Thinking Anglicans

about comments

We have two announcements to make to those who comment here:

First, if you are not already doing so, please consider seriously using your own name, rather than a pseudonym. While we do not, at this time, intend to make this a requirement, we do wish to strongly encourage the use of real names.

Second, a few people have sometimes written very long comments that really are essays in their own right, rather than being comments on the original article, or direct responses to previous comments. We have therefore decided to introduce a length limit of 400 words per comment, with immediate effect. Longer comments than that will in future quite probably not be published. If you still want to write such essays, we suggest that you set up your own blog, and you will be very welcome to then link to them in the comments here.

We hope that this will all lead to more and better comments.


  • Steven says:

    Thank you for the word limitation Simon. This has definitely become a problem!

  • drdanfee says:

    Thanks loads for the good discipline. My tag is my real name, by the way. I shall either learn to be briefer and clearer, or fall observantly quiet as a listener in the great conversation in which we all so diversely participate. In either case I do hope I shall continue to learn and grow.

  • Laurence J. Roberts says:

    Thanks, Simon, these measures make sense to me. I have often felt a sense of unreality reading anonymous or semi-anonymous contributions, here & elsewhere. And a concern as to whether such writers can take ownership & responsibility for their words.

    I know it has been my own choice to write in my own name & to write quite personally at times. Nonetheless, it has felt strange then to be criticised by some nameless, faceless person.

    I t does raise questions about the nature of the inter-net, of how it effects our behaviour, & ethical questions about its use.

    Phew–hoping under 400 ! 🙂

  • Anglicanus says:

    May I raise a voice for those of us whose position is such that the use of a pseudonym makes possible involvement in a public debate, which would otherwise be denied us? I’d like to ask that Simon be allowed to use his discretion in such circumstances.

  • Re anonymity or pseudonymity. We do recognize that sometimes this is necessary, and our statement, posted by Simon S, deliberately does not ban the use of such (non-)identification. Rather, it asks commenters to seriously consider using their real name.

    In the initial post to this blog (linked as ‘About TA’ towards the bottom of the left panel, I wrote ‘We each take responsibility for our own words’. ‘We’ in that quote obviously means the blog authors, but we think it reasonable that it should largely apply to commenters too, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

    These measures are not intended to stifle comment, and are not intended to stifle individual commenters. They are intended to improve the blog, and help it to be regarded as a serious and responsible place — a place for thinking Anglicans.

  • David Keen says:

    Thankyou. As an irregular visitor, I often come upon a threads that I’d like to respond to, but there’s so much to digest already that I just don’t bother.

  • Laurence J. Roberts says:

    I have 2 thoughts leading to 2 possible suggestions to those who run this site (btW , many thanks).

    One is , I wondered if the moderating could happen after the post has been published here (as on Titus1.9), which would speed things up, and give the zing of even more dynamism here, I think. It would mean trusting folks to be responsible and non-abusive (but in the knowledge that it would be moderated in due course, anyway!). Might be worth pilotting it !

    2.Is there a way of some indication of new postings here ?
    That would save one trawling through older items to check for new contributions.

    Maybe change is in the air ! Thanks for considering my suggestions to make it even better (I think).

    Laurence (given name!)

  • simon dawson says:

    With reference to the claimed need for anonymous postings. I would guess that a significant propostion of those requests are from gay or gay-friendly priests who do not wish to “out” themselves by arguing a pro LGB line.

    I once posted this text onto this blog – I think it is worth repeating.

    “We all know that the church is decades behind the rest of the country in its attitude to homosexuality. I firmly believe that is partly the fault of the churches’ own gay members of the priesthood.

    Within the UK, in the armed forces, teaching, nursing, police force, banking and in so many other professions, members of those bodies have been brave enough to be honest, and be open about being gay. It has taken courage. In some cases people have lost their jobs or faced physical violence. But their brave honesty led to open debate, and moved things on.

    The standard Anglican statement, however, is that whilst a priest may live with a male partner, and may be going through civil partnership, this does not mean that we should assume he is gay, and anyway you should not ask about his private life. I think this is weasel worded half truth, or to use that famous phrase being economical with the truth.

    When will we get to the day when more than a handful of gay priests will have the bottle to follow the example of the ose other professions and say “yes I am gay, yes I have a partner, yes we have a full sexual relationship which is part of (but not all of) a hugely deep and loving relationship, but all of that does not stop me doing the job that I do”.

    Until a large number of priests start making statements like that, then in my opinion the half truths that they are telling connive in their own oppression.

    Who was it who said the truth shall set you free?
    Being economical with the truth will not break those chains.”

    Hiding behind anonymous postings on this website is part of that connivance.

    Simon Dawson

  • The system allows for both ‘authenticated’ and ‘trusted’ commenters, using Typekey and it is possible that we will make more use of this.

    As for notification of new messages and comments, the system provides two separate RSS feeds, one for articles, and one for comments. Look for the links beneath the orange RSS logo in the left panel of the main page. This allows you to subscribe to the RSS feeds and receive notification of new articles that way. It is also possible to subscribe to an email notification system that will inform you of new articles. This requires the authors of new articles to initiate this notification, and in general we do not do so. But we could, if it were useful to readers.

    As for pseudonymity, nothing I wrote earlier should be read as encouraging pseudonymity (let alone anonymity). Simon S’s article (written after consultation between the three of us) is intended to very strongly discourage pseudonymity. We urge people to use real names in this forum.

  • MadPriest says:

    Should it come to it, I don’t mind responsible sites like Thinking Anglicans knowing my real name and email address. I have also informed the people I work with locally who I am (including my boss). I only ever say things on my site that I would say to somebody to their face – my reason for anonymity is to do with security issues – family and computer. Being mad myself (true), I know how mad some people can be. Therefore, an option to tell the site our correct details whilst only having our pseudonyms posted in the comment boxes, like many sites do, would be appreciated. Thanks and thanks for providing me with most of the material that I work up on my site.

  • Leonardo Ricardo says:

    I live in Latin America…the Spanish is used here and I am known as Leonardo Ricardo (with a don before it that most use as a very kind and respectful add-on) to everyone…I’m a Episcopalian of Church of England heritage (on both sides going back as far as we know) named Leonard Richard…I will continue to be Leonardo Ricardo if that is O.K. with T.A. as I’m mostly known as Leonardo Ricardo in person for a very long time.

  • JayVos says:

    Good idea, Simon. Thanks.

  • badman says:

    Like free speech, anonymous posting on the internet has both an honourable and dishonourable history and consequences. It is, to an extent, literally irresponsible, which one may instinctively condemn but which may, on the other hand, allow useful things to be said which might otherwise go unsaid, and for each comment to be judged solely on its own merits, and for some in official positions to speak with freedom they otherwise could not have.

    The Anglican Church, like almost all churches, is a hierarchical and conservative institution, contrary to its origins, and it has often found itself gingered up by anonymous comment, sometimes from pamphleteers, formerly by the Preface writers of Crockford (with fatal consequences for the late Canon Gary Bennett) and now on the internet.

    I think that moderation (i.e. vetting) of posts maintains quality quite enough to make it unnecessary to stop or even strongly discourage anonymity here. But I bow to the website’s owners and will continue as an interested reader.

  • Laurence wrote: ‘I wondered if the moderating could happen after the post has been published … which would speed things up … It would mean trusting folks to be responsible and non-abusive’

    It might not be obvious to TA readers, but one of the primary reasons for moderating comments is to prevent the publication of spam comments. This was a very major problem before and caused us to start moderating comments. Very often we would have to delete hundreds of offensive or inappropriate spam comments every day, and which had already appeared in the TA public pages. Although the software has improved considerably to automatically detect spam we still have to remove a fair amount of spam from the comments awaiting publication.

    Requiring commenters to register before they could post would solve that, but we were unwilling to put that hurdle in front of first-time commenters. Again, it may be that circumstances have changed so that people would be more willing to pre-register.

  • Mark says:

    One potentially useful effect of anonymous posts in a politicised and divided institution, is that it may be easier to read what is actually being said, rather than making the assumptions that go with a well-known name who has taken a public position.

  • karen says:

    Moderation is a sensible move to encourage good quality discussion

  • I think they are good suggestions (I am going to have to work out how to do a good blog, sigh).

    My other comments is that one of the joys of Thinking Anglicans is that it is “raw”. People can’t pretty up their posting in light of later comments. Which makes us more careful at the beginning, but also exposes the underlying assumptions (which can’t be brushed away with the editor’s pen). I think that is one reason quite a few people are watching TA – because they can see the reasoning and assumptions behind some souls’ positions. This can then give insight to others on how they think things can be moved forward.

    So while I think shorter posts are a good idea, my concern is that we might inadvertently throw out the baby with the bath water.

  • J. C. Fisher says:

    If one is doing a text analysis, will the citations count toward the 400 word limit, or only one’s original comments upon it?

    [And if they do, does Moderation have any problem w/ sequential posts on the same thread, to complete one’s analysis—or for any other purpose, for that matter?]

    JC Fisher: who, for fear of identity-theft/abuse-of-power-by-Powers-That-Be purposes, has often wished I’d begun my “internet career” on a *more* anonymous basis (but too late now! ;-/)

  • To the TA team, would linking to an alternative discussion forum count as spamming? So if a topic was contentious and people wanted to waffle on, would you mind if they continued the discussion elsewhere and cross-referenced a link back here if they thought TA people might be interested? I haven’t done this so far as I thought that might be construed as spamming. (Blogging strategy contemplations going on here).

  • Cheryl
    I assume you mean that one comment would link to the alternative discussion forum, rather than a whole series of such links to successive posts elsewhere. I see no problem with the former.

  • Simon

    In the context of one link per thread (so if the thread is topical another link to the forum might be noted). If the someone new wanted to know more about a discussion that had come up before and did not have a link for personal messages (maybe that is an idea?). Not a link for every single thread every single time, but I would not suggest “no” to not repeating a lilnk e.g. if a thread came up six months later the forum link might be useful for not re-covering old ground. Maybe it is one of those things that we will have to try and see what works, moderating if the new system seems to be too cumbersome?

  • Gerry Lynch says:

    Simon Sarmiento & Kershaw,

    re: the 400 word limit – it’s quite generous but get used to lots of

    comments split between two boxes in this sort of fashion. 😉 Also, re: pre-registration – in my experience posting regularly on Slugger O’Toole (posting pseudonymously there for professional reasons!) will drive traffic away from the site like nobody’s business. If you can manage the workload the way things are set up at present, I’d stick with it.

    Simon Dawson (all the Simons today)

    I understand and sympathise with your point but think you may be unduly harsh. It’s easy for me to say priests should come out of the closet as my employer doesn’t care if I’m gay or not; it’s not so easy when it’s your livelihood at stake. Also, think of the average age of people you work with… now think of the average age of people who go to church. I think that might be way the church is a more conservative institution on sexuality (and still buys into retread 50s/60s hard-leftism on economic matters).

  • The other comment I’d make is that the Worcester thread is unusually long for this site and might be what has precipitated this concern. However, I also think it is a highly unusual thread and will not be typical. In some ways was a bit of showcase of some of the ongoing discussions that have happened over the last few months. Part of its length has been people repeating previously covered concepts for the people who were confused (like latecomers to a training course).

  • simon dawson says:

    In reply to my posting about the need for Christians, especially priests, to “out themselves” Gerry Lynch wrote

    “I understand and sympathise with your point but think you may be unduly harsh. It’s easy for me to say priests should come out of the closet as my employer doesn’t care if I’m gay or not; it’s not so easy when it’s your livelihood at stake.”

    Gerry – this is exactly my point. I find it ironic (and dissapointing) that within the other professions I mentioned a critical mass of people were willing to risk their livlihood and their career (and in some cases risk physical intimidation as well) in order to be prophetic by coming out.

    Yet within the Christian ordained priesthood, where one might expect a commitment to personal honesty and (if necessary) sacrifice, we appear to find so many people more committed to their salary and pension than to living the truth.

    Simon Dawson

  • Erasmus says:

    If a requirement to use real names limits freedom of expression then TA will be the poorer for it.
    If I disapprove of a comment, knowing the contributors name will make no difference, unless I have some opportunity to interact with them outside this forum; otherwise I can respond to their posting whether it is named, pseudonymous or anonymous.

  • JayVos says:

    Well, I’m not ashamed to use my name.

  • David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) says:

    Simon commented:
    I find it ironic (and dissapointing) that within the other professions I mentioned a critical mass of people were willing to risk their livlihood and their career (and in some cases risk physical intimidation as well) in order to be prophetic by coming out.

    It may not just be self-protection, though: when a priest is caught between the pastoral (ministering to a Christian group etc etc) and the prophetic, it can be hellish knowing which way to jump.

    I can imagine a gay priest might think to him/herself ‘Is coming out more self-indulgence than prophetic witness?” Add to that the call to self-sacrifice which can easily become a sort of holy masochism and it would perhaps be easy to convince oneself that it is better to carry the burden of the closet than risk damaging those whom one is called to serve.

    Might not be good reasoning, but perhaps not as venial as we might think?

  • Jane Still says:

    “Hiding behind anonymous postings on this website is part of that connivance.”

    And others of us work in official capacities in which we are required to refrain from public comment on issues about which we must maintain a public impartiality. For those in religious media, for instance, it can be a catastrophic blow to credibility and therefore the ability to follow through on one’s ministry of bringing the news of the church to the people to have one’s partiality on certain incendiary topics revealed.



  • Gerry Lynch says:

    Jane makes a good point – for professional reasons I can quite happily use my real name here but not on a general politics site, say.

    Oh, and the other reason for using pseudonyms is because people think it makes them really 1337.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    I must be very un-1337, as I don’t understand the meaning or reference.

  • There are risks in using your real name. For example, after Jensen announced that there was a divorce in all but name between the liberals and evangelicals I resigned from my local parish. The main reason was to protect the staff from being bullied by head office for not being able to control me. (Several years ago I had made the insight that working parish by parish was doomed to fail, and that only some kind of major intervention by God could break the deadlock). Seeing the politics of alternative oversight examples has proven that insight has valid. I am grateful that I have not caused undue distress to the other parishioners.

    That said, my old parish is probably like most Anglican parishes, where the parishioners have family or close friends who are openly gay that they wish they could talk about the bible and God in a loving, non-judgemental way. e.g. Psalms 68:18, even the rebellious praise God.

  • David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) says:

    “I must be very un-1337, as I don’t understand the meaning or reference.”

    I thought it was either a beer or a prayer book.

  • lapsang says:

    Just a thought.

    How do we know if a ‘real’ name is any more real than a pseudonym?

  • David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) says:

    Lapsang asked
    How do we know if a ‘real’ name is any more real than a pseudonym?

    Or, indeed, an attempt to produce pseudepigrapha?

    Thus I sign myself,
    best wishes,

  • Charles says:

    “I must be very un-1337, as I don’t understand the meaning or reference.”

    Just in case there are other old fogies here (the 1337 reference is online slang for leet – elite).

    So teenagers online will often say 1337 h4x0r – as in “I am an elite haxor or hacker”

  • Charles says:

    “How do we know if a ‘real’ name is any more real than a pseudonym?”

    We don’t – maybe Simon should enforce the use of the email address – at least this would indicate that the person might be sort-of real !!

  • David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) says:

    Just in case there are other old fogies here (the 1337 reference is online slang for leet – elite).

    Thank you Charles. A short post from me since I must now nip out to buy food for the rat which powers the treadmill which turns the cogs of my Difference Engine:-)

  • Alan Marsh says:

    As one of the more antique posters here I still don’t “see” the etymology of 1337 – can someone please spell it out for me how 1337 becomes “elite”?

  • David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) says:

    it’s probably the same sort of thing as we used excitingly to do on our calculators back in the 70’s – typing in 71077345 would, when held upside-down, spell ‘shell oil’. Oh, the Good Old Days (wanders off to find old pair of day-glo nylon socks, etc etc prior to getting mugged in Memory Lane).

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