Editor's Notes 85.4

Charles Hefling

John Henry Newman. Is there any writer on religion in modern times whose writings have had an influence as wide and as lasting as his? “He has left an indelible mark upon two great religious bodies,” wrote Dean Inge of St. Paul’s, twenty years after Newman’s death. “He has stirred movements which still agitate the Church of England and the Church of Rome, and the end of which is not yet in sight.” The words are as true today as when the dean wrote them. So too, perhaps, is his judgment that “there was something in the composition of his mind which prevented him from being either a complete Catholic or a complete Protestant.” In some sense Newman was intellectually and affectively an Anglican throughout his long life, formal allegiance and a cardinal’s hat notwithstanding. And certainly his work continues to be admired and studied in the communion he belonged to, and did so much to change, in the last half of that life.

Three of the articles in this issue show that what there is to be learned from, and about, Newman is by no means exhausted. They explore his thinking on the church, on history, and on the Bible.

Were it not for Newman, F. D. Maurice would probably head the list of Anglican theologians of the nineteenth century. His understanding of the via media is brought into conversation with Newman’s by Jeremy Morris in an article that points out how the seemingly straightforward image of a middle way can be applied to quite different interpretations of the past and quite different views of what constitutes catholicity. Interpreting the past, as Thomas Ferguson shows, was an important and perhaps the most important element in Newman’s assessment of theological positions that were taken in his own day, including the positions he took himself. Edward Enright turns to the medium through which Newman exercised what was probably his greatest influence while he was an Anglican: his sermons, more particularly his use of Scripture in preaching, and most particularly the way he drew on a single Pauline letter in sermons on very different topics.

One of the intellectual movements that Newman stirred, the end of which is not yet in sight, was modernism, which had among its chief exponents Alfred Loisy, a biblical critic whose reply to his own critics, like Newman’s, took the form of autobiographical writing. His claim that his historical scholarship had been disinterested, with no theological agenda, is weighed in Harvey Hill‘s article, which asks about the disinterestedness of the claim itself.

In one of his most frequently quoted sentences, Newman urges the clergy to “exalt our holy fathers the Bishops, as the representatives of the Apostles, and Angels of the Churches.” Take angels in its proper sense–messengers–and you have the theme of an important study by Joseph Britton with which this issue opens. That the Anglican churches are episcopal churches is on the way to becoming a semi-official designation as well as a fact. In what does the fact consist? What constitutes “the office and work of a bishop in the church of God,” especially in relation to those churches for which being a “representative of the apostles” has less to do with signifying continuity and identity than with commitment to mission? Joint agreements between Anglican/Episcopal and Lutheran churches such as Called to Common Mission both allow and require a fresh consideration of bishops as angels, of their evangelicity.

The articles section of the issue closes with the essay that won for its author, David Reed of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, the annual Harris Prize for 2002. It is a careful and provocative interpretation of just one verse, but that one momentous: the opening of the gospel of John.

As is customary at the end of the year, this issue includes both an index and the names of those whose gifts have made it possible to organize, edit, print, and mail eight hundred pages of the ATR to each of our subscribers and to libraries and seminaries throughout the world. From the index you can gather some idea of the variety and importance of what has been published in these pages. From the list of donors you can gather some idea of the generosity and goodwill which support the journal, and for which we are more grateful than a simple list can express. For many reasons of many kinds, the last year has not been a smooth ride, financially speaking. A special task force, convened by our president, Dean James Lemler, and chaired by Prof. Timothy Sedgwick of Virginia Theological Seminary, has been hard at work developing a strategic plan for the ATR‘s future. For the present, those who in a difficult time have made such extraordinary efforts towards maintaining the excellence of the journal’s work have our very warm thanks.

Not many hours before the summer issue went to press, an era of the ATR ended with the death of James Griffiss. For ten years editor in chief, he was briefly, following a stroke that left him unable to carry out his calling as he wished, editor emeritus. His contribution to the journal during those ten years of quiet, behind-the-scenes work was great and many-faceted–more so than it will be possible for some time to appreciate adequately. It is appropriate that the official side of his career, of which the ATR was only one aspect, should be recorded in its pages by the historiographer of the Episcopal Church. Griffiss was thoroughly Episcopalian. He was also a character. His less official side is lovingly reflected in the homily preached at his funeral by a student and colleague who knew and understood him well.

A year ago, when he resigned his editorship, plans were made to publish an issue of the ATR in Griffiss’s honor. That issue–the first one in the forthcoming volume–must now be a memorial. One thing he would want to be remembered for is his enthusiastic support of the ministries of women in the church. Another is his commitment to scholarly excellence. Taking these together, it was decided that there could be no more fitting way to pay tribute to his own ministry than for the contents of the special issue to be contributed by some of the many women who were associated with Griffiss in the enterprise of Anglican divinity. Edited by Cynthia Shattuck, who worked closely with him on The New Church’s Teaching Series, the issue will include essays by Vicki Black, Barbara Braver, Ellen Charry, Sarah Coakley, Phoebe Griswold, Sandra Levy, Ruth Meyers, Kathryn Tanner, Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Catherine Wallace, Jacqueline Winter, and Ellen Wondra.