Establishing the Agenda for the
Unmoderated E-mail List
ON PURPOSES FOR E-MAIL LISTS/
FOR 'ANARCHY' RE: UNMODERATED LIST/
ON LEADERS AND ACCOUNTABILITY/
AND REGS/ ETIQUETTE PAGE/
Agendas are not necessarily evil. However, hidden agendas often
are because people are tricked into signing up for something they never
wanted in the first place. This is because hidden agendas would not
have to be hidden or secretive unless they were somehow unacceptable to
the people being sold on it. Even worse, there are those who state
they have an agenda or agree to one, yet actually have a different agenda.
This is another variation of the hidden agenda and is simply called 'hypocrisy'
in the Bible. And we should all flee hypocrisy (Rom. 12:9).
With that, here is our agenda to better establish the dynamics of viable
Christian Internet ministry. It might also be known as a small 'mission
To establish Christian principles and purposes for Internet ministry
within the confines of scriptural precedent and as led by the Spirit, and
to take pragmatic action to support the vision of those specific principles
ON PURPOSES FOR E-MAIL LISTS:
We believe that all purposes of an e-mail list should be within the
confines of what is scripturally honorable. For instance, a fellowship
list is an honorable purpose. So is a forum for evangelism, or an announcement
or news-only list, or any other e-mail list that serves an honorable goal.
If a purpose changes by the leading of the Spirit, or if a new purpose
emerges, we can be flexible enough to either change the goal of the current
list or establish or help to establish a new list to accommodate the new
ON MODERATION OF FELLOWSHIP LISTS
Generally, HarvestNET does not support the moderation of discussion
or fellowship e-mail lists. There are no examples in Scripture of a leader
monitoring a person's communication ahead of time in a fellowship/sharing
setting. Gentle reproof or even rebuke are seen in Scripture after the
fact, rather than before. There are no godly examples of one person having
all power to arbitrarily suppress communication on the basis of their own
personal bias or prejudice without the knowledge or those they suppress
or the other members of the fellowship. Too often, 'removal' of someone
from a 'fellowship,' even if it is a 'virtual fellowship' is done secretly.
Afterwards the person who is 'excommunicated' is either encouraged to be
silent or is forced to be silent in some way (this is an easy thing to
do with an e-mail list) This is a shameful practice. Leadership is needed,
and yet Christian accountability to the Scriptures and Christian conduct
should not be a standard followed by some and not for others. Examples
of controlling conduct regarding Christian communication are the high priest
of Sanhedrin against the Apostles in Acts 5:27-29 and Diotrephes in 3 John
1:9-11. In the first instance, the apostles disobeyed, and in the second
Diotrephes was exposed. Moderation is the perfect set up for a Diotrephes
or religious 'high priest'.
Rather than agree with unScriptural dynamics, we thus far chosen unmoderation
for our e-mail lists. Our purpose is to provide a list where all members
can feel free to openly share their needs, concerns, praise reports, or
anything else on their hearts! The dynamics of an unmoderated list
are much like a fellowship meeting, with the freedom to speak/share whatever
God has put on your heart/ or offer gifts for the edification and instruction
of all. We have found that by and large, an unmoderated e-mail list
provides the best possibility for appropriate dynamics for Spirit-led,
spontaneous, cyberspace e-mail fellowship.
ON THE CONCERN FOR ANARCHY, 'SAFETY'
OR HOSTILE INVASION OF AN UNMODERATED E-MAIL LIST:
Anarchy and safety issues are the greatest concern expressed when a
list is without a Moderator who can have complete control of unfettered
communication. In the heat of such concerns, it would be easy to opt for
a more controlled format in order to 'prevent' any 'problems' that are
sure to come. We are aware of these problems and are aware that this is
why some either insist on moderation in the first place or resort to it
at the first sign of trouble. As evidenced by the 'war stories' (detailed
on the previous page
), we have
been severely tested and tempted ourselves. However, fears (yours or ours)
are no excuse for become controlling beyond Scriptural precedent, which
we have briefly described above. Moderation may seem to bring a sense of
safety, but it also sets up a dynamic that allows abuse of authority in
a myriad of ways. In the end, the only really 'safe' person is the Moderator.
However, this is not to say that HarvestNET condones taking no action
that would reasonably protect all involved in an e-mail discussion or fellowship
list. Leadership is important for establishing an open, healthy, agenda
with workable dynamics. That is why we have written this page (to establish
an open agenda) Unmoderation automatically takes care of some types of
abuse, but not all. We would consider the following on-list actions or
behavior by the unmoderated list co-ordinators, owners, facilitators, or
"moms" to be contradictory to our principles:
The presence of non-specific objections along with veiled or
open threats to either moderate the list or to shut down the list. We have
run an unmoderated e-mail list, either formally or informally, for five
years. For three of those years, our list has been completely open to the
public. In other words, people have been able to subscribe or unsubscribe
themselves without interference or prior private screening. During all
that time and through various 'crises', we have not found it necessary
to resort to subtle or open 'threats' to moderate the list or shut down
the list. We consider it not only completely unnecessary, but we
have also observed that people who need to share are easily intimidated
from doing so because of such threats.
Allowing on-going abusive, impolite, or disruptive behavior by Christians
on-list, regardless of who it is or how many people are involved, without
objection or action. Useless, divisive and inflammatory 'debate'
between groups of dogmatic Christians should be moved off list. We have
noticed that such debate quickly degenerates into personal attacks and
insults, with those bringing up Scripture and valid points being ignored
by the offenders. Christian reproof or rebuke, along with speaking the
truth in love, are allowed in Scripture. List members are encouraged to
participate in this Christian action of concerned admonishment toward offenders
who violate Christian conduct, so that the list coordinator is not overly
burdened with 'baby sitting' a list. They may not be watching the list
at the moment, and the list members themselves are capable of saying what
they need to on-list to an abusive person, because it is unmoderated. This
may be just what is needed for all involved and may be enough. However,
we do provide a contact person for something that goes beyond initial intervention
by other list members. A believer should be held to a standard of Christian
conduct, both for the sake of their brothers and sisters in the Lord and
also as a good witness to the unbeliever.
The principle of following the Scriptural format for open communication
in a fellowship has proven itself not just in theory but in practice too.
Our unmoderated lists have never suffered the potential 'problems' that
those who insist upon moderation predict will happen. On NETchurch for
instance, an e-mail list that has always been openly joinable from our
web site, we have never had to forcibly unsubscribe anyone for several
years. The reports of how NETchurch blessed people are beyond our expectations.
We are imperfect people in an imperfect world, and yet the Lord moved through
a simple e-mail list. Our testimony for the Lord is that we stepped out
in faith and obedience to the Scripture and leading of the Lord at a time
when many Christians predicted an unmoderated list would fail, and found
that the Lord is more than able.
ON LEADERS AND ACCOUNTABILITY:
Administrative leadership in some form is necessary on any e-mail list
for technical reasons alone. Leaders must be good stewards of their task
and if they aren't, they must be accountable in some way. An unmoderated
e-mail list allows opportunity for free speech which in itself is a check/balance
against any unknown or secretive abuse by anyone. Therefore, the leader(s)
are automatically more accountable then any list that screens communication
beforehand. The list members are also more accountable since they
are accountable to an entire list of people and not just to one person.
Leaders can serve the e-mail list members and promote accountability
in other ways than just free speech. For instance, they can announce new
members, thus preventing unknown 'lurkers'. They should not unsub someone
(the ultimate moderation), without at least announcing it to the whole
list. These two things alone will keep the entering or leaving of people
on the list open, especially when it involves the exercise of authority.
Solving things apart from carnal action or words is an important responsibility
(Numbers 20:11-12), so leaders must have the option of not being worn down
by grumbling or going with popular demand. (I Sam. 15:15; Numbers 11:4-15).
If a leader cannot respond appropriately when challenged, this is the first
step to becoming unaccountable to anything or anyone. If he or she becomes
a mad, authoritarian, and abusive leader, drunk with power and full of
himself or herself, please state your objections openly if you wish on
the unmoderated list and unsubscribe if your feelings are strong enough.
Whether you are right or wrong, the dynamics of the situation just won't
work for you.
E-mail is even more imperfect than the people who use it, and so can
give rise to occasions for misunderstanding, hurt, or offense. Should this
happen, it stands to reason that it cannot be cleared up without the effort
of both people. Resentment will breed without forgiveness, and open trust
cannot be fostered in the context of repeated and deliberate offenses,
hypocrisy or reversals, lack of commitment, or lack of grace for all involved.
We have found that carnal or sinful words and actions accompany deliberate
false accusations. Sometimes these actions will not be immediately known,
as a person may be very clever. If someone bears false witness against
another, it is up to you to discern the best you can. We have experienced
such a thing ourselves, and know that it is painful. Therefore, our only
defense is to rely on the Lord in time of trouble.
RULES AND REGULATIONS:
Rules and regs can be cumbersome. Solving every difficulty with yet
another arbitrary rule treats adults as though they are children, and this
is often unnecessary and insulting. Indeed, it can prevent maturity and
will foster resentment. Yet, having no boundaries can make one wonder if
they will accidentally cross an invisible line and then be penalized. It
might also make one wonder if all things are allowed against them.
The Christian walk is concerned with appropriate Christian behavior
more than it is concerned with a rule for it's own sake. We find rules
of conduct in the Scripture, and this should be sufficient. Our agenda
as far as 'boundaries' is to come as close to scriptural Christian conduct
as possible. The Scriptures address conduct, and in doing so, set reasonable
boundaries for our interactions.
If we engage in appropriate Christian conduct, we should have no problem
with another person's reasonable boundaries. If it is a personal request
for a personal situation, the person who desires to be treated differently
should speak it out. No one can read another person's mind and be expected
to abide by what is unspoken. If what they want is completely unreasonable,
perhaps they can be counseled by other mature Christians to adjust their
If we are concerned for others more than we are for ourselves, we should
be willing to respect another person's reasonable boundaries. A person's
boundaries and conduct are reasonable when they can stand up to the scrutiny
of Scripture. They are unreasonable when they don't. Those who have unreasonable
or weak boundaries often impose or expect one set of 'rules' of conduct
for others, while they hold to a different set of 'rules' for themselves.
To reflect this concept well as far as list behavior, rules or codes
of conduct should apply for those who speak them, for those who may have
to enforce them, as well as for everyone else. There should be accountability
for all, or the rules are just there to be broken by some.
Therefore, rules should be as openly visible as an agenda would be.
They should be openly discussed and enforceable. On a Christian list, for
those who break the 'rules' or code of Christian conduct, there should
be open avenues for at least appropriate verbal accountability (in the
Christian walk, this would take the form of gentle reproof or specific
open rebuke). In the event of unsuitable behavior by a false or carnal
Christian, the Matt. 18 process and steps could be invoked as closely as
one can in e-mail, and this would include only Christians. In e-mail lists
or other Internet forums that may include unbelievers, believers should
still hold to Christian conduct. Carnal or false Christians do not help
THE ETIQUETTE PAGE:
Etiquette can be thought of as rules, but more in the sense of common
politeness. The word 'etiquette' had a softer connotation than 'RULES'
which is why we chose it. It has worked so well that we would highly recommend
that each e-mail list have a 'list etiquette page' or link to one that
delineates common courtesy pointers for e-mail. The page might also include
general wisdom on group participation and various 'helps' pages for e-mail
concerns. Anyone can refer to the etiquette page on the list. Also, anyone
can suggest new additions to the page.
We generally give full permission to use the "NETchurch" etiquette
page to link to. Or, it may be be used as a template for a 'welcoming
message' or 'rules' page. However, please be kind enough to link back to
our pages wherever possible and give us some credit where appropriate,
so that others are aware of both the principles of HarvestNET ministries
and how well they have worked in our ministry.
ON HOSTING LISTS:
HarvestNET has hosted lists as called by God, and so we have hosted
a few other than our own too. At the time, we always provided this service
free of charge. We find that this service is no longer necessary now that
it is easy for anyone to host and own a list through e-groups.
Feel free to check out the short history of the unmoderated e-mail list we used to run: NETchurch
To Forum/Email page
HarvestNET main page
Page author: Teri Lee Earl
This page last
modified: and has been loaded
times since 11/24/1999