Thou shalt not troll? Church of England issues new 'commandments' for Christians online

The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concern about social media practices.

July 1, 2019, 1:12 PM

LONDON -- The Ten Commandments may have been written on tablets of stone, but the Church of England has once again shown its willingness to adapt to the modern world by issuing new rules suited to a different kind of tablet.

The church has released a new set of guidelines Monday for Christians online to help encourage them to “share the good news” of Jesus’ teachings. While the rules apply to all comments posted in reply to the social media accounts Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the church says the principles are "universal."

People use mobile devices.
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“Social media is a very public way of enabling us as Christians to live out our calling to share the good news of Jesus Christ,” the church said in a statement regarding the new social media guidelines. “One of its many joys is that it is immediate, interactive, conversational and open-ended. This opportunity comes with a number of downsides if users do not apply the same common sense, kindness and sound judgement that we would use in a face-to-face encounter.”

The nine new guidelines for anyone who “engages” with the church’s social media accounts includes instructions for Christians to be "safe, "respectful" and "kind" to one another online.

"Treat others how you would wish to be treated and assume the best in people," the guidelines say. "If you have a criticism or critique to make, consider not just whether you would say it in person, but the tone you would use."

For the most part, the guidelines appear to be the online equivalent of many Christian teachings, although they do come at a time when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has become increasingly vocal about combating “alternative facts” online.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace, May 8, 2019 in London.
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In conversation with Facebook, Welby spoke of his worry about how “savagely social media can be used,” saying the guidelines would encourage “truth, kindness and welcome” online, according to The Guardian.

“Look at any article, and then look at the comments below it and very quickly you find stuff that is just poison,” he reportedly said. “When you’re talking on social media, put the truth out. There’s no such thing as an alternative fact: there are opinions, and there is truth. When you are expressing an opinion, do so with kindness.”