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Why Pastors Should Not Blog Anonymously

April 22nd, 2010
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I recently had an unpleasant experience with a Lutheran pastor who blogs anonymously. He felt a need, apparently, to vent his spleen in a particularly spectacularly nasty way about something. When it was pointed out to him how thoroughly inappropriate and way over-the-top his comments were, and how egregiously sinful and slanderous his accusations were, all he could do was issue a revised form of a post, along with a lot of self-defensiveness and excuse making, and of course, playing the, “I’m allowed to act like a wild boar, because I’m such a confessional Lutheran and I’m defending the truth” card.

I could not help but once again be reminded of why anonymous blogging is such a bad idea. I refuse to believe that this pastor would have said the things he said, in the way he said them, in the degree to which he said them, if he were blogging openly, using his real name.

Pastors: there is no excuse for anonymous blogging. If you run a blog site, put your name to it.

Consider this: (A) The chances are very high you will not actually remain anonymous, as in this case; (B) Anonymous blog posting is the coward’s way. If you are unwilling, hesitant, or otherwise concerned about putting your name on what you blog about, that should be a strong warning to you that you are heading down a wrong path.

PS – In the spirit of this blog post, if you wish to offer a comment, sign your full name, and location to your remark. I’m trying to encourage the perpetually anonymous-inclined folks here to step out into the light.

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Categories: Blogging
  1. April 22nd, 2010 at 09:32 | #1

    AMEN. I learned this lesson, too — though, thank God, with a lot less cost to my ministry.

    For a while after I started in my call I posted on a discussion board using a pseudonym. I had great “reasons” for doing so – but I still ended up going too far with things I said, defending things I had no good reason to defend, getting caught up in controversies that had nothing to do with me, and most of all, wasting time that should have been spent on my ministry to the congregation I had been called to. When I finally signed off it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Only now, after many years to mature in my ministry (not that I think I’ve arrived), am I considering starting a blog — and I’ll do it under my own name.

    Thanks for this helpful reminder!

  2. April 22nd, 2010 at 09:38 | #2

    While I generally agree with you that anonymous/pseudonymous blogging/commenting is the less desirable & effective (albeit not totally indefensible) route, I would hasten to add that your numerical analysis, while possibly not surprising, isn’t necessarily related to the anonymous posting issue.

    That this pastor does or doesn’t post under his name isn’t the cause of the numeric decline. That he runs under the “confessional” banner isn’t the reason, either. Nor, for that matter, would be his running under the “Jesus First” banner (if he did…). The Holy Spirit works as He will.

    But, lest you think me too blithe, of course “pew side manner” matters. It’s just that it doesn’t matter as much as faithfully preaching & teaching. Which, of course, will be done in a winsome manner, except that we’re beggarly sinners. I guess that if I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of being faithful than on the side of being “nice”…

    In any event, your advice is good & should be heeded (it’s just that invoking numbers/metrics tends to put me a bit on edge…).

    • April 22nd, 2010 at 10:23 | #3

      I’m happy to clarify, the point about the tail-spin decline in his congregation was made to indicate that it came as no surprise after reading his spleen-venting diatribes, post-after-post-after-post, that a personality type and behaviors to match are, in my view, contributing factors in why the parish has withered under his pastoral leadership. Can I “prove” it? No. But I don’t think one can simply dismiss the distinct possibility of a correlation.

  3. Paul Beisel
    April 22nd, 2010 at 12:35 | #4

    Rev. McCain, you’re right when you say that pastors have no right to be rude and irresponsible. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I, however, must take issue in all respect with your assumptions about congregational statistics. You pulled the same thing with me, writing on your blog about my congregation (which you did not name) and how there ‘might’ be a correlation between the declining numbers of my church and my pastoral attitude. How about “explaining everything in the kindest way”? If you don’t know for certain that there is a correlation, then you should not make such assertions at all, even suggesting the possibility. In my own case, the numbers had declined a lot because we removed several names from our membership list who had long since moved, left the church, or died. I agree with Glen on the numbers thing. I’m not defending what the other pastor posted or said, since I haven’t even read it. But let’s assume the best about a person, not the worst. There are parish situations out there that are, for lack of a better word, impossible. When you have people who do not care a lick about Lutheran doctrine, it wears on a pastor, and even the most sanctified among us cannot help what happens to the members of his parish. Thankfully I am now in a congregation where a good majority of the folks really want to learn what Lutherans believe. Please stop checking congregational statistics and making assertions about things you don’t know for certain.

    • April 22nd, 2010 at 12:56 | #5

      Paul, I think we have a crisis in brutal honesty with ourselves. Congregational statistics do mean something and when I watch a man like this, act as he does, as I’ve seen others do, the results are congregations that are crippled in their wakes. I experienced it myself first hand when I inherited a parish from a pastor who had beat the sheep about the head and shoulders. And, guess what? People drifted away from membership and from attending church.

      I think that while we can never say, for sure, why stats show what they show, I think we should also be willing to fact some hard facts and start some “self-policing” among the “confessional” crowd.

      I’m tired of guys hiding behind their supposed “orthodoxy” as an excuse for boorish behaviors.

      I will continue to keep checking congregational statistics and making sure we are paying attention to them. While they do not tell the whole story, they certainly do tell a story.

  4. Pastor J Kouri
    April 22nd, 2010 at 20:51 | #6

    Hi,

    You are right about Christian love and that rudeness will drive people away. But the stats do not necessarily reflect the personality of the Pastor nor his faithfulness or unfaithfulness.
    There can be many reasons why people do not attend a specific congregation. Ultimately, if they do not attend any Church at all it is most likely because they reject the Word of God and do not want it (Matthew 23:37). Jesus did not have good stats as he came to Jerusalem to be crucified.
    And only a remnant was kept in Israel (only 7000 confessional Israelites left!!) for a long time. And we as confessional Lutherans represent a very small portion of Christendom… in my province of 8 million we are less than 2000 Lutherans all synods together. And if we count only the LCC (same as LCMS) we are half that.
    So I don’t see the point of stats. We are not in the marketing business. But I do see the point of love and being Christ-like as Pastors… not that I am there yet… kyrie eleison.

  5. Kevin Jennings
    April 22nd, 2010 at 21:00 | #7

    Hi, Paul!

    I, too, tire of the old “I’m more Lutheran than you are” game. It seems we can’t do anything without the trump card of “confessional.” And, I do agree that this kind of behavior is unbecoming of a pastor. Finally, I agree that congregational statistics matter.

    I consider myself a confessional Lutheran pastor. But, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve thought to myself, “If this kind of behavior is an indicator of ‘confessional,’ I’m not sure I want that label.”

    Let me offer a slightly different analysis of the statistics in question. I serve a smallish congregation in southern Texas. It’s not large by any stretch of the imagination. A few months ago, at the recommendation of a brother in the ministry, I began a blog. My intent was to provide devotional thoughts every few days, as well as some announcements about upcoming events in the congregation. The blog is still empty. Why? I don’t have the time to keep up with it! There is too much to do between duties at the church and duties at home for me to engage in lengthy diatribes. If I were to spend a lot of time filling the blog, something else gets left off the schedule.

    Do I have passionate opinions about different stuff? You better believe I do. Ask me during Longhorn football season. The truth is, I don’t think exploding with those opinions reflects well on me, and I’m too chicken to spew that kind of venom online.

    Of course, the unfortunate result is that my dear wife gets to hear when I get wound up about something.

    God bless!
    Kevin

  6. Tim Kuehn
    April 22nd, 2010 at 21:20 | #8

    I’d also like to see a little more emphasis on not bearing false witness as opposed to “assuming the best” about someone when evidence (such as their behavior) clearly demonstrates otherwise. Scripture requires us to test the fruit of what people do, and call them on in when need be.

  7. Steven Goodrich
    April 22nd, 2010 at 22:09 | #9

    I remeber someone who ran off disciples. (John 6:60-66). I am not condoning this man’s behavior, because who have not provided us with a link so he can read for ourselves.

    Steven Goodrich
    Conway, AR

    • April 23rd, 2010 at 11:22 | #10

      The point is not the person, but the problem of anonymous blogging.

  8. Paul Beisel
    April 23rd, 2010 at 07:25 | #11

    Oh, one other thing: are you equally willing to make a correlation between a congregational increase and the pastor’s attitude? Can a pastor take the credit for increasing a church’s membership? If you answer yes to this, than I think you are on shaky theological ground.

    • April 23rd, 2010 at 11:26 | #12

      No, Paul, a pastor takes no “credit” for God’s blessing and working through the means of grace, but he better willing to take some blame when his personal behaviors get in the way of the people hearing the Word and receiving Christ’s gifts.

      For every “persecuted confessional Lutheran” pastor story you could tell me, I could give you three stories of horrendous, unrelenting and intentional pastoral malpractice. It’s real, and it happens. And I find it particularly disgusting when a person attempts to justify himself by appealing to being such an orthodox, confessional pastor.

  9. Rev. David (O’Beirne) Sidwell
    April 23rd, 2010 at 07:33 | #13

    A church soon figures out whether (or not) its the pastor’s goal to form them (in Christ through Word and Sacrament) or conform them to his “ideal” of a church. This can be a “confessional” pastor creating the one true confessional church or a “church growth” pastor creating Saddleback in the Midwest. The agenda soon shows and the results are that people leave– because they know they are only the means to his (the pastor’s) end.

    Unless a plant (or two) closed– a church decline of such magnitude most often rests on the pastor.

  10. Pr. Tom Fast
    April 23rd, 2010 at 13:25 | #14

    I’ve got an idea. Let’s all agree that posting slanderous comments is sinful. That should be easy enough. Whether or not it shrinks or grows a congregation is a secondary concern. There are some congregations which grow, just like the talk radio audience, the more the spleen is vented. There are others where folks are offended by such slanderous comments. It all depends upon who is being slandered, and in what context it is being done, I suppose.

    For example, right now in the conservative pockets of the US of A, you could publicly slander Muslims, homosexuals, socialists, and President Obama……and you’d probably gain adherents. OTOH, you could speak truthfully about all kinds of things, including things taken right out of the Bible and the Book of Concord, and you may well lose members of your congregation.

    When you consider slander, think coram Deo. In fact, whenever you speak or write, think coram Deo. Think coram Deo when you get up, when you walk along the way, and when you lay down at night. Whether or not what you say or write is popular coram mundo is, to a certain degree, beside the point.

  11. Lisa Stapp
    April 23rd, 2010 at 13:30 | #15

    I would not limit the critique about anonymous blogging to pastors.

    If we are baptized into Christ, we represent HIM. The Holy Spirit calls people in spite of the fact that the natural human being hates God. Still, we don’t need to give folks even more reason to ignore the claims of Christ (Incarnated, Crucified, Died, Buried, Resurrected, and Returning) by behaving like self-involved idiots.

    Somebody’s grandmother might read this post… any post. I know that I have unintentionally offended people, I don’t need to go out of my own way to do so!

  12. Rev. Thomas Handrick, Sr.
    April 23rd, 2010 at 14:32 | #16

    I very much appreciate your blog about anonymity, Paul, and applaud you for it. However, it not only applies to us pastors but to our congregational members and leaders as well. In light of such I occasionally remind my Elders about this with the following item:
    11. DISTINCTION BETWEEN “CONFIDENTIALITY” AND “ANONYMITY/SECRECY” REVIEWED/REVISITED
     Confidentiality: “61. What does God forbid in the Eighth Commandment? B. God forbids us to betray our neighbor, that is, to reveal our neighbor’s secrets.” (Synodical Catechism, 1991/2005)
     In other words, we are honor-bound to not reveal what someone divulges to us in confidence (personal weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and sins, etc., that he confesses).
     However, such confidentiality is trumped when what he reveals indicates possible/potential hurt or harm to himself or someone else.
     That is, we have a responsibility to report possible/potential hurt or harm to himself or someone else in order to protect against being victimized.
     Anonymity/Secrecy: This is the desire by someone to be able to criticize or complain about another person, situation, etc., without his identity being revealed.
     This is also an attempt to shun/avoid being held accountable for his criticism or complaint.
     Anyone who criticizes or complains about another person, situation, etc., must be willing to have his identity revealed if he desires his criticism or complaint to be passed on.
     In other words, when someone criticizes or complains about another person, situation, etc., to any of us with the desire/request that it be revealed, we must inform that person that his identity will be revealed along with his criticism or complaint.
     If a person will not allow his identity to be revealed then we must inform him that we will not report his criticism or complaint about another person, situation, etc.
     And, finally, when any of us reports a criticism or complaint about another person, situation, etc., we must be willing to also reveal the source(s) of such.
     This serves to decrease gossip, rumors, etc., when people know that they cannot hide behind anonymity/secrecy by making them accountable for their criticism or complaint.

  13. Rev. Thomas Handrick, Sr.
    April 23rd, 2010 at 14:39 | #17

    By the way, Alban had a great piece about rumors, gossip, etc. in the following article:
    THE SABOTAGE OF RUMORS
    From the Alban Weekly – Week of 2/19/2007
    By Arthur Paul Boers

  14. April 24th, 2010 at 17:33 | #18

    Jay Winters, Pastor – University Lutheran, Tallahassee FL

    “I am a brother of jackals, and a companion of ostriches” Job 30:29.

    :-)

  15. Pastor Steven Schlund
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:26 | #19

    @Pr. Tom Fast
    Pr. Fast sums up my thoughts on this matter. Posting slanderous comments, especially anonymously where there is no accountability, is sinful. I agree with Pr. McCain in deploring those who blame all their troubles on “being confessional” or “being faithful”. I have seen too many of those myself. In addressing this question, I have said, “Sometimes you are persecuted for being faithful. Sometimes you are persecuted for being a jerk.” On the other hand, I would urge caution in attributing all numerical growth to being faithful. Sometimes you can grow because you are being faithful. Sometimes you grow because you are being trendy.

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