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Editor's Notes

Charles Hefling

One of the more sinister characters in Evelyn Waugh's first novel is an academic architect who finds it a frustrating assignment to design buildings suitable for human habitation. Humans, in his estimation, are sad misfits. They fail to display either the repetitive instinctual responses of animals or the mechanical consistency of engines. Theirs is not the being of nature, not the doing of the machine, but becoming. They change.

Things would, perhaps be easier all around if change and becoming were not the intrinsic feature of humanity that they have always been. There would be no need, for one thing, to examine how we became what we are, or to deliberate, for another, about what we are to become. Being neither animals nor engines, though, we need both.

What we are to become as Christians, and how that happens, is the question that lies beneath current debate about the relation between the two "outward and visible signs" of grace enacted in baptism and the eucharist. Which comes first, and why? In the last issue of the ATR James Farwell laid out a carefully argued position on introducing the practice of "open communion," to which Kathryn Tanner responds in this issue. What she says about the article she critiques applies equally to her own: "like all the best theological work, it is good to think with."

Among Anglicans, introducing unheard-of practices is hardly an unheard-of practice. A century and a half ago, Priscilla Lydia Sellon stirred up considerable controversy by founding one of the earliest religious orders in the Church of England. As Rene Kollar relates in his study of that controversy, the difficulty many people had in accepting the work of Sellon's sisterhood was compounded by suspicious devotional practices observed by the orphan girls the sisters cared for. Gerald Downing explores a different kind of religious practice--the practice of theological thinking--in his extensive examination of the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch, and Julian of Norwich. Change is not always growth and improvement: it can be loss, and Downing suggests that Western theology is the poorer for having neglected the insights of these three women.

Change itself, as its title suggests, is the topic of Grant LeMarquand's article on the identity of Anglican Christianity in the midst of innovation and diversity on a global scale. He not only raises but, more importantly, begins to answer a question that can only become more significant in coming years: "What can we in the Northern Hemisphere learn from our sisters and brother is Asia, Africa, and Latin America?"

Nearly half of this issue is about books. We know from responses to our recent survey of readers that they value the sections of the ATR which call attention to worthwhile volumes--our notably numerous book reviews, "Gleanings," review articles, and the occasional recommendations of "Essential Reading." Publishing these depends not only on the cooperation of reviewers but also and especially on the care and discernment of an editorial staff whom it is a pleasure to work with and for whose contributions we may all be thankful: William Harrison, Robert Slocum, and Catherine Wallace.

 
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