Thinking Anglicans

About commenters

Several times over the years we (Simon, Peter and Simon, the editors of TA) have posted reminders encouraging “good commenting”. One of the common themes is the number of pseudonymous and anonymous comments. As long ago as 2009 we wrote:

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.

This request still stands but we have also decided that even where we allow pseudonymous comments the pseudonyms must be distinct. In particular we will not publish comments that come with the tag “Anon” or similar.

Long-term pseudonymous commenters may wish from time to time to sign comments with their real names, even while continuing the use of the familiar pseudonym.

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Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
4 months ago

I will say that – in my opinion – ‘good commenting’ has become a little scarcer on here over the years, and it seems to me that there has been a rise in the number of comments posted by people who do not disclose their real identity. My own opinion (which I have shared with our wonderful editors) is that (particularly in a blog that is very clearly Christian and about the life of the church and its mission) all posts should carry genuine names (or at least be genuinely identifiable) save in the most particular circumstances. Given the inevitable… Read more »

Richard Allen
Richard Allen
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
4 months ago

I couldn’t agree more Dominic. I think you may speak for many of us who value the blog for its broad and highly informed range of information. I have noticed the same trends. I for one have decided not to post anything beyond this for exactly the reasons you highlight. More and more frequently over recent months I have wondered where evidence of the gospel is to be found in a good number of the comments. I suspect I have a log in my eye and need to remove it. So be it. I shall attend to my eye and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Richard Allen
4 months ago

I agree with both you gentlemen. I think posting in your own name should be encouraged as the preferred default, but should not be totally obligatory. Personally, I like openness and transparency, and it makes things more forthright when I know the name and the identity of the person I am addressing. A safeguarding/stalking danger can be an obvious case for exemption, and there are other reasons why people choose to remain anonymous. A person who is transitioning, for example, may not yet be ‘out’ to everyone. I agree that, once a pseudonym has been used, that should be it.… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

If comments need to disclose a real name I will leave the site. As I have said before I don’t want to reveal my identity as I am known here to be trans. Quite apart from anything else, having your identity known if you are trans is becoming dangerous in this country.   Actually, preoccupation with a single name is a cis thing. Any trans person who has transitioned has had two and most have had several names while they settled into the right one. Indeed, once one realises that names are ephemeral it’s quite common to have different names… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate
David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Names are important, Kate. Take this as just one of many examples from the Bible.
Isaiah 43 v.1: But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”

Kate
Kate
Reply to  David Lamming
4 months ago

As I have pointed out on a later thread, my baptismal certificate is to be interpreted as Kate. I actually think that on Thinking Anglicans or within the Church using surnames is theologically wrong.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Really? Then how are we–or the Church– to distinguish you from all the other Kates in the world in church records or documents? How distinguish me from all the other Patricks?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

We cope with any number of John Smiths so what is the difference?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

We have other ways to distinguish them–by their parents’ names, by their children, by where they live. If all we know of you is that you call yourself “Kate,” how do we know who you are? Even in the church, the priest gets word that “Kate” is in hospital…which “Kate” if all the “Kates” are only identified by that name?

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

I’ve always called people by the name and pronouns they want to be known by. It’s called respect. I don’t like being called “Pete” or “Petey” or “Hey, you!” and expect others to respect that. Likewise, I can call you by the name you give out publicly.
Maybe in an ideal world, first names and surnames would be used online, but the online world is an ugly place.
You’re using an identifiable name, not “rogueanglican” or “J2s5”, so “Kate” works for me.

I think getting hung up or names is indeed a narrow-minded cis thing.

Cantab
Cantab
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Gosh, what insensitive responses to your comment. Kate. I’m sorry.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

But, Kate, didn’t you recently post a video talking directly into the camera about very personal things? All viewers could see you. Maybe that was a different Kate.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Richard
4 months ago

Richard, I think we can choose our audiences and what we want to disclose to whom. As it happens I know who Kate is, and have met her, and I have good reason to believe she is a very compassionate woman; and although we have not always seen eye to eye on everything, I respect her as a Christian and would always defend her right to choose what levels of privacy she wants on various platforms. Going more generally than Kate herself, I think it’s for moderators to decide where limits lie, and I only have problems with people if… Read more »

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Of course we can choose our audience. But we can’t choose who is in our audience. I respect Kate’s right to privacy, but posting a video online, exposes one’s identity… to whomever might watch the video.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
4 months ago

There is a case to be made for commentators commenting anonymously. Kate has provided one such example. I agree whole heartedly. Additionally, I can understand how, say, a person of colour who is a curate in the C of E, or a female vicar, or a lay person in a small close knit parish, or a serving archdeacon with a troubled institutional consciousness may, in each instance, wish to comment anonymously. Vulnerability. It is easy to take one’s privileged history for granted. I’m male, white, heterosexual, plus I’m retired and live elsewhere. All I need to do is keep my… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

The problem is that what is cathartic for some is extremely hurtful for others, and may drive them over the edge.

I agree that those posting criticism or barbed rejoinders ought at the very least to be consistent in their use of a pseudonym, as Kate presumably is. But it has been noticeable over the last year or so that an increasing number of people who ‘play the man rather than the ball’ are hiding their identity to do so. And that’s not cricket.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

“I agree that those posting criticism or barbed rejoinders ought at the very least to be consistent in their use of a pseudonym, as Kate presumably is. ” Why? What difference does the name attached to a comment make? In English law anyone can use any name they want for anything, so long as they don’t do so for fraudulent reasons. Why not respect people’s legal rights? I and others have already given a range of reasons why people may wish to avail themselves of that right. And what would my usual name be? I regularly use more than one.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Exactly. You love your name and have a right to it. Names matter. I had no intention of offending you, but since you said you would leave the site if you had to use your real name, it was a fair assumption that ‘Kate’ isn’t in fact your real name. There are several reasons the name attached to a comment makes a difference. It might give us a clue as to the writer’s knowledge and expertise, and right to be taken seriously. It might tell us that we know this person from other contexts, and that can be useful. If… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Why should someone’s legal name be what matters within a Christian community? There are plenty of people in monastic orders who rarely use their legal name. Similarly which is more recognisable David Robert Jones (“legal name”) or Bowie? As I said earlier, getting hung up on a legal name is very much cis privilege.   Years ago one of my acquaintances was legally Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F’tang-F’tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel when he stood for election to Parliament. Even the Returning Officer declined to use his full name. So who is the arbiter of how much of a name is enough and how much is too… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate
Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

If someone defames me or libels me, and I wish to sue for that, it certainly helps to know the person’s legal name.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

We are discussing users of this site, not the world at large. Kate is a regular contributor here, as are you and I. We are not strangers to each other’s comments, and know Kate’s reasons for using the name she does. She deserves respect and consideration for having frankly set them out on this thread.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” – 1 Corinthians 6:7   ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Much as we might wish it to be, the world is not ruled by Christian principles. (Actually, we might not wish it to be, as we would then have to decide exactly WHOSE Christian principles we are using.)

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

Patrick or Patricia?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  peter kettle
4 months ago

And for women, is that maiden name as surname or husband’s surname? I know women who use both depending on context, eg keeping their maiden name professionally but using their spouse’s surname socially.

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate
Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Either one will work as an identifier.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  peter kettle
4 months ago

Patrick

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

“…cathartic for some is extremely hurtful for others…” Agreed. That is a problem. I think a lot of people who comment here ( and elsewhere, I’m sure) do so because they care. Commentators may feel passionate about their subject matter, especially if writing on a topic which for the commentator is an existential matter. . However, passionate can become the merely angry. Then one needs not a comment board but rather a person with the requisite skills to talk with. With regard to a comment board, such increases the role of editors/moderators.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
4 months ago

I think that some attention needs to be given to those who, for professional reasons, can’t make attributable statements publicly. For example, a parish priest might feel that they should not take sides publicly on some matter because they may wish to be able to minister to a congregation whose views on the matter were mixed. Or a civil servant or other public servant might be bound by the Nolan Principles which, quite reasonably, do not allow public statements that might be regarded as party political. That doesn’t preclude all public statements (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) but it… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
4 months ago

I agree with you Bernard. The content is the issue for me and, to be honest, I have not noticed that it is those using pseudonyms here whose contributions are the more abrasive actually. But this is a chance to say a huge thank you to Simon, Peter and Simon. The other issue here is surely how engagement on these threads honours their gift of hospitality to us.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

Sting. Elton. Kylie. Madonna.
 
Nobody bats an eyelid about the name they choose to use, so why is it an issue if it is a trans person? Or a gay priest? Or indeed someone who has to maintain a distinction between personal and professional comments?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Because each of those famous people is well-known by that name…and their birth name are also on record. No one would mistake Elton John for any other Elton. Can you say the same for you and any other Kate?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

Kate has already explained that she has a a very good reason for using just her Christian name.

I’m sure someone will point out that ‘Christian name’ is the wrong term to use, but in this instance neither ‘first name’ nor ‘given name’ will do. Maybe we need another term?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

Within the context of TA “Kate” is as unique as “Pat O’Neill”

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

No argument. But you were saying that in the church as a whole “Kate” should be sufficient.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

The Gospel writers just used Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If “John” is sufficient to write a Gospel, surely “Kate” is enough to write a comment on TA or to lead worship for that matter.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Bravissima!

Appeal to authority, or is that “appeal to Higher Authority”? 😉

Last edited 4 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Dodgy_Vicar
Dodgy_Vicar
4 months ago

So, does this mean other people apart from the site admins will know who I am?
I note that clergy are increasingly stressed and fractious and that in my experience behaviour on forums generally has been deteriorating this year. No comment about this wonderful site, except that owning what we say is important. However I am saying this using a pseudonym for fear of upsetting any trolls hiding under the bridge. (Joke)

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
4 months ago

Thank you for this push back on pseudonymous and anonymous names. I think they are largely unacceptable. I have held back from commenting recently on TA (on matters I was very keen – itching even – to share), as not knowing who contributes to the thread in response is problematic. Pre-social media these conversations took place in the marketplace (or pub!) when it was abundantly clear who was sharing in the conversation, even if the behaviour was questionable. I don’t have a problem with debate and challenge, but prefer to know who it is I am in dialogue with.

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
4 months ago

I can’t see how it has been at all useful for the purpose of advancing sound arguments to operate under my own name. I’ll give this some further thought. Thanks to the moderators for their hard work. I say that as one automatically put in the ‘awaiting for approval’ category. Not sure how widely that happens with others, using personal names or monikers.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  C R SEITZ
4 months ago

No mystery – or discrimination. It happens to all of us. It enables the moderators to expunge potential libels before they are published. On a similar parallel site ‘Surviving Church’ posted comments appear immediately, but from time to time the editor removes ones which are blatantly offensive or, indeed, in one case recently, libellous.

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

Thanks. Mine can last for several days…must just be me.

The main point remains, about whether it is helpful to use one’s name at all.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  C R SEITZ
4 months ago

I think “Awaiting for approval” is automatic, not a sign of cyber disapproval by this website’s server.
I can’t think of a single comment of mine that didn’t have to await approval. The site is managed by actual people and it may take them time to do the grunt work of running this website.

I also comment on a different website that has some sort of “civility monitoring” software that gets balky at all sorts of inoffensive words. I’d much rather have Simon or any other person reading my comments and passing them through.

Last edited 4 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

And here I confess, to my shame, my secret pedantry (tempting to use a pseudonym, but I will resist).

‘Awaiting for approval’ irritates me every time I see it. Not because I mind being moderated – I don’t. But because it ought to be either ‘Awaiting approval’ or ‘Waiting for approval’.

I’m sorry, I can’t help it.

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

Thank you from all of us pedants!

Andy Macqueen
Andy Macqueen
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

Pedantry #2: the superfluous definite article in

new comment has been posted by the Simon Kershaw on the discussion section you’ve been interested in”

🙂

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

Thank you so much!

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

I think the term ‘awaiting for approval’ is ungrammatical. Surely the correct phrase should either be ‘awating approval – or simply, ‘waiting for approval’?

I am keen for people to use their chosen name on every occasion so that they are always recognised as the person they choose to be known as. After all, what is the point of posting if you don’t want anyone to know who you are?

Richard
Richard
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

I comment on another site also, and the moderator (or “site scold” as I call him) deletes comments that disagree with him. His own comments “disappear” from the related articles after a week or two. There’s no trail of his musings. That’s not fair, in my opinion.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

I think the summary is this. The more people share about their lives, the harder it is in many cases for them to be identifiable. The decision is whether we would rather have people’s “real name” or whether we prefer a space where people can open up in ways they can’t do in a public forum, indexed by Google, if they have to share their real name.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
4 months ago

I can see why this is an issue – some anonymous commentators push boundaries and make the task of moderating more difficult. From my perspective there are some rather repetitive, and even shrill, comments, which don’t quite fit with “Thinking Anglicans” but more with “issue-focussed Anglicans”. I think most of the commentators on the thread here are not representative of the problems the moderators face. If moderating comments becomes a routinely difficult challenge, we may lose a valuable conversation space.

Stacey Rand
Stacey Rand
4 months ago

I’ve very infrequently commented to posts using ‘anon’ over the years. I hadn’t realised it was a faux pas. It seems slightly odd to be able to use pseudonyms but not ‘anon’. It makes it difficult for those of us (like myself) who find making up pretend names difficult. Anon is just a quick shorthand, which is fine and acceptable in other online forums.

But I will do some thinking if I need to make up a name…

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

An interesting read. There are several “mes” living in my body. There’s adolescent me discovering, 6 year old me playing in his sandpit, finger wagging me that gives out shoulds and oughts, 71 year old me that is angrier about injustice and more subversive than ever before (whoever said we get less revolutionary as we age was wrong), dutiful me that serves, eye twinkling provocative me, emotional me, fearful and inadequate me, depressive me that spends money as therapy, and more. Add to these the millions of creatures that live in and on me, bacteria, viruses, symbiotes, even maybe parasites,… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

Stanley, when I got to the last line of your comment, I literally laughed out loud. My wife asked me, “what are you laughing at”? I continued laughing as I watched the clip from Life of Brian –remember the controversy the movie created?. Priceless! The Python players back in 70s were clearly channeling via Divine inspiration the then far in the future, and now present, media comment board platforms–there can be no other explanation. Lol! Your comment about the different ‘mes’ twigged my memory. I recall that on various occasions I have used my ‘real’ name variously i.e. Rod Gillis,… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

Bless you, Rev Dr (I’ve just awarded you that) Canon Roderick. I never willingly use any of my titles. In Germany I suppose I’d be Herr Dr Dr Prof Pfarrer. What a load of nonsense! My maternal grandfather Stanley Cranston, a village butcher, liked his grandchildren to call him Stan. So we did. I thought Stan was a familiar for a grandfather like grandpapa or pop or gramps. So naif was I that it was not until I was a teenager that I realised that Stan was short for Stanley and that I had been named in his honour. He… Read more »

David Rowett
David Rowett
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

A butcher by the name of Cranston? As in Cranstons of Penrith?

Some people are just born into good fortune……

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

Hmmm… are you sure Roderick is Highland, mo bhaloch? It sounds more Germanic! I think the nearest Highland version to your name is Ruairidh (pronounced Rory in the Highlands, no d, the spelt dh is silent) though doing a bit of quick checking, it looks like in Irish there has sometimes been a pronounced ‘d’ over there. But that’s the Irish for you. Now Gillis is a good Highland name. Anyway, our ability to name ourselves, for whatever associations we choose, is something precious. So you claim and own your name! For myself, in my convent contexts, I identify as… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Susannah, Yes I’m sure. Lol. I was named for a grand-uncle on my mother’s side. His official name was Roderick; but he went by Rory. That is how his Gaelic speaking mother referred to him. My mom, referred to him as ‘uncle Rod’. The name Roderick has been very common here in Nova Scotia among descendants of Highland Scots for centuries. One comes across it frequently in genealogical research on that group. No worries about my Highland ancestry. I’m a Gillis on my father’s side (sept of the MacPhersons) and on my maternal grand-father’s side the MacLellans —a descendant of… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
4 months ago

In defence of pseudonymous and anonymous writers, Mary Ann Evans was known by her penname George Eliot, and the leading articles of newspapers are, by convention, anonymous. The Economist famously shuns bylines. This gives its writers the freedom to assume different voices, and the publication as a whole, a collective voice. Generally speaking, however, newspaper opinion columnists are nowadays identified by their name, photo and reputation. Letters to the editor usually carry the correspondent’s full name, town and county. The Church Times goes further by publishing their full postal address. Or else, ‘name and address supplied’. Then there’s broadcast media.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by αnδrεw
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  αnδrεw
4 months ago

Interesting comment. Re: your final point, that has been evidenced from time to time at TA I think. When a topic appears that has wide appeal, there seems to be an increase in the pool of commentators. Conversely, I tend to read more threads than I comment upon, many times simply scanning, because the C of E subject matter is not familiar to me.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  αnδrεw
4 months ago

Regarding your opening sentence about Mary Ann Evans/George Sands: Joanne Kathleen Rowling used “J. K.” as her pen name on the Harry Potter series, because the publishers feared a woman author’s name would scare away male readers. ** sigh **

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Last edited 4 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
4 months ago

I wish the Church of England adopted the Roman Catholic practice of confirmation names. Someone I know chose Ulysses as he was into Greek mythology.

I would have chosen Anselm. His prayer not to understand that he might believe but to believe that he might understand means a great deal to me.

I understand that this concept started with Augustine. Perhaps I should have gone for Anselm-Augustine.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Simon Bravery
4 months ago

Ulysses, really? When I was confirmed in the RC Church, we were told our confirmation name had to be that of a recognized saint.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Simon Bravery
4 months ago

Despite this, I can find no citation to anyone named “Ulysses” ever being canonized by the Roman Catholic Church

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

My experience as well, if memory serves.

Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

I use the name “Father Ron” (a) because I’m an Anglo-Catholic priest (ex Fransiscan) and (b) because it’s in the Bible: “And Jesus went a little farther on” or, alternative-linguistically “Jesus went to little Father Ron”.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

Wonderful!!!

Frank Cranmer
4 months ago

On our own blog, we only publish anonymous comments in very rare circumstances indeed. If a comment is worth making, then one shouldn’t be embarrassed to put one’s name to it. If one is embarrassed to be making the comment, then it should probably be junked anyway. (In my view, the same consideration should apply to Twitter, which seems to go from bad to worse.)

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Frank Cranmer
4 months ago

Supposing you are a transgender Christian, and not all your work colleagues know that, and not all your friends and family know that, and yet you want to post a comment affirming the value of trans people in the Church, and sharing your own experience of Church life as someone who is trans… how do you do that under your system? Would that be one of the very rare circumstances, Frank? Or would the valuable voice of that person’s lived experience be blocked, silenced, erased from the discourse? I’m not asking this in a hostile way, and I very much… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Frank Cranmer
4 months ago

Much as I respect ‘Law & Religion’ and have linked from it here on occasions, the circumstances of many comments on TA (and Surviving Church) can hardly be fairly compared with L&R. Of course no one condones malicious and unfounded comment shielding behind anonymity. However there can be legitimate reasons for anonymity and I would hope that these would fall in your category of ‘very rare circumstances’. But as all regular readers of TA know, such circumstances are far from rare. We hear daily here from victims of abuse, clergy and other church workers (justifiably) criticising their superiors and church… Read more »

Frank Cranmer
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

Yes: it would – which is why we sometimes (though rarely) publish anonymous comments. But we don’t do so as a matter of routine.

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