Encyclicals, messages and speeches from Metropolitan Gerasimos.
Using Technology with Discernment: Guidelines for Electronic Communication
+Julia the Virgin-Martyr of Carthage
Beloved Brothers in the Lord,
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you!
The speed of technological change in our world today amazes all of us. New technologies seem to appear almost daily. In particular, and the purpose of my letter, communication technology has radically transformed our personal lives, the lives of our faithful, and the lives and ministries of our parishes, our Metropolis, and the Archdiocese.
The Church should take advantage of the positive dimensions of new communications technologies. They can enhance our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the psalmist sings, “Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96.2). Just as St. Paul teaches us to “let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14.26), we can use these new technologies to connect with our faithful in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Because “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2.4), our ministries can use these new technologies to reach out to those who have drifted away from the Orthodox Church as well as unchurched Christians in our society, “that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). These technologies are particularly effective with our youth and young adults, who increasingly rely upon them instead of other ways of communication.
These new media, though, have compressed space and time to the point where all communication should be seen as public and instantaneous. On the one hand, this has enhanced the lives of our communities. For example, a parish can easily inform all of its members about events and news. Clergy can deliver a sermon in their parish, record it, and transmit it globally. On the other hand, that same sermon, if poorly delivered or with erroneous information, once transmitted electronically can have unforeseen repercussions and cannot be retracted.
Because of these matters, I feel it is my responsibility to remind you of the following:
- Electronic communication technologies cannot replace the face-to-face ministry of the priest to his flock. “The sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them” (John 10:2). Posting a podcast of a sermon or streaming video of a worship service does not replace the incarnate and interpersonal ministry of the Church. “For nothing is so proper to our nature as to share our lives with each other, and to need each other….” (St. Basil the Great, Long Rules, Q. 3.)
- Remember that while you use electronic communication and social networking sites in the privacy of your home or office, these are public forms of communications. You should assume that the words you write and the photos you post will be seen by everyone and cannot be retracted or removed. In your group communication with young people, you should also include other adults to avoid any misunderstandings about the messages you are sending or to prevent anyone from making false assumptions about your ministry to young people. The Youth Protection Manual of our Archdiocese has very specific guidelines, especially on pages 8 - 9, on electronic communication with youth.
- Before you post photos and videos on-line, use common sense about giving notice to the community and those in the pictures about how the images will be utilized. Secure any needed permissions to use people’s likenesses, especially minors, for publicity purposes.
- Social networking sites (such as Facebook) are wonderful tools to connect with family, friends, and your parish. Remember that you are a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church and as St. John Chrysostom writes, “How great is the honor with the grace of the Spirit has bestowed on priests” (On the Priesthood, III, 5.181). The words you write and the images you post, especially for the public, should always respect the integrity of the Church and the dignity of the priesthood.
My beloved brothers, we serve the Lord in a most exciting age. The Gospel can be proclaimed “to the ends of the earth” from the most humble location, with just a little effort and a few clicks of a mouse. These new technologies are a gift that we must use with wisdom and discernment.
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco