By Alistair Grant

THE Church of Scotland must sell its shares in oil and gas companies “as a matter of urgency”, its outreach body has said. 

Members of the Church and Society Council, which met for the final time earlier this month, called for it to disinvest from fossil fuel companies as soon as possible. 

It comes after the Kirk’s annual General Assembly rejected calls to withdraw its funds by 303 votes to 263 earlier this year, following an impassioned debate. 

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said it had listened to views on both sides but it was now time to act. 

Writing in The Herald, he said: “At this final meeting in Edinburgh, the Council has come to the conclusion that for reasons of conscience and out of an urgent necessity to respond what is happening to our planet, we must accelerate the process of weaning ourselves off our dependence on fossil fuels. 

“In taking this decision we have approved a report which we will be commending to next year’s General Assembly, recommending that the Church sells its shares in oil and gas companies as a matter of urgency.”

He added: “We are being warned that this is a critical time for the world, a turning point when we must make a change in order to arrest man-made climate change and the ongoing loss of habitat and species upon which all life depends.

“As Christians we believe we have a duty to care for God’s earth.

“We are running out of time, and people may argue that our individual actions do not amount to much, but our faith and history tells us that transformation is possible when people’s actions begin to chime with their faith.”

Controversy over the Kirk’s investments in fossil fuels has caused significant internal debate over the last few years. 

It comes amid increasing awareness and concern for the environment, with Nicola Sturgeon declaring a climate emergency at the SNP’s conference in Edinburgh in April.

Reverend Gordon Strang of Cromdale Kirk in Strathspey proposed a move to disinvest at the General Assembly the following month, but this was narrowly rejected.

Rev Frazer said the position of the General Assembly has been that it is better to engage with these companies than to disinvest.

He added: “These are not easy tensions to navigate but increasingly, as the impact of what we are doing to the planet becomes more apparent, they must be navigated and urgently.”

The Church and Society Council’s call came at its last meeting before it is merged into a new agency provisionally named the Faith Impact Forum. 

The move forms part of a wider restructure of the Kirk intended to place it on a surer footing for the future.