The role played by Twitter in the reporting of the Church of England’s General Synod has become a point of debate, with church figures calling for restraint in the language used in tweets.
The Synod, which is debating contentious topics including possible arrangements for Female priests to become Bishops, has been widely reported across the media.
And many observers and participants are busily tweeting their thoughts about the debates, communicating their thoughts in text message length sound-bites.
It is the very fact that all tweets must be short which may have led to stern warnings being issued by some, concerning the way that the church is seen by other Twitter users.
In particular debate has been fierce on the issue of Women Bishops, with both sides voicing strong opinions on the site.
But Times Religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill picked up a hint of worry about the nature of some of the comments, when she tweeted to her almost 40,000 followers: “Archdeacon of Dorking to take care with social media at #synod: 'Tone of a tweet must be good witness to the way Christians relate.'”
But despite the Archdeacon’s warning, people issuing tweets marked with the hashtag #synod have still talked of sexism, racism, evasion, manipulation and oppression.
The #synod twitter stream saddened the Church Army CEO Mark Russell, prompting him to tweet: “Saddened by some #synod tweets. Please remember how we look to an unbelieving world.”
And his comment was picked up by the Bishop of Hertford, Paul Hayes, who commented:“ “@markrusselluk: Saddened by some #synod tweets.” >> Agreed. Anger for what's right can change the world. But contempt never can.”
Other twitter users have disagreed though, remarking that so far the church has yet to suffer greatly due to the synod tweets, and noting that general media coverage has been so far largely unaffected by the use of twitter.
An American Episcopalian priest twittering as @girlierev noted this, and tweeted an encouragement to her own denomination to allow twitter use in their own synod:
“Breaking News: CofE members Tweet from #Synod. Church does not immediately collapse. #Episcopal #dontfearthetwitter “
February 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross