The Board of Ordained Ministry as social media police

June 17, 2011

Jeremy Smith at Hacking Christianity has written a post
on the United Methodist Kentucky Annual Conference's decision requiring candidates for
ministry to open all their social media to Board of Ordained Ministry review. Jeremy has
concerns about this, as do I. Jeremy writes,

While I applaud integrity
and exhibit it in my own word and deed, integrity enforced by fear is
not what we as clergy are called to preach and teach and I reject
efforts that put that on the clergy. There's enough fear in the system
already: fear of the future, fear of upsetting the wrong people, fear of
speaking prophetically.
Personally, I think every business and church needs a water cooler:
the place where people gather to complain about their bosses. It's the
pressure-release valve that allows the individual to vent in healthy
ways. Does that mean Facebook is all about pastors griping about their
congregation? Of course not, I rarely see that and I know a LOT of
pastors. But pastors (just like employees) need space to express
themselves and release…to hold them accountable via an illegally-created
online profile in an impossible-to-police method is not the way.
For a church to be prophetic, it must allow space for thoughtful musings.
What would the BOM do if they saw pastors updating their statuses
saying they "struggle" with Rob Bell's 'Love Wins'…would that become a
mark on their chart? What if they shared a link for immigration
reform…would that become a question of whether they heart America? What
if people like me have really weird humor…would that become an issue?
Jeremy
is spot on. Now I am not suggesting (and I doubt Jeremy is either) that
pastors, nor anyone else, should not be held accountable for what they
say. Indeed, I argued for the significance of such accountability in a recent post, but
what such a policy will ultimately do is have a chilling effect on
serious theological and ecclesial discussion and debate. Some of the
best theological and moral discussions I have had of late have been on
Facebook.
Now,
I have no doubt that most members of Boards of Ordained Ministry in
every Annual Conference will allow for such theological, ecclesial, and
moral probings, but there are always a small handul who may very well
use opinions expressed in social media threads by candidates for
ministry against them. Some people are able to react rationally when
someone expresses a different point of view on a hot button issue, and
some are not.
It's the latter individuals who are of concern.
What do you think?
Originally posted at Allan Bevere's blog.