Fossil Free Nativity play calls for Methodist Church investment

On Friday, the Church of England, which invests around £100m in Shell and £50m in BP, announced that they would be urging the oil companies to “adapt their business” to cut back on carbon emission and invest much more in renewables. They intend to file a shareholder’s resolution at Shell’s 2015 AGM next summer, calling for routine reporting on climate change response, and renewable investment strategies.

While a significant move, it falls far short of both UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and the World Council of Churches’ calls for oil divestment, which form part of a rapidly growing movement in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that to avoid catastrophic climate change, 80% of oil assets MUST remain in the ground.

So while the hugely powerful multi-national oil lobby continues to invest in oil exploration and talks about carbon capture, it is facing serious opposition as huge investors like the British Medical Association, numerous city councils and universities, and even the oil-rich Rockefeller Foundation divest from the industry, not just on the basis of potential climate change, but as a sound financial decision, backed by forecasts from the IMF and Bank of England, warning of overvalued carbon assets, liable to become problematic “stranded assets”. It’s estimated the oil industry lost $4.2 billion worth of investment in 2014 alone as major shareholders moved to greener and ethical funds.

The Methodist Church is a huge body with more than £1 billion investments in the stock market, controlled by its Central Finance Board (CFB), and advised by the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI), which recognised in its 2014 report that “fuel extraction companies may remain profitable at the expense of the planet”, and yet takes the position that it has a fiduciary duty to maximise return on its investments, that “stranded assets” are some years down the line, and that it is better to engage and influence oil companies through shareholdings rather than divest.

So yesterday, Christian Climate Change and Divest London activists staged a cheeky Fossil-Free Nativity performance outside the Westminster Methodist Church HQ, to publicise their divestment pressure campaign.

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While a narrator and the Archangel Gabriel took to the stage and introduced other characters and their Fossil-Free nativity, the congregation of around 30 supporters sang subverted hymns such as “No Oil” (to the tune of Noel), “In the Peak Oil Winter”, and “Bad King Herod Once Looked Out”.

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After Gabriel visits Mary to tell her about the future King, he leaves with the warning:
One last thing. Watch out for Herod, he’s a little bit crazy.
He does everything he’s told by his advisors, EDF and BP.
They have him all wrapped up, and for their own improvement
are unlikely to aid in the Peace on Earth Movement.

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After which the congregation burst into song:
No Oil, No Oil, the angels did sing,
No more fossil fuels just invest in green things.

Once the baby Jesus is born, the shepherds complaining about the weather, and one says:
I know what you mean, and what’s more galling,
That Roman Centurion took my tarpaulin

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Meanwhile, after intercepting Joseph’s emails, Herod is after the baby Jesus, to try to corrupt him with riches from the oil companies, and the Narrator asks:
Will he grow up to be wise, gentle and meek
resisting the strong and uplifting the weak?
Or maybe he will be lazy, proud and rash
and fill up his pockets with oil stained cash

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The play ended with “Away In the Manger” and a message to the Methodist Church:
Now close your investments in all fossil fuels
Take care of the planet stop listening to fools.

The cast took a quick photo-call inside the Methodist Centre around the statue of John Wesley, before being ushered out by security.

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They also invited people to sign postcards addressed to the Chair of JACEI, Rev John Howard, calling for divestment.

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There’s a chance to catch another performance at the Occupy weekend in Parliament Square on 20th/21st December.