Authority--where it lies, who exercises it, and how it is to be exercised--has always generated theological questions. Because they are questions with a practical bearing, however "theoretical" they become, the Christian church has had to deal with them over and over. The Windsor Report, to which the last issue of this journal was devoted, is a case in point. If it does nothing else, the Report shows clearly how new situations call for new investigation of perennial issues. One of the Report's most notable pronouncements is to the effect that it will not do to invoke the authority of the Holy Spirit as an all-purpose trump card. Yet neither will it do to discount the Spirit's work in the the church's working-out of its concrete difficulties. How, then, shall Christians arrive at an authoritative understanding of how the authority of the Spirit is to be discerned? Such is the problematic that Nicholas Healy explores in the address with which this issue opens. Speaking as a Roman Catholic, at a university with deep Anglican roots, Healy brings an illuminating perspective to issues that will not grow less pressing in any foreseeable future.
The idea that the authoritative formulas which articulate the Anglicanness of Anglicanism are not doctrinal but liturgical has been an Anglican commonplace for some time now. As with much conventional wisdom, there is more that needs to be said, but certainly the meaning embodied in the practice of "common prayer" has played and continues to play a central role in defining Anglican identity. In this regard it is interesting to note that the Episcopal Church's "new" Prayer Book is now one of the oldest revisions in the Anglican Communion. Since it came into use thirty years ago, rites of initiation, especially, have been subject to further consideration, with the result that a very old question--the nature and purpose of confirmation--has reappeared in a new context. Two of the essays in this issue, written by Kathryn Tanner and Joe Burnett, were contributions to discussion of this question in the Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. The ATR is grateful to the Committee's chair, Bishop Henry Parsley, for making it possible to bring them to a wider audience.
It is a pleasure to welcome back to these pages Douglas Burton-Christie, whose explorations of spirituality have been received with enthusiasm by readers of this journal. Here his theme is solitude in the most serious sense: a solitude, as he puts it, "not rooted in fear or a desire to flee from the challenges of relationship, but rather arising from a desire to face oneself honestly, to be remade in the image of God, and to arrive at a deeper sense of how to live in authentic relationship with others." As Burton-Christie develops his theme with reference to Thomas Merton, so David Hein treats faith and doubt with reference to an important theological voice--in this case, a "voice from the edge," rather than from the "orthodox" center. The voice is Rose Macaulay's, speaking through the medium of The Towers of Trebizond. This remarkable novel, partly autobiographical, partly travelogue, comic and tragic by turns, is in Hein's words "an estimable piece of spiritual literature not least because it is a strong protest against making an absolute of our faith or our spirituality."
Prediction is hazardous, but it seems not unlikely that if, a dozen years from now, a historian surveys the first hundred volumes of the ATR, the beginning of the twenty-first century will appear to have been a time of transition. As editor for the last four years, it has been my privilege to take a hand in effecting some of what that transition has involved. Not everything that might have happened did, and not everything that did happen happened as it might have done. But now that the time has come to pass the joys and frustrations of editorship on to a successor, I am hopeful that this uniquely valuable ministry can go from strength to strength.
My successor, Ellen Wondra, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, is in every way most excellently qualified to take on the duties she has assumed. She will have the support of a devoted corporation and--what has been the chief blessing of my tenure--of an indefatigable managing editor, Jacqueline Winter, whose behind-the-scenes efforts on the journal's behalf are the foundation everything else rests on.
At the annual meeting in October the assembled staff and institutional representatives graciously presented me with an expression of thanks. It should have been the other way around. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in the ongoing enterprise of the ATR, and pray that as it enters its next phase of service to the life of the church it will continue to be the blessing it has been.