At its February meeting in St. Louis, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) adopted a new report on the subject of Christians and social media use.
The report came about when an overture referred to the CTCR by the 2016 Synod convention raised a number of concerns about the use of social media in today’s culture.
The overture suggested that the CTCR “study the use and benefits of social media among and in the LCMS” (2016 Ov. 5–08).
The CTCR responded positively to this suggestion in light of the responsibility given to it by the Synod to “provide studies of contemporary issues, including current social issues, as they affect the church and as the church may affect such social issues” (Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1[c]).
The new report, titled A Snapshot of Trending Tools: Christians and Social Media, was adopted by the CTCR at its Feb. 21–23 meeting.
Commenting on the new report, CTCR Executive Director Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer said, “Lutherans have always been open to the constructive use of new technologies for sharing the never-changing truths of God’s Word — think of Luther and the printing press!
“At the same time, Lutherans are clear-eyed about the power of sin, the world and Satan, and are therefore realistic and necessarily critical about how such technologies can be twisted and misused.
“Social media is a prime example of this and is also evolving and developing (in both good and bad ways). The CTCR’s report, therefore, is hardly the final word on this topic — note the term ‘snapshot’ in the report’s title — and yet the theological truths and principles it articulates are timeless, not merely ‘trending.’
“The CTCR hopes that this report is useful as a part of a larger, ongoing conversation on this very timely and important topic. It has also prepared and designed this report in such a way that positions the Commission itself to address additional aspects of this issue as they may arise in the future.”
The social media report begins with an introduction that provides a working definition of the term “social media” and lays out the scope of the report, which seeks to consider how Christians can “best use — or, if necessary, avoid the use of — this technology to glorify our God and Savior, build up the Body of Christ and extend His kingdom in the world.”
Additional sections of the report consider questions of:
- “trolls” and “fake news”;
- podcasts and blogs;
- knowledge and authority;
- the capacity of social media for influencing thought, both negatively and positively;
- social media’s propensity to turn people inward and provide occasions for sin; and
- the concept of vocation as a useful framework for approaching one’s social media use.
Also included is a consideration of each of the Ten Commandments in light of its implications for social media.
For example, the report asks, “How might social media become an idol?” and “How might your social media use lead you to hate others, even your brothers and sisters in Christ?”
The report concludes by quoting Luther, who entreated Christians to use any tool “just as you would want your neighbor to use his property in his relations with you.”
In a letter recommending the report, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison called it “tremendously significant … of the quality that we have come to expect from the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.”
Peter Slayton, manager of social media for LCMS Communications, said, “I’m glad to see the LCMS starting this important conversation. I look forward to seeing it develop and grow from here.”Recommendation Letter with CTCR Report
The CTCR also recently made available a Bible study to accompany the report on Baptism.
A Spanish-language version of the report on the royal priesthood is expected to be released this summer.
CTCR publications and documents may be downloaded for free at lcms.org/ctcr.
Posted May 29, 2019