Thou shalt tweet responsibly, Church urges clergy and staff

Diocese of Bath and Wells Bath and Wells diocese says Twitter is a "good resource for our clergy"

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A Church of England diocese has issued a list of social media rules to its staff and clergy, urging them to consider God when tweeting the masses.

The guidelines range from practical security advice to more faith-based instructions, including a warning that updates are "transient yet permanent".

The list has been widely shared online, dubbed the "Twitter commandments".

Bath and Wells diocese said it compiled the nine rules to help "spread the word of God in the most effective way".

The guidelines aim to help parish staff "navigate through the social media landscape".

'A bit dull'

Diocese's nine Twitter rules

  • Don't rush in
  • Remember tweets are transient yet permanent
  • Be a good ambassador for the Church
  • Don't hide behind anonymity
  • Be aware of public/private life boundaries
  • Maintain a professional distance
  • Stay within the law
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be mindful of your own security

The first rule - "don't rush in" - urges ecclesiastical tweeters to consider the following questions:

  • Is this my story to share?
  • Would I want my mum to read this?
  • Would I want God to read this?
  • Would I want this on the front page of a newspaper?

Subsequent rules advise on drawing boundaries between public duties and private life, being an ambassador for the Church and maintaining a professional distance.

After feedback to the original rules suggested they were "worthy but a bit on the dull side", some light-hearted advice from a local social media expert was added.

Online community

A spokesman for Bath and Wells diocese told the BBC that publishing the resource was what "any good organisation" would do.

"The Church of England is in every community in the UK, so it seems right that we should be in online communities too," he said.

"We're not the first diocese to provide guidelines, but our clergy increasingly use social media.

"A vicar might engage in conversation online in the same way that they do in the street, post office or pub."

Other religious bodies offer faith-driven advice for their representatives communicating online.

The Methodist Church in Britain urges its clergy to "let Galatians 5:22-26", which urges the spirit of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control", guide their behaviour when sharing the "good news of Jesus Christ in the world" on social media.

But the popularity of these new guidelines took Somerset's Anglican clergy by surprise.

"The irony of these guidelines becoming part of a Twitter storm has not been wasted on us," a staff member said.

"We're just pleased that so many people have found it interesting."

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