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Editor's Notes

Charles Hefling

As many readers of the ATR already know, we have been engaged for nearly two years in self-examination, assessment, and strategic planning. We have taken a survey of our readers and learned a lot about who you are and what you value in the journal. A special task force has met and deliberated, its subcommittees have reported, and its recommendations, which were many and far-reaching, were accepted by the ATR board at its annual meeting in October 2003. Now comes the work of nourishing the seeds that have been planted, and finding ways to bring about what was recommended.

That will not happen all at once, nor will all the changes we envision affect readers directly. Many of them have to do with infrastructure and governance--what has to go on behind the scenes, to ensure that the ATR will maintain and, as we hope, enlarge its contribution to theological scholarship and the life of the church. But there are outward and visible signs of change too. At the same time that our new cover design appeared, we put into operation a much-improved website, meant to serve a variety of purposes. In addition to providing information about the journal, the site allows subscribers, present and potential, to enter or renew a subscription. Visitors can contact members of the staff, make a donation, or participate in the Seminaries Abroad Gift Program; they can see the contents of each issue, find a precis of every major article, and even read the Editor's Notes. Authors, book reviewers, and poets will have available on-line a full set of instructions and a detailed style sheet. If you have not looked in at, please do.

As for the contents of the journal itself, the task force report seconded the readers' survey in voicing a preference for articles that bear on contemporary issues and articles on topics germane to the Anglican Communion. At present, the issue of gravest concern to Anglicans is only too obvious. And it would be only too easy to settle for the idea that on sexuality everything there is to say has been said, and it is no use saying anything more. That is counsel of despair. As long as there can be conversation, there is hope, and it is with a view to that end that two of the articles in this issue are presented. Each of them brings to current debates a perspective that has not, perhaps, played as prominent a part as it deserves to play. Ellen Charry offers an ethical argument mounted from the standpoint of the common good, civic order, and the relevance of exemplary wholesomeness to society at large, while Willis Jenkins sets the situation in and beyond North America within the broader context of the recent history of missionary relationships.

Questions about the qualifications for receiving holy communion do not command as much media coverage as questions about the qualifications for being ordained a bishop, but they are no less important for that. In the article with which this issue opens, James Farwell lays out a position on the eucharist in relation to baptism that may, as he notes, be not quite politically correct. All the more reason to take seriously and weigh with care the reasoning that supports it.

Another recommendation that emerged in recent deliberation on the ATR's future was the inclusion from time to time of short articles that examine the religious, ethical, and theological aspects of cultural expressions such as film and fiction. A good deal of discussion has already been generated by Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, which will have been released by the time this issue appears in print. As Philip Cunningham shows in his analysis, the relevant questions extend beyond the film itself, to include any dramatization of the events narrated in the gospel accounts of Jesus' death.

The articles mentioned so far are all, in different ways, provocative. This may therefore be a suitable place to mention one further recommendation that readers can expect to see implemented in future. While the pages of the ATR have always been open to contributions that take issue with the arguments and conclusions of articles already published here, from now on responses of this kind will be actively encouraged. We do not propose to print "letters to the editor," but scholarly essays that develop or challenge positions taken in the journal are welcome.

Three further articles carry on the ATR's stated commitment to retrieving and disseminating the rich heritage of Anglican divinity. The many talents of Dorthy L. Sayers, who deserves to be known as playwright and theologican as well as for her detective novels, are considered in William Harrison's study as they converge on a single and in some ways, for Sayers, a definitive topic: work. Denise Inge reports on the light that newly discovered manuscripts have shed on another many-sided Anglican divine, Thomas Traherne, changing the way he is being read at the beginning of a new century. And the perpetually elusive, perpetually significant question of Anglican identity is taken up by Barrington Bates in a characteristically Anglican way--as a matter of doxology.

Like most journals of its kind, the ATR is far from being well off, financially speaking. Our wealth is in friends and supporters, for whose gifts of time and effort it is meet and right to give thanks. The task force on strategic planning was conceived and shepherded by our president, James Lemler. Timothy Sedgwick chaired it, and a more generous or painstaking chairman would be hard to imagine. The subcommittees charged with special areas of concern had the vigorous leadership of Frederick Borsch, Donn Morgan, and Jacqueline Schmitt. And the whole project was made possible by the Episcopal Church Foundation, which to its material support added the godly counsel of William Andersen and Donn Mitchell. Let these names stand for a great many others, all of whom have the gratitude of those who produce the ATR and--surely--those who read it.

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