Trolls, Michael Coren and other Social Media Observations from the Last Week

When I started up the ministry that is Maple Anglican, something beyond just little ole me, I was attempting to be part of what I feel is the going to be the greatest tool to re-evangelize the Western World. Anyone reading this thinking “Re-evangelize? Does MA know the Western World is pretty Christian already” I would retort with the plummeting Church membership and attendance rates occurring across the board in most denominations that Re-evangelization is necessary. But, on to other things that are possibly more depressive.

On April 28, 2015 the story broke that author and columnist Michael Coren had left the Roman Catholic Church for the Anglican Communion. The first time I saw this my good friend Brett Fawcett (aka Papist Witness) had posted a link on his Facebook Timelinefrom the Catholic media organization called Church Militant. The name of the story was “Michael Coren Leaves the Church”. Now, I am going to be honest (and Michael, if you are reading this please forgive me) but when I saw the link the first thing that went through my mind is “Who is Michael Coren again?” I think had to do a little Google searching which jogged my memory.

Michael Coren
Michael Coren, left, enters St. James Cathedral with the Rev. Canon Susan Bell for his reception into the Anglican Communion.
Photo by Michael Hudson.

It turns out that Michael was received into the Anglican Communion 5 days earlier at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto (lovely place, by the way) and a photo of him outside the Cathedral was posted to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto’s Facebook feed that day, 23 April. So, this was publicly available information that no one in the Church based media picked up on for 5 days.

Now, if you look back on a number of articles that Michael has penned in the last year you can see that this was a possibility. He has publicly shifted his views on human sexuality very massively. However, Michael is a big wig in the Canadian conservative community and also among Catholics. He is the author of the aptly named Why Catholics Are Right that he published back in 2012. So, him leaving the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicanism is rather big.

After leaning that Michael had left Roman Catholicism for Anglicanism (and yes, using Google to jar my memory of who he was) my first reaction was “Okay. No biggie” (Sorry Michael if you are reading this but I am being truthful) and I jokingly remarked “I’m not entirely certain we wanted him.”

That all being said Michael has picked up an incredible amount of flak around the internet for his conversion to Anglicanism. This was the first Tweet showing the reactions and was published 3 days before the story broke on religious media:

  I could post things from Michael’s Facebook timeline and Twitter feed for a few weeks as he has been involved in a number of spats were people have contacted him about his conversion. It also increased a lot today as hit hit the mainstream media, namely a published interview in the National Post. A lot of Catholics have sad that they are sorry to hear he is leaving the Church and pray that he comes back. Many are not that way:

Now, Michael has been Twitter a long time and he can handle himself. However, what his happening to him is a sign of a massive problem with Social Media: Humans have the capacity to act like monsters on it and on Twitter it gets a lot worse.

This week also saw the reveal of the nominees (so far) for the position of the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. This July the Episcopal Church will be meeting in Salt Lake City UT and one of their duties will be to elect the successor to the Most Rev’d Katherine Jefforts Schori. There have been a lot of blog posts about this. There were pre-announcement posts by people like the Rev’d Canon Scott Gunn on his blog Seven Whole Days and post-announcement reviews by people like the Rev’d Tom Ferguson (aka Crusty Old Dean).

Now, I am not going to analyze the slate of nominees because it has already been hashed. But, I will say that i was really cool to see my fellow Anglicans (yes American Episcopalians, you are Anglicans when we speak about the global Church) get excited about the nominees. I will admit that when I saw that the Rt. Rev’d Michael Curry I went “Huzzah!!” in my head not because I thought it was great to see an African American nominated for the post but because Michael Curry is a really cool Bishop.

Why is it that we see divides like this on Social Media? How is it that we can get so engaged and positive about four middle age-to-elderly men being nominated for a Church position but when a famous author and columnist publicly is received into our Communion we aren’t either getting excited or saying “Welcome” en-mass? Why is it instead the man gets more scorn and ridicule form his former co-religious? For me it seems like we need a lot more effort to do positive work in Social Media if we are going to use it as an Evangelization tool.

There is one other thing of note with Michael Coren’s conversion. While he has left to go from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism he has specifically attending St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ Church in Toronto (not the much more famous one in London, England). St. Martin’s is a Parish in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition, of what my own Parish (St. Stephen the Martyr’s) belongs to. So, the fact he is attending a similar parish is kinda cool in my books.

So, officially from me: Welcome to the Anglican Communion Michael. I’m sorry you’ve probably had a few crappy days with the Twitter Trolls but I am certain you are use to it.

In Christ,