The network and the church
Every time a new means of communication has become available, the church has evaluated it for use. Some were an obvious 'yes', like printing, and some were an eventual 'no', like the telegraph. Most were in the middle. Churches need lights and furnaces and indoor plumbing and such, just as do other groups.
Most technologies are useful to the church and to church people, but not intrinsic. For example, the motor car is an important technology that has transformed society, but there has never been a special concept of church cars, church garages, or any particular involvement of the church with the motor industry.
Every organisation in the church should have a web site. Every diocese, province, parish, deanery, committee, group, club, or society should participate. Church people should make sure they know how to use email responsibly and learn email manners.
There are skills that you need to learn. Just as colour photography is different from oil painting, effective use of the internet requires different skills than effective use of a telephone or a printing press. You should learn those skills, but not here. Our 'Further reading' list has some good general-interest items. Any bookstore can provide you with information about how to get started, or get more skilled, on the internet.
A special relationship with the church?
The internet is different. It can help the church with its mission as no technology since the printing press has been able to help. Online communication is economically advantageous to the church. It can be used to bring more information to more people more cheaply. It allows people to form communities without needing buildings. And it will reach the young.
The relationship between faith and organized religion has always been touched with complexity. There are hard questions about whether or not one needs to be involved with a formal church if one is to follow Christ. It would seem to us that, ultimately, the role of the church is not to perpetuate the church, or to perpetuate any particular branch of the church, but to continue the message of Christ and the teaching of the apostles in each new generation.
There is something very deeply valuable about the way that the internet can bring the good news of Jesus Christ to places that it not now being taken seriously. We do not presume to have the answers, but we are fairly confident that we have a good handle on the questions.
Whatever the Anglican church will be in the next century, unless it is just a memory and a note in the history books, the internet will be a significant part of it. Of this we are certain.
What can you do?
The answer might sound very simplistic, but we think it's the answer just the same: Learn how to use the internet, or how better to use the internet, in your church. Use it for mission, to spread the Word of God. Use it for community, to talk to one another. Use it for administration, to save money, and to draw closer the populace and the administration of the church. If you do this, and God calls you to do something specific, you will know it when the time comes.
If you are one of the Church's thinkers, a theologian, an ordinand, a doctoral candidate, a lecturer, then you should try to engage with the moral and ethical issues raised by the internet and its use, some of which are touched on in this paper. The internet needs serious and informed study of these points, and the Church should involve itself in them.
If you are
a Christian who is not part of the structure of the church, make sure
you let your Christian values and behaviour shine through on the internet
the same way that you let it shine through in your daily life.