It started as a normal day for the Church of England's Twitter feed. Sure, they were gearing up for the twice-yearly gathering of the General Synod which starts today, but things were calm.
Then, a seemingly innocuous tweet almost broke the internet...
Today we remember Thomas More, scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester,
Reformation Martyrs who died in 1535 pic.twitter.com/8ZF6CQlayE
— Church of England (@c_of_e) July 6, 2017
The feed usually tweets which saints or great figures from the history of the Church are being marked and remembered that day.
Today sees the commemoration of Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. They were both Roman Catholics, who resisted the English Reformation. As Chancellor under Henry VIII, More in particular was a focus of the Catholic resistance to Henry's ultimately successful bid to break away.
Both Fisher and More were executed for their refusal to bow to the Kings demands, in 1535. They are remembered as saints by Roman Catholics and in recent decades have been commemorated by the Church of England, the reformed Catholic church which Henry VIII helped create. The terminology which caused the consternation was that of 'Reformation Martyrs' which seemed to annoy both Catholic and Protestant tweeters in equal measure. Catholics objected to them seemingly being characterized as Protestants, when neither were, and Protestants similarly took umbrage, some suggesting they shouldn't be remembered for opposing the creation of the C of E.
Maybe it was the heat, maybe because it's a Friday, but things soon took off... 'Shout out to the the [sic] social media intern at Church of England who just accidentally restarted a 500 year old sectarian conflict,' tweeted one user, while another responded with the almost ubiquitous put down of, 'delete your account'.
Shout out to the the social media intern at Church of England who just accidentally restarted a 500 year old sectarian conflict. pic.twitter.com/UlRRkpIS1r — Charles Lawley (@CharlesLawley) July 7, 2017
It's all a storm in a tea cup, of course, but it reveals how carefully tweets should be crafted. The language was strictly correct – both men were martyred during and because of their opposition to the Reformation. Maybe another way could have been found to say it, although the tweet remains visible suggesting the powers that be are happy to stick by their phrasing and ride out the criticism.
Thank goodness we're only criticising on Twitter now, rather than burning each other at the stake.
This article was amended to remove an incorrect reference to More as Archbishop of Canterbury.