Pastor to church leaders: Get off Facebook or step down
Nancy Shields • STAFF WRITER • November 17, 2010
FRANK/AP Rev. Cedric Miller, at Living Word Christian Fellowship in New Jersey, ordered his church leadership to delete their Facebook accounts because too many couples had strayed from their marriages.
NEPTUNE — Rev. Cedric A. Miller has had it with what he says Facebook is doing to couples coming to him for help and is giving his married church leaders until Sunday to get off the social-network website or resign their posts.
Miller, senior pastor at Living Word Christian Fellowship Church, the popular interdenominational and evangelical church on Route 35, said a large percentage of his counseling over the past year and a half has been for marital problems, including infidelity, stemming from Facebook.
Miller said there was no problem when people just met with friends from high school in a platonic way.
But that has changed, he said, and now people are reigniting old passions and connecting with people who should stay in the past. He said a marriage can be going along fine when someone from the past breaks through and trouble begins.
"It's to the point now that this Sunday, anyone in our church in a leadership position and who is married and is on Facebook has to resign their church position if they do not give up Facebook," Miller, 48, said Tuesday.
He plans to speak on the subject at the 9:30 a.m. Sunday service, getting up to preach about 10:15 a.m.
"I spoke on it a few weeks back, and just admonished people that there's a reason why your past is the past and hopefully you have grown in the Lord, matured to not link up with a past that for many people is a Christless past," Miller said.
"Married couples are going on Facebook and what happens can end up in my office," the pastor said. "I know from where we stand in the Christian perspective, the connection is inappropriate."
Miller gave examples of church officers as the associate pastors, deacons, ministers, and auxiliary leaders. "I do have authority over the leaders — not the congregation at large," he said.
"The average citizen is going to see my action as controlling, not that I care about that," Miller said. "I'm not concerned with being politically correct. I'm trying to save families and marriages."
'He has been heartbroken over this situation" said Hazel Samuels of Asbury Park, who chairs the church's board of trustees. Samuels is single and not on Facebook. "It's a misuse of Facebook. People just don't use it properly."
Miller said has a Facebook account and that his wife has his password as well as one of the church elders. He has six children and uses Facebook to follow what they're doing, he said.
But he will drop off Facebook by Sunday as well.
Miller said that often the people he counsels go to another church but want to keep their marriage problems as private as possible, so they come to him. Often, it requires months of counseling to keep a couple together, he said.
Facebook, founded in 2004, has more than 500 million users worldwide.
"I wouldn't say Facebook is the problem," said William Rosenblatt, an Ocean Township psychologist and therapist. "What I would say is we live in a rapidly changing world, and we are facing stresses and opportunities that we've never had to face before.
"Facebook doesn't create dissatisfied marriages," Rosenblatt continued. "People who are dissatisfied now have better means of creating support systems and networks that are much more vast, and it's much easier to connect with people that way.
"I would see the pastor's decree as sort of another example of how, when we as a group are faced with dramatic change, there are three paths people take," Rosenblatt said.
"One path is we need to go back to the way things were, the conservative path," he said. "Another group are those who just want to rush ahead and change everything. Then a third group says, let's not paint this black and white. Let's be mindful and thoughtful how we do this."
Miller and his wife, Kim, also a pastor, started Living Word in their home in 1987. It has grown to about 1,100 people on the rolls and 500 to 600 attending Sunday services, Samuels said.
Miller has played a significant community role as a pastor and is a leader in the ongoing Asbury Park-Neptune relief efforts for Haiti.
"I've had people come to me in trouble because of the computer in general — a lot of computer widows — but not Facebook," said the Rev. Porter Brown, overseer at Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Asbury Park.
Brown said he's contemplating setting up a Facebook site to increase the church's communication with his congregation and community. At the moment, he said he sendse-mails to young people to let them know about the upcoming Sunday sermon so they can send him questions ahead of time.
"We continue to share with our folks that the Internet can be a good thing to use, but it has its own kind of dangers. Any access to people unfiltered may not be good."