A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media

Most of us have done it!! We have posted something on the Internet when we had thought, incorrectly, that we had heard all the facts. Or we have written something slamming a brother or sister in Christ personally without talking to them in person first. Or we have written something when we were in the flesh and not in the Holy Spirit that caused heartache and pain to some innocent victim of our written words. Or we have spoken prophetically only later to have wished we had shared the comments in person.

The following is a simple code of ethics (5 Questions) for the follower of Jesus to consider before one clicks the “enter” button. It is intended for the follower of Jesus to remember that even in cyber-space we are witnesses (either for good or for bad) for Jesus Christ modeling a life which is supposed to emulate him.

1. IS IT THE TRUTH?

Or is it gossip, slander, or unverified hearsay? Our responsibility is to speak truth, yet speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15). Why is it my responsibility to speak this truth, or to be judge and jury? What gives me the right to write this or post this?

2. Have I TALKED to THE PERSON BEFORE I TALK about THE PERSON?

There is a difference between writing about what someone has said or done and writing about the person. It is easy to speak out of our own anger and emotional needs without going to the person first. As followers of Jesus, it is not right to say anything about another person unless it is flowing from God’s love within us, and he has given us a process to do this – Matthew 18:15-20.

3. WILL IT BENEFIT ALL CONCERNED?

This is what love does. Speaking truth to another can bring benefit and repentance, but slander, hatred, and meanness bring destruction, hurt, and divisiveness in the Body. The Scriptures exhort us to avoid these kinds of things. Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt; Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other as God in Christ has forgiven you.

4. DO MY WORDS REFLECT WELL ON JESUS CHRIST?

As followers of his, this is what our mission is about – sharing Jesus Christ so that others may worship Him, too. Can people see Jesus in my comments, pictures, and online activity? Do they see the fruit of the Holy Spirit being manifest in my words? 1 Corinthians 5:14 - It is the love of Christ which compels us. Am I reflecting the aroma of Christ?

5. WILL I HAVE TO CONFESS WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN AS A SIN?

If so, then why write it or post it? Flee the temptation to sin.

THE FIVE QUESTIONS

1. Is it the truth?

2. Have I talked to the person before I talked about the person?

3. Will it benefit all concerned?

4. Do my words reflect well on Jesus Christ?

5. Will I have to confess what I have written as a sin?


Note: The Rotary International Four-Way Test served as a model for these questions. Download this code of ethics here.

The 2019 Matthew 25 Gathering: A reflection

The sleet was falling and I thought to myself, ‘I should have gone back for an umbrella.’ The gray sky pushed down on me with wet frigidity that slowly seeped through my coat with urgent shivers. I looked at the slush on the steps, prayed that no one would slip, and gingerly stepped down, down, down from the lofty perch of the Lincoln Memorial towards the reflecting pool and the stark Washington Monument. As I stepped, I saw some of my Matthew 25 colleagues huddled and then I heard the familiar voice of Gathering Steering Team member, Herb Bailey as he began to read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech from the very spot Dr. King would have delivered it over 55 years prior. The cold sleet persisted. Herb read the whole thing. As he approached those clarion words, ‘Let Freedom Ring…’ we all lifted our eyes and our voices and proclaimed together, “Free at last! (Yes) Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” ’ That’s a Matthew 25 Gathering moment we will not soon forget.

And yet, the Matthew 25 Gathering was created because the dream of Dr. King and the vision of the prophet Isaiah (which Dr. King invoked by quoting, ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together’) is still an unrealized aspiration. There are men and women doing heroic works for justice and mercy (and they must!) because the Lord calls them and men like Dr. King inspire them.

The leadership of the ACNA decided to create an annual Gathering of Anglicans who are doing these works of justice and mercy so that the heart and soul of our province would be revealed by people like Herb, Vicky, Adam, Eva-Elizabeth, Daniel, Sami, and hundreds of others. The Gathering is a learning community, an opportunity to be refreshed, and a place to meet people doing similar work across our province.

Planning for the first Matthew 25 Gathering began in 2015 in order to make contending for justice and mercy part of the DNA of our young North American movement. This was initiated by Archbishop Foley Beach and the Canon for Mission who said to us, “our desire is that this part of God’s heart be the heart of the ACNA.”

By coming together, we aimed to form a common vocabulary for talking about justice and mercy in our denomination. We deliberately don’t use words like “compassion ministries” or “ministry among the poor.” We want to avoid reductionism and we seek to be as holistic as possible in our language. So in 2019 we had workshops and ‘stories from the field’ about creation care, advocating for the unborn, multiethnic parish ministry, restorative justice, elder care, trauma and soul care, immigration legal aid, human trafficking, addiction…. all of it! When we talk about Anglican Justice and Mercy Contending for Shalom, each of those words is chosen with intention.

This year, we presented to Gathering participants the way our work on a common vocabulary has grown into a rich, robust theological reflection on Anglican social theology. It was written by Father Nicholas Krause, Ph.D candidate in Theology and Ethics at Baylor University and Associate Priest for Campus Ministry at Christ Church in Waco, TX, from his collected observations at The Matthew 25 Gathering in 2017. We heartily encourage anyone in the ACNA who wants to read an Anglican Social Theology to take the time to work through Father Nicholas’ careful writing.

In addition to common vocabulary and theological reflection, we layer topics and build on the content of prior Gatherings. For example, we have consistently talked about the way race and ethnicity impacts the work of every person who attends. The first Gathering focused on lament for pain and brokenness caused by racial injustice. At the second Gathering, we held the grief of our own denominational story in North America, being honest to name our sin, while also celebrating some markers of hope. During the third Gathering, we looked at the structures that exacerbate racial brokenness. We examined the systems that make works of justice and mercy necessary and more difficult.

We also hope to highlight and contribute some Anglican distinctives to the broader North American church’s growing focus on ministries of justice and mercy. The two primary emphases that we as Anglicans can bring to this conversation are first, a sacramental perspective on creation that engages with every corner of the material work and structures. And second, a contemplative tradition and practice that pairs with the activist proclivities of Christians doing this work.

We want to build a community of Anglican practitioners of justice and mercy across the continent. We want to know each other, network with each other, and collaborate in partnership. This community of people is crucial to what we are forming in the Anglican Church in North America and so we prioritize time and resources to make it happen: we gather annually, we create lots of opportunity for interaction, and we celebrate what is happening around our province. This is not just a conference to deliver information. It’s a community of people who are learning to be vocational companions across the provinces of Canada and the states of Mexico and America.

It is our prayer that every person in an ACNA church who is doing works of justice and mercy would make The Matthew 25 Gathering an annual priority. The relationships and encouragement that happen when we gather are crucial to the sustainability of this work. We long to see this community of Anglicans doing works of justice and mercy mature into a strong and growing voice that witnesses true Shalom in every place that the Anglican Church in North America calls home.

To learn more about the Matthew 25 Gathering, visit http://www.anglicanjusticeandmercy.org/. If your congregation is looking to begin a Matthew 25 ministry, click here to learn more about receiving a M25i grant.

This reflection was co-authored by the Rev. David Hanke and Mrs. Christine Warner.

G19 Conference Statement

Preamble

1.  We gathered together as the people of God, under the Word of God and aware of His presence and love for the whole of His creation (Matt 6:25 -29, Rom 8:20-23).  Among us were 4 Primates, 31 bishops and archbishops, 44 clergy and 59 lay people from twelve countries.

2.  We were grateful that the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) organised this gathering for Anglicans living in restricted circumstances who were not able to attend G18.

3.  We met in the context of hostility between India and Pakistan; conflict in Sudan; a fragile peace in South Sudan, though some parts continue to face unrest; and the endemic violence between ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria.

4.  We gave thanks to God, as we studied St Paul’s letter to the Philippians and learned from the plenary addresses and from each other of the joys and challenges of sharing the gospel in our different contexts.

5.  Gafcon is a movement for the reform and renewal of the Anglican Communion by faithful Anglicans who find their beloved Communion has been devastated by those preaching and practicing another gospel (Gal 1:6-7). 

6.  As an expression of such faithfulness, we commend the Letter to the Churches written by our brothers and sisters at Gafcon 2018.

Called to proclaim the gospel faithfully

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1)

7.  As faithful Anglicans, the love of God and His gospel is at the heart of who we are and what we do.  We give thanks for the opportunity we have had to join with brothers and sisters in shared fellowship. Our week together has confirmed our shared appreciation of, and submission to, God’s revelation of himself through Scripture to which, by the grace of God, we seek to hold, even in the most adverse situations.

8.  We shared in the joy and suffering faced by many of our brothers and sisters living in restricted situations as they seek to remain faithful to Christ. 

9.  We heard of the sense of betrayal they experience when the very gospel for which they are suffering is being undermined and denied in other parts of the Anglican Communion.  It grieves us that those who reject the clarity and authority of the Scriptures, the universal teaching of the Church, the classical Anglican formularies and the decisions of the Lambeth Conference undermine the credibility of our witness amongst our fellow citizens of other faiths and of none.

We respectfully continue to urge that all faithful Anglican provinces, including the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Province of Brazil, be invited to future Anglican gatherings.
At the same time, we ask that those provinces, bishops and clergy who, in word or action, openly disregard the teaching of the Church as described, for example, by Resolution I:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, should not be invited unless they repent of their actions and their consequences.

Called to proclaim hope

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)

10.  We recognise that, despite the very different contexts in which we live, our fundamental need is the same; that is, each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and of his purposes for us in our creation.  We give thanks that the atonement provided by Christ’s death and the new life springing from His resurrection fully meets that need.  We commit ourselves to sharing this Good News, in word and in deed, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

11.  We learned from different models of mission and ministry that were appropriate to our different contexts. 

12.  We were gladdened to hear that people are turning to Christ from every tribe, language and nation represented at the conference, even in the most difficult circumstances.  Our worship reflected our cultural and linguistic diversity and the unity that results from our common submission to God’s revelation in Christ.

We are encouraged that the faithful suffering of God’s people has indeed served to proclaim the gospel to the world.  We ask that the testimony of endurance and joyful resilience of the suffering Church be at the heart of our life and work together in the Communion, so that there may be blessing for Anglicans worldwide. 

Called to partner together

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

13.  We grieve that the fellowship in the Anglican Communion has been torn at the deepest level by those who preach another gospel and those who urge us to continue to ‘walk together’ with them.  We are grateful, therefore, that Gafcon offers us the opportunity to partner with one another in true gospel fellowship.  As the Chairman of the Gafcon Primates pointed out in his address, the continued development of the nine networks is one way one in which this can take place:
•  Theological Education: To promote effective theological training throughout the Anglican Communion.
•  Church Planting: To expand church planting as a global strategy for evangelization and discipleship.
•  Global Mission Partnerships: To promote strategic cross-cultural mission partnerships in a globalised world.
•  Youth and Children’s Ministry: To be a catalyst for mission to young people and children of all nations so that they may become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
•  Women’s Ministry: To promote biblical patterns of marriage and family life, especially through the worldwide Mother’s Union.
•  Sustainable Development:  To establish global partnerships which work with the local church to bring sustainable and transformative development.
•  Bishops’ Training Institute: To serve the formation of faithful and effective episcopal leadership throughout the Communion.
•  Lawyers Task Force: To address issues of religious freedom and matters of concern to Anglican lawyers and Chancellors and to further the aims of the Jerusalem Declaration.
•  Prayer: To equip faithful Anglicans around the world to pray for the renewal and reform of the Communion and to develop globally connected regional and national intercessory prayer networks.

14.  We look forward to seeing these networks provide fellowship and resources for faithful churches who have to refuse help which comes with an ungodly agenda that might, therefore, compromise their integrity.

We recommend that the Gafcon Primates consider appropriate ways to discern and nurture the particular gifts and ministries of women and men, so that they may play their part in the life of their churches.

We request that the Gafcon Primates consider developing a new network to provide fellowship, advocacy and intentional prayer for those in restricted situations and ask that all the other networks consider the particular needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters, ensuring that the gifts God has given them are used throughout our Communion.

Conclusion

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:17-21)

15.  We were encouraged by the presence of the Primate of All Nigeria, the Primate of South Sudan, the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, the Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, and many senior bishops, including the Archbishop of Jos, the new General Secretary of Gafcon, together representing the vast majority of faithful Anglicans.

16.  As St Paul says, our persecuted brothers and sisters give us an example of those who live the apostolic life in faithfulness to Christ, with God-given joy and perseverance, in the face of threats within and without (cf. Philippians 3:17).

17.  We pray that, by God’s grace, their example will also maintain us in faithfulness to the gospel, prophetic witness, love of God and our fellow brothers and sisters, as we eagerly await the return of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And it is our prayer that our love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that we may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(cf. Philippians 1:9-11)

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