Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blogging the GOEs: Question 7: the GOEs Get Hip

Crusty Old Dean apologizes for the delay in finishing out my GOE blogging – he had some non-Deanly matters to attend to (COD does have a life outside being Crusty, after all) and so has gotten a little behind. But no worries! I still have much spleen to vent and look forward to the world continuing to provide opportunities in 2012 upon which to snark.

Faster than one can say, “Oh, snap!” the GOE got hip. Yes, friends, the same exam that unveiled a thousand-word-long question on theosis (oddly enough, as a graduate of an Orthodox seminary, COD was delighted by this question while at the same time imagining the terror it conjured in many students’ minds, since it is not a topic oft discussed in the Episcopal Church) a couple of years ago is now throwing down the tweets.

Without further introduction, this year’s question on the Theory and Practice of Ministry:

Set 7: Theory and Practice of Ministry

Saturday, January 7, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


You are the new rector of a program-sized parish with many young people. Youve noticed that much communicating is done among the youth, youth leaders, and others using Facebook, tweets, e-mails, and other social media.

Having just completed the Safe Church training, you are concerned about the use of social media among young people as well as between younger and older church people in your parish. You want to insure that the use of media promotes healthy communication and adequate security for all.

1. Write a clear official policy of about 500 words that includes at least three guidelines for the use of social media in parish communications.

2. In an essay of not more than 1,000 words, explain the information, authority, and expertise that contributed to your formation of this policy, identifying the people and the other resources that you have consulted.

Wonderful, excellent question – especially linking it to the theory and practice of ministry.

However, COD finds it hilarious this is written from the perspective of a rector wondering what those whacky kids are up to with the Bookface and Tweeter and whatever it’s called. Social media is NOT just something only people under 25 do. I know many older clergy who blog, COD is friends with several bishops on Facebook (and ones who actually use their Facebook accounts!), COD has followed several Episcopal elections through twitter updates. COD would rather have had the question framed about acknowledging the prevalence of social media, rather than the rector noticing those punk kids treading on the cyber lawn.

That said, it is still a good thing the GOEs are addressing the question of social media and its pastoral implications. Crusty Old Dean is convinced by the work of the Pew Research Forum that social media and the internet are fundamentally reshaping not only how we communicate but also how we understand community and personal relationships. Bitching about these changes is fulfilling in an empty sort of way – however failing to account for them is not only suicide for the church (we must attract the millenials if the church is not to shrink even more; see previous posts) but also has implications for pastoral practice.

Put another way: my son turns 7 this year. On a lark, years ago when he was 2 and wanted some incredibly elaborate Nerf automatic weapon, COD and CODW said “When you’re seven,” thinking, “By the time he’s seven he’ll have moved on.” Misdirection and bait-and-switch are tried and true parenting techniques. Now that he’s seven, my son has proclaimed his desire for even more elaborate weaponry. CODW was initially concerned, and COD thought, “I’d rather give him any toy gun he wants than let him use an IPad with an internet connection unsupervised.” Negotiating this world of cyber communication and relationships is going to be an increasingly important element of how the church adapts its ethics and pastoral theology.

An excellent question, and excellent ending to the GOEs. COD is mortified to say it: WELL DONE General Board of Examining Chaplains! An excellent set of GOE questions, except for the bizarre 40-yr-old essay that was the centerpiece of an otherwise fine question on care for the environment.

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