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The Church Commissioners, the Bishop of Chichester, and ‘fracking’

23 August 2013


From Mr Simon Court

Sir, - A day is a long time in politics, especially in the politics of the C of E. On 16 August, the Christian Ecology Link's Google discussion group was buzzing with press reports of a mineral-rights grab by the Church Commissioners. Was this a step towards profiting from fracking? Surely the Church Commissioners were not going to embark on another questionable investment adventure to add to their recent Wonga woes? Later that day, a statement was issued by the Church of England to "place recent media reports into context".

The communiqué from the PR gurus at Lambeth Palace assures us that everything is OK after all, because, we are told, "The Church of England has no official policy either for or against hydraulic fracturing (known as 'fracking')." Nevertheless, "there is a danger of viewing fracking through a single issue lens and ignoring the wider considerations."

I understand this sentence to mean: "You are a bunch of single-issue environmentalists whom we can safely ignore because you are incapable of understanding the wider considerations." As a long-suffering Anglican, I should by now be used to being patronised and ignored by the hierarchy.

The public statement slapping down those who dare to oppose the Church's future involvement in the Government's pursuit of fracking comes from the chair of the Church of England's group on Mission and Public Affairs, Philip Fletcher, who is also a member of the Archbishops' Council.

Mr Fletcher should know something about the problems presented by fracking, as he has another job listed on the C of E website, chair of OFWAT, the water regulator. Needing to secure copious supplies of water, and permission to dump their toxic waste water, the frackers' lobbyists must be working hard to cultivate positive relationships with OFWAT.

Having heard from the chair, it would be interesting to hear the views of some of the other mem-bers of the Mission and Public Affairs Group, such as David Shreeve, the Environmental Consultant to the Archbishops' Council, and Dr Jill Hopkinson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England, both of whom do outstanding work on environment and rural issues.

It seems an argument over fracking within the Church of England is starting to emerge into the public domain. To those who find themselves trying to navigate a way forward, might I suggest the Anglican Communion Environmental Network as a source of wisdom and information. It is also worth restating the fifth Mark of Mission, to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Eastgate Cottage, Perrys Lane
Cawston, Norwich NR10 4HJ


From the Revd Dr Mark Betson

Sir, - I am writing to congratulate the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, on his recent statement with regard to the "fracking" debate.

The word "fracking" is a goldmine in the press for innuendo, which is a shame, as it overshadows some of the very important questions about our energy future which need to be asked. Well done to the Bishop for pointing out that a "more challen-ging" debate needs to be had.

Where did all the gas and oil we had before go? Did we use it well? Why do we need to work so hard to squeeze more out of our wells now? What happens when this runs out in a few decades? How are our children and grandchildren going to keep the lights on - especially if they are not top earners?

Watching the television coverage recently, I didn't see these issues debated much; so it was good to hear Dr Warner point out that more needed to be asked. I wonder if this challenging debate is going on with those making policy; or will political expediency rule the day?

The Vicarage, Handcross Road
Plummers Plain, Horsham
West Sussex RH13 6NU

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