What does “God’s country” look like? For the more than 1 million members of the United Church of Christ, it looks like a planet free from the deleterious effects of fossil fuels.

At the denomination’s national gathering in Long Beach, Calif., this week, a plan of attack on climate change was put in place, including strategies to divest from fossil fuel companies. The resolution makes the United Church of Christ (UCC) the first major religious body in the United States to take such action.

The vote, brought by the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC and supported by 10 of the denomination's other conferences, calls for “enhanced shareholder engagement in fossil fuel companies, an intensive search for fossil fuel-free investment vehicles, and the identification of 'best in class' fossil fuel companies by 2015,” according to a statement from the church.

“Today, the UCC added another ‘first’ when it became the first national faith communion to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies – and to do it with the support of its major investment institution, United Church Funds,” said the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC and a major proponent of the resolution.

Upon hearing of the action, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben tweeted, “Just got news that the United Church of Christ has voted to divest from fossil fuels. This is incredibly important news.”

McKibben has been on a 22-city tour this fall gathering support for his divestment campaign to get colleges and universities to sell their fossil fuel stock, an effort modeled on the 1980s campaign against South Africa's apartheid government. As reported by NPR, McKibben says that oil, coal and gas companies are sitting on enough fuel to quickly bring about devastating effects, and that these companies are an "international global menace" because they plan to extract the reserves and sell them.

“The fossil fuel industry is now a rogue industry, determined to do things that everybody who studies this knows are unwise, unsafe, crazy,” McKibben says.

Since McKibben's tour began six months ago, divestment campaigns have begun on more than 300 campuses and five schools have divested. And now, the first church.

The UCC, a mainline Protestant denomination with nearly 5,200 congregations nationwide, also passed a resolution for its church buildings to become carbon-neutral, starting with energy audits on their facilities as the first step toward carbon-neutrality.

“This resolution calls on each and all of us to make difficult changes to the way we live each day of our lives,” said Donald Hart, United Church Funds president. "Implementing the multiple strategies outlined in this resolution will demand time, money and care — but we believe creation deserves no less."

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United Church of Christ becomes first church to divest from fossil fuels
The mainline Protestant denomination also passed a resolution to make its church buildings carbon-neutral.