Worship with Attention to Climate Finance

Quakers Join Across Continents to Call on Vanguard to Stop Funding Dirty Fossil Fuel Projects

On Friday, October 7, 150 Quakers gathered in-person and virtually to “worship in action” at strategic locations to call on Vanguard, one of the world’s largest investment companies, to make better on its commitment to the planet’s future.

Almost fifty members of Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) walked ten minutes from a train station outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a quiet Main Line street where they unfolded metal chairs and sat down for thirty minutes of powerful Quaker-style silent worship across from the home of Tim Buckley, CEO of Vanguard.

In London, 60 British Quakers held their own meeting for worship outside Vanguard’s London offices, holding signs in silence that read “Vanguard invests in climate destruction” and the Quaker Advice and Query, “We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will.”

Quaker Earthcare Witness gathered 50 Friends from dozens of states and territories across North America and the UK over Zoom. Shelley Tanenbaum, QEW’s General Secretary, said, “We could feel the heart connection flowing from the triangle of our three groups.” As we worshiped on the screen, we could see the groups gathered in Pennsylvania and London. Friends online remarked on the surprising power of this unique worship—it felt deeply gathered with Spirit “in the room.” One Friend shared that we were all spokes, connected to the source.

As one of the largest asset managers in the world, Vanguard has the means to pressure fossil fuel and other companies in its portfolio to shift their business practices away from climate destruction and into alignment with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“We are bringing the urgency of the climate crisis to Tim Buckley’s doorstep,” explained Carolyn McCoy, a Philadelphia Quaker and one of the EQAT’s founders.

Online, one Friend prayed, “I need Buckley to help me find the solutions and put the solutions in place.”

In London, the Bristol EarthQuakes group broke out in song, singing “You will never take away my voice,” as they walked from St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Vanguard offices. They delivered a letter to Tim Buckley, urging him to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
These actions are part of a global campaign focused on these large financial institutions. On September 21, eight people from EQAT and Extinction Rebellion Philly were arrested at Vanguard Headquarters for refusing to leave when they were denied a meeting with John Galloway, Global Head of Investment Stewardship, who has refused to meet with representatives of the campaign, despite a year and a half of requests.

Vanguard is not acting as a good steward, investing billions in coal expansion, which is a huge financial risk to Vanguard customers, as well as potentially catastrophic for future generations. This year Vanguard received the worst possible score—zero out of 30 on their climate commitments — in a scorecard ranking 30 major asset managers released by Reclaim Finance.

Part of a month of climate action by people of faith around the world, the October 7 worship also coincided with the 250th anniversary of the death of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who visited the homes of Quakers profiting from slavery to encourage them to change course.

“Today, all of us have a role to play in standing up to those who are recklessly threatening our future for short term profit,” says Eileen Flanagan, co-director of EQAT. “Tim Buckley’s role is especially large because his influence is especially large. This may put him in the line of fire of the right wing campaign against responsible climate action, which is why I am praying for his courage, even as I pray for my own strength to continue challenging one of the most powerful asset managers in the world.”

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