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Editor's Notes

Charles Hefling

The four essays that open this new volume of the ATR form a pair of pairs, with an address and an article in each. One pair is concerned with ecumenics, the other with economics. Both those words have a common ancestor: oikos, a house, a place to live in. Behind the modern meaning of an economy is the practice of managing a household, and behind the notion of ecumenism as all-embracing is the idea of the world as humanity's habitat. In both cases, wholeness is the key. Ecumenics and economics deal with wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts, not just aggregates thrown together willy-nilly. How best to conceive these wholes, in all their complexity, is the project to which these four essays make a solid contribution.

What makes an economy more than a congeries of unrelated transactions? Adam Smith famously proposed an answer summed up in the metaphor of an "invisible hand." It can be a misleading metaphor, especially when it takes on an independent life of its own, and as Frederick Borsch argues in his George Barrett Memorial Lecture, relying on the supposedly automatic handiwork of "the hand" alone is too simplistic an approach to contemporary difficulties. We need to ask serious questions about aspects of economic life that "the hand" cannot grasp, among them questions about the very purpose of an economy and about the common good. Such a question gives Kevin Melchin's article its title and its theme. A good deal of discussion lately has centered on the ethics of business. But business can be subject to ethical judgments only if it has an end, a for-the-sake-of. What, then, is business good for? What good is it? As the article shows in a clear and compendious way, answering that question requires not only insight but, what is rarer, self-knowledge.

The second, ecumenical pairing brings together different yet complimentary aspects of the ongoing journey that Lutherans and Anglicans are now making together. Two landmarks on that journey are widely known: the Porvoo Agreement in Europe and "Called to Common Mission" in the United States. They are not the only ones. There is also the Waterloo Declaration, agreed upon in 2001 by Lutherans and Anglicans in Canada. While it might appear to be rather like a mouse sleeping between two elephants, as Richard Leggett observes, the Declaration, together with its context and the process that led to it, should have an important bearing not only on this bilateral dialogue but on other ecumenical conversations as well.

There are good reasons why the theology of ordained ministry, especially episcopal ministry, has figured prominently in any dialogue to which Anglicans have been party. One result of ecumenical engagement, however, has been a clearer apprehension of other aspects of the tradition they inherit. Luther, after all, has never been the exclusive property of Lutherans. The characteristic themes of his theology shaped the thought of "standard" Anglican divines such as Joseph Hall, whom William Danaher draws on as a source of renewal in moral theology precisely because of Hall's affinities with Luther.

Hall was almost an exact contemporary of John Donne. Both belonged to the generation in which the distinctive tradition that is now, but was not then, called Anglicanism emerged. It was a time that demanded personal decision, and Donne of course is known for deciding to "conform" to the Church of England. Anne Faulkner Cothran suggests, however, that neither the background nor the consequences of his decision were as clear-cut as has been supposed. Her essay, which won the ATR's Harris Prize for 2003, shows how the belief and practice of which Donne's poetry was the effectual sign are those of a mind and heart in via, on the way, adapting themselves in a lifelong search for truth.

The significance of poetry as a theological language has long been affirmed in the ATR's tradition of publishing poems on its pages. As the present issue moves from Donne to contemporary poets, it is especially appropriate to pause and take thankful note of an important behind-the-scenes contribution to the journal. A poet himself, with several published collections of his own work, David Middleton has for six years been sharing with readers of the ATR the finest of the many poems that come to him as our poetry editor. His discernment is a gift to us all.

It is interesting, and it may be significant, that Donne's formal embrace of Anglicanism came just when he had lived half his years--a midlife change, we might now say. Contributing editor Catherine Wallace considers a number of books that bear on the in-the-midst season of human living, with a focus on people who have reached it, and particularly on women. As always, her "Gleanings" draw comparisons and show connections that make each of the items discussed even more illuminating that it might be on its own.

"Things take time." A friend of mine, who aspired to be a professional musician, posted that bit of wisdom in places where she would see it often. I used it at the annual meeting of the ATR board in October, to make the point that we are--slowly, but I hope surely--reaping the harvest and implementing the advice that were the fruit of the task force on strategic planning inaugurated many months ago. One of the happy results has been the appointment of two associate editors: Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley Divinity School, and Ellen Wondra, who recently became professor of theology and ethics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. To work with these scholars as colleagues will, I know, be a delight, and the benefit to the ATR will be great.

This issue goes to press at a kind of liminal time--between the official publication by the Lambeth Commission on Communion of the document known as the Windsor Report, and the first of several events in the reception and enactment of the report's findings and recommendations, a meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion's many provinces. The Windsor Report is long, serious, and thoughtful. Its importance for the future of the Anglican churches, particularly in North America, is beyond question. At the ATR board meeting the editorial committee determined that the current volume of the journal will include a thematic issue on the Windsor Report.

A final in-house note on time. Probably because of the way our hands are built, we tend to count things, years for example, by fives and tens. Fifteen yearly volumes of the ATR have now been brought to birth through the patient midwifery of its managing editor, Jacqueline Winter: a fact worth recording and well worth celebrating. Editors come and go. For the continuity and the excellence of this journal, one person more than all others has been responsible, these fifteen years. May there be many, many more.

Charles Hefling
Editor in Chief

 
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