‘The Church of England has no official policy either for or against hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”)’, Philip Fletcher, chair of the CofE’s group on mission and public affairs said in a statement. But later in August he compared people who vehemently oppose fracking to those who opposed the MMR vaccine. His comments came as Christians joined anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in Sussex, where plans for fracking in the area were eventually suspended.

Looking for more fossil fuels is suicidal

Ruth Jarman, a member of the board at Christian environmental network, Christian Ecology Link, who was at the protests, told Christianity that she thought Fletcher had not looked into all the facts surrounding fracking. ‘To compare the worries about fracking with the worries about MMR is just ridiculous,’ she said, ‘because one is with the science and one is against the science.’ Jarman, a scientist by training, said that, apart from concerns over water safety and excessive water use, a major concern was that fossil fuels like those obtained from fracking exacerbate climate change. ‘To continue looking for more fossil fuels is completemadness,’ she said. ‘It’s suicidal.’ Jarman is also on the board of Operation Noah, another Christian group critical of fracking and the CofE stance.

Fletcher told Christianity that his statement relating to MMR was ‘a plea for approaching the issues with an open mind, rather than assuming that fracking is either absolutely right and absolutely necessary or that it is in itself inherently and absolutely wrong,’ and that care for God’s planet was ‘a key part of the remit’ of the council he chairs. ‘There is nothing in what I have said about fracking that should be taken as meaning the Church is not serious about climate change,’ he said. ‘But each issue needs to be looked at on its own merits.’