Rev. to NJ church leaders: Thou shalt not Facebook

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by Wayne Parry
Associated Press Writer

NEPTUNE, N.J. (AP)—Thou shalt not commit adultery. And thou also shalt not use Facebook.

That’s the edict from a New Jersey pastor who feels the two often go together.

The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples among the 1,100 members of his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have run into marital trouble over the last six months after a spouse connected with an ex-flame over Facebook.

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ISSUES EDICT—Pastor Cedric Miller delivers the sermon during a service at Living Word Christian Fellowship in Neptune, N.J. (AP Photo/Asbury Park Press, Mary Frank)

Because of the problems, he is ordering about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions. He had previously asked married congregants to share their login information with their spouses and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether.

“I’ve been in extended counseling with couples with marital problems because of Facebook for the last year and a half,” he said. “What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.”

Miller is married and has a Facebook account that he uses to keep in touch with six children, but he will heed his own advice and cancel his account this weekend.

On Sunday, he planned to “strongly suggest” that all married people stop using Facebook, lest they endanger their marriage.

“The advice will go to the entire church,” he said. “They’ll hear what I’m asking of my church leadership. I won’t mandate it for the entire congregation, but I hope people will follow my advice.”

Miller said he has spoken from the pulpit before about the dangers of Facebook, asking married couples to give each other their passwords to the site.

“Some did. Others got scared and deleted their accounts right away. And some felt it was none of my business and continued on,” he said.

Miller said he has gotten a mostly positive response so far among the leaders subject to his edict, which was first reported by the Asbury Park Press.

Pat Dawson, a minister at the church, uses her Facebook account to see photos of her relatives. She is unmarried and therefore not required to delete her account, but she agrees with Miller about the dangers such sites can create.

“I know he feels very strongly about this,” she said. “It can be a useful tool, but it also can cause great problems in a relationship. If your spouse won’t give you his or her password, you’ve got a problem.”

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 percent of its members have used or been faced with evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites in divorce cases over the last five years.

About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And a do-it-yourself divorce site in the United Kingdom, Divorce-Online, reported late last year that the word “Facebook” was appearing in about one in five of the petitions it was handling.

Miller says there are legitimate uses for Facebook, which is why he started an account a few years ago.

“People use it as an opportunity to invite others to social gatherings, to share Scripture or talk about what went on at church,” he said. “Those are all positive, worthwhile things. But the downside is just too great.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a before-hours interview request left at its California offices.

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