, we are aware that they are a point of reference for others," she said. "From time to time, other faith-based organizations have requested to consult the WCC's policies."
The WCC's general ethical guidelines for investment had already included concern for a sustainable environment for future generations and for the CO2 footprint of individuals and organizations.
Other sectors in which the WCC does not invest include weapons, nuclear energy and genetically modified organisms.