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.