As we struggle to come to terms with the passing of journalist Rod Oram, Jenny Campbell recalls an area of his work that deserves a mention: getting the Anglican church to divest its investments in fossil fuels. 

Rod Oram speaking to the fossil fuel divestment motion at the Anglican Synod in 2014. Photo: Taonga News

It was 2014, and Rod Oram was central to a decision by the Anglican Church of Aotearoa and Polynesia that would have wide-reaching ramifications for communities of faith across the world.

After a conversation at a Coal Action Network Aotearoa hui, the team discussed the  idea of fossil fuels divestment, someone mentioned the churches. It prompted the idea to get the Anglican Church to do this.

This was ten years ago and we were all starting to talk about climate change and how it was going to affect the world.With a lot of research and help from others nationally from different justice groups , including Rod, I realised it was possible and a motion was formulated which contained the main points of our concerns. 

I made contact with the Anglican Social Justice Network, where Rod was a member, seeking advice and help with this significant move for our Church. While the Auckland synod had already been held , Rod was very much engaged with the venture, with his expertise and knowledge very obvious in the motion’s formulation.  

As a member of the Dunedin Diocese, I proposed the motion to our synod, which turned out to be quite controversial. With only ten minutes to make our case,  it got voted through – just!

It then was sent to other Dioceses including all Māori, Pasifika and Pakeha, so  others could discuss and add their weight to the motion at their synods. As the other synods passed their divestment motions, the feeling grew that we could actually get this passed.

Fortunately they all passed the motion, some with a narrow margin, and some with small amendments. Iit then passed on to General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui as the final step for possible approval.

Rod picked up the baton at just the right time.

In May 2014, the 61st Te Hīnota Whānui  – the Anglican General Synod, was held at Waitangi.

When we got there Rod came and spoke to me about it.  It was essential  there be a person from each tikanga to move, second and speak and affirm the motion if it was to have a chance of passing. We needed some people from across all sections of the church-Bishops, Clergy and  lay people, both men and women… to show that this came with support from all sectors of our community.

There were people with much more mana than I had.  Pasifika were already feeling the brunt of climate change and all its ramifications for their people.

Rod, as a member of the General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui, having helped write the motion, added all the details to back up the argument. He gave a lot of help with getting the motion into the correct words and with the right background. Rod was the driver: he had the knowledge and background on climate change and could speak with authority, knowledge and wisdom, along with the weight of the business community. His extensive international knowledge really helped at the right time.

Rod moved it on the floor of the Synod, and it was seconded by Rev Jacynthia Murphy, from  tikanga Maori.  After a couple of amendments, it was agreed.

Most of us think we can’t  do anything to make changes at this level of decision making.   I discovered that the kitchen table was a great place to start designing this motion with knowing some influential people like Rod who could use his expertise and that of others to make it  come to fruition. With this backing it happened!

The Anglican Church Trust Board, which does the investing, was instructed to keep reporting back to General Synod until they had completed the process of divestment. 

At Waitangi the next morning after it was passed I  happened to sit next to a man at breakfast  who turned out to be  the Trust Board Manager!  We had a discussion about the difficulties of divesting from fossil fuels in all their portfolios… it was going to take some time, he said. But he did it – last year it was announced that it had actually been done!

This decision was one of the  world’s firsts in this field for the Anglican church. Rod was just the right person to get this across the line: he was a tower of strength: we couldn’t have done it without him.

These are my memories of a momentous time and action, facilitated and supported by Rod. A taonga.


Titiro whakamuri, kōkiri  whakamua.

Look back and reflect so we can move forward. 

– Jenny Campbell, interviewed by Cindy Baxter

Motion 22 – Fossil Fuel Divestment

Thursday 15 May 2014

  1.         Mr Rod Oram                                                                     
  2.         The Rev’d Jacynthia Murphy

Amended Motion

That this General Synod/te Hīnota Whānui 2014:

 Recognizing the threat that anthropogenic climate change poses to all God’s creatures, including human beings, in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and in all the Earth, for present and future generations,

Noting that the huge reserves held by coal, oil and gas extraction companies far exceed what can be burned in order to hold global warming below the internationally agreed level of 2 degrees Celsius.

Emphasizing the Church’s mission to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth, and to seek to transform the unjust structures of society,

Accepting the responsibilities and duties of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia as an ethical investor,

(i)         Considers ongoing investment in the fossil fuel industry to be contrary to the Church’s missional goals of the care of creation and social justice, and to be contrary to its responsibilities and existing commitments as an ethical investor.

(ii)       Resolves that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia should no longer invest in corporations whose main business is the extraction and/or production of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).

(iii)      Requests that the Standing Committee require the Trusts and other entities investing on behalf of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Church’s funds are not invested in such corporations specified in (ii) and to ensure that existing holdings in such corporations are divested within 2 years.

(iv)      That this Synod/te Hīnota commission a group that would include membership from, the Diocese of Polynesia, the Diocese of Auckland Climate Change Action Group, Akina Foundation and other interested parties to advise on the feasibility of investing divested funds into conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity in areas / regions of the three Tikanga that are vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise and to report back the General Synod/te Hīnota Whānui 2016.