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To tweet or not to tweet?

To tweet or not to tweet?

We at the Café are occasionally hard-headed about these things, and now wish to raise the specter of an unpleasant question again.

Yesterday we had yet another no-tweeting episcopal election in The Episcopal Church, and though we’ve heard the explanations for why dioceses wish to implement such policies, they still fail to make sense – at least to me.


Yes, we get that you wish to respect only the most correct information and avoid hurt feelings, and there are ways to do that. They involve small bits of teaching before the electing begins about the responsible use of technology in the role of public dissemination of information. The outright ban of a thing like a useful social media tool seems like … well, at this point, it looks to the world that certain new realities have yet to be embraced. (Ah, but we know the church has never been called out of touch.)

Yes, we get that you wish to faithfully administer the narrative of the election as yet one more moment in the orderly transition in the life of the diocese; and that allowing information to live in a way that feels uncontrolled (i.e., open to mis/interpretation in the hands of the many before a thing has finished) may run counter to that narrative. Doubtless this is a risk we take. But episcopal elections generate excitement and enthusiasm in a diocese, and the whole church wishes to be a part in each election. Many strain forward to hear the news; and let’s face it – this bold new electronic frontier is mostly how we’re getting our news these days.

Yes, we get that elections sometimes don’t go over in a perfect kind of way; that there are odd little stops and starts and objections and embarrassments as they proceed. (It’s great when you’re waiting for results to come in and you’ve already sung “O God our help in ages past” and the sitting bishop asks if anyone knows a good, clean joke.) Just know that those of us who are watching probably don’t care. We want the real scoop, and the closer to it you can put us, the more transparent your diocesan leadership will feel.

Finally: Yes, we get that the House of Bishops has lately been tussling with itself over what constitutes an acceptable sharing of information. To the extent that anything must be dealt with in a private kind of way, or that certain things may be mentioned that don’t need to be dragged into the light of day just at that moment, or that processes are just beginning and need a private hashing-over, such a consideration seems sensible. An election, however, is both the end of a process and the beginning of a new one, with some expectation of outcome, and ducks mostly in a row. A ban on tweets from one kind of entity (the HoB) is not necessarily apples-to-apples with another kind of entity (an electing body).

Convince me otherwise.

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Jim Naughton

Chris H, I think John was kidding.

Some of the concerns about notification can be alleviated simply by informing the nominees before the results of an individual ballot are announced.

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Chris H.

1. @John Chilton, So only techno obsessed people should be bishop? Any candidate who knows the selection is going on but decides to pray and leave it in God's hands and go about serving his family,friends, etc. is unfit? Sounds like a great reason to ban it.

2. Are they only going to let the those voting etc. tweet? Without receiving tweets back? 'Cause the biggest reason I can see for outsiders to receive information is to send their opinions/influence back. Or to cause the next uproar like Slee's memo. I doubt the regular media really cares enough to need minute by minute playback, unless it's juicy like the stuff Slee wrote about. That'll make the church look wonderful in the secular media for sure.

3. Consider the mess for the new bishop in England that Slee wrote about. He didn't do anything wrong himself, but, the attitude in some blogs has been,

"Congratulations Bishop. People think you incompetent and nobody wanted you. You just got the job to stop someone else who's much better than you and the whole world knows it. Enjoy the pointy hat."

How many here could even name who was elected without looking?(It's Chessun) Nobody cares who was chosen, just who wasn't. Just think what comments wil be said after the next contentious election that's twittered.

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Bill Locke

I'll take a stab (somewhat reluctantly) at a partially opposing point of view. Perhaps this comes from a rare, leisurely afternoon in the backyard with the "Italian-American Music Hour" on the radio - old time, even corny music - while sipping a scotch.

We in Rhode Island have just begun the process towards electing our next bishop; the Search Committe and Transition Committee were gathered and commissioned this weekend.

There hasn't been any conversation yet about tweeting or laptops or cell phone calls during the electing convention. I hadn't even thought about that, and I have no automatic desire to restrict that. But...I know how important this election will be to our diocese. I appreciate the need to be respectful to those who offer themselves for that election, and for the process of that election. And I frankly resist, even resent, the notion that I hear in the original post, that, "we don't care about your internal needs and concerns, we must have information, even incomplete or inaccurate information, right now."

And I wonder, why?

As I say, I can't imagine deciding to forbid communication of any kind during our process, but on this late Sunday afternoon, I wonder about the urgency, and even more interestingly, the anxiety, of needing to know "right now", no matter what.

Bill Locke

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Ann Fontaine

I am for as much transparency as possible even at HoB meetings. Welcome to the 21st century - today in church I was preaching the Ascension - I mentioned the Dali "Ascension" painting and before I knew it someone had googled it on their iPhone and was passing it around!!

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John B. Chilton

There's a certain leveling effect of banning tweeting, handicapping the race to the news so that those without access to twitter learn at the same time as the rest of us. Like chaining ballerinas so they dance no better than me.

I know, that's add another condition for the election of bishop. Let's not ban tweeting, and if the bishop-elect doesn't already know the result when you phone then void the results and start over.

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