[Anglican Communion News Service] A leaflet made available to the members of England’s Blackburn diocese got a surprising amount of coverage in the British media this week.
The document Fracking – opportunity or challenge? caught the eye of several journalists just as the Conservative ministers promoted the controversial technology to the public as an economic necessity.
The British summer time is often a news dry spell, and local media outlets covered the leaflet’s publication with such headlines as the Blackpool Gazette’s “Church wades into fracking ‘morality’ row.”
More unexpected was the appetite of the heavyweight national newspapers such as The Telegraph, the Financial Times and The Guardian for the story. Blackburn diocese also appeared in daily tabloid The Sun and on the news website of the television station ITV.
What began life as a leaflet produced by the diocese’s environment officer to present the two sides of the debate about ‘fracking’ (fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas) was soon being featured on online news sites too.
Now.msn.com reported the leaflet’s publication: “Church says that fracking probably isn’t God’s favorite thing,” as did The Huffington Post. Huff Post blogger, Katie Hopkins went a step farther by asking in her comment piece: “Can the Church of England Please Focus on Religion” rather than “provide commentary on all matter; political, environmental and commercial?”
A spokesman for Blackburn diocese gave the following statement in response to media calls: “The subject of fracking is a hugely complicated issue. It attracts a wide variety of scientific, academic, political, economic, environmental and indeed emotional responses from experts and others.
“Whilst the Church of England does not have an official line in any of these particular aspects of the debate, it, together with other faith communities, does have an obligation, under God, to bring a different perspective into the debate.
“This stems from a sincere conviction to take seriously the challenges of caring for God’s fragile creation. To that end, the church believes it has a responsibility to inform its parishioners of these theological and ethical perspectives to enable them to reflect and respond accordingly.”
The issue of fracking is becoming an increasing concern across the Anglican Communion. Most recently an open letter was sent to leaders of the Communion by Canon Jeff Golliher, adviser to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) and the program director for the environment and sustainable communities at the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations in New York. His letter is published here.