Monica Coleman reflects on the role of social media at gatherings of mainline denominations this summer:
I’m only a member of one of these denominations, but I’ve enjoyed being a voyeur on all of their activities. I think of it less as spying, and more as keeping my finger on the pulse of American Protestantism. While reports roll in on the decreased religiosity of Americans and low commitment to mainline denominations, these online reports tell a different story. They show the tensions, politics, hopes, aspirations, frustrations, and celebrations of people who care deeply about their faith and their community. I see them struggle with generational, moral, political, and theological differences. All while trying to be friends with those with whom they disagree. Within these churches are groups of people who are discerning when to walk away, and when to stay and fight. In my online spying, it seems like denominational conferences aren’t so different from most Christians I know. I find that immensely reassuring.
There’s been some discussion of the significance of Twitter for General Convention 2012. It may be that we will have to take some time to think about its significance and what we can learn from our experiences. Will there be a lasting impact? There’s been a great deal of talk about building networks in conjunction with restructuring. Are we seeing the birth of something new?
The same could be said about the viral response to the mainstream media stories on General Convention and the Episcopal Church. Dozens of writers responded almost immediately to the articles in the WSJ and NYT. Their pieces were tweeted and retweeted, shared widely, and offered the whole church ways of sharing our version of our story.
But there’s more. Social media has not just allowed us to build new networks and relationships internally, it has also contributed to our ecumenical conversations. It wasn’t just Episcopalians who responded to Douthat and others. Other progressive and mainline Christians did as well and new relationships are being forged even as the conversation is broadening.
I am interested in seeing how this all develops.