The Church and the internet

A tract offered to the Anglican Church by the Society of Archbishop Justus.

The internet is a new technology that is maturing rapidly. While most church members are aware of it and many have used it, the church is now mostly just a bystander.

This document is written for an audience of educated nontechnical people. It describes some of the ways in which the internet is having a profound effect on the people and structures of our church.

For a PDF version of this document in A4, click here. For a US letter PDF version of it, click here.

Brian K. Reid
16 November 1999

Technology does not change the world. It changes the possibility or price of things, and people then change the world. From time to time it is sensible for people to change what they do because technological change has made new ways better somehow than old ways.

Historically there has never been an issue of useful technology not being adopted. If it is genuinely good, and you don't adopt it, your children or your grandchildren will. The question for us, and the subject of this document, is whether or not we, the boundary generations, should adopt this new information technology or just wait for our children and grandchildren to do it.

Should you spend your money buying a computer and learning to use the internet? Should your church spend its money producing a web site or a parish mailing list? Should religious education take something out of the curriculum to make time for education about the internet?

Some experts think that the internet is an unusually effective medium for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is at least a decade too soon to be certain about this, but the early results are good. In fact, the early results are so good that we are writing this document to encourage people to push harder on using the internet as an important component of the Body of Christ.

This document is divided into six parts:

Introduction, in which we explain the reasons why you should care about this, and give the context and background of the internet and its use in communication.

Rocks and sand, in which we talk about what internet communication is and does, the ways in which it is the same as things that came before it, and the ways in which it is different from the things that came before it.

Behind the curtain, in which we talk a little bit about the technology behind the internet, in order that you can see how things got to be the way they are, and why we think that their nature is unlikely to change.

Social issues, in which we explain the ways in which people behave differently when they are using the internet from when they are doing other things.

Ethical issues, in which we note that this new technology offers new opportunities for misbehaving. While the nature of humankind may not have changed in thousands of years, the opportunities that one has to show the darker sides of one's nature change frequently.

The network and the church, in which we exhort you to learn this new technology, or become better at it, and then go forth to love and serve.

For more information, where we have assembled a short annotated list of a few recent sources, both paper and online, that we recommend for your attention should you wish to learn more.