Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A Tribute to John Frederick Woolverton

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A Tribute to John Frederick Woolverton

Article excerpt

SOME OF HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO ANGLICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY

For twenty-nine years John Woolverton has been editing Anglican and Episcopal History, and its predecessor journal. This is his last issue. During this remarkably generous period of service he has brought to his task a broad and inclusive sense of Anglican history, a keen and consistent vision for the mission of the journal, lots of energy, lots of love, and exceptionally high professional standards. In all his long stewardship, in all these years of careful attention to editorial detail, he has had only one lapse: namely, the section you are reading now. John never suspected that his sub-editors, the president of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, the historiographer of the Episcopal Church, and his printers would surreptitiously conspire to assemble this tribute to him. He's expecting to be reading a church review in this space.

John was born in 1926 in New York City, although the citation for his honorary D.D. from Virginia Theological Seminary (1984) identifies him as "a Virginian, if not by nature, then by adoption and grace." As a teenager he attended Groton School in Massachusetts, and then served for twenty months in the United States Army Air Force overseas (1945-1946). He attended Harvard College (A.B., 1950) and Virginia Theological Seminary (B.D., 1953), and was then ordained deacon (by Bishop Robert Gibson) in 1953, and priest (by Bishop John Hines) in 1954. He served at Trinity Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas, and at St. James' Church, New York City, before beginning a long career teaching church history at Virginia Theological Seminary (1958-1983). There, according to his D.D. citation, he inspired generations of students with his "learning, passion, and wit," a phrase which those who know him will recognize as accurate. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary (1963) with the dissertation William Reed Huntington and church unity: the historical and theological background of the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral. Later at VTS he occupied the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Chair in Christianity in America ( 1970-1983). In 1978 he began editing the Historical Magazine of the Episcopal Church; this became Anglican and Episcopal History in 1987. As editor he has also served ex officio on the board of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, to which he has contributed very greatly. In 1983 John resigned from VTS and served until 1989 as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Portland, Maine. He then retired, if "retired" is the right word, to Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, whose post office staff know him well. Among his many books are Colonial Anglicanism in North America (Wayne State University Press, 1984), The Education of Phillips Brooks (University of Illinois Press, 1995), and Robert H. Gardiner and the reunification of worldwide Christianity in the Progressive Era (University of Missouri Press, 2005). (My thanks to Julia Randle of the Bishop Payne Library at VTS for assembling much of this biographical information.)

As editor of Anglican and Episcopal History, John has done what editors of professional history journals are supposed to do, and has done it exceedingly well: he has reminded us of the importance of the past, disseminated new knowledge, encouraged young researchers and made good use of senior ones, promoted attention to topics that might otherwise be ignored, drawn the best out of his contributors, and developed a sense of scholarly fellowship among those who have worked with him. But in addition, and maybe even more importantly, he has made the church a better place, particularly the Anglican part of it. By opening our eyes to the past, he has helped us see where the church is in the present, and where it needs to go in the future. He has done so, for example, by promoting the study of the laity; by reminding us of those many historical figures who lived out of "an enormous respect for the church and for the kindliness and decency toward others for which it stood" (AEH, September 1993); by recruiting articles on "the total genius of Anglicanism," highlighting its "principled diversity"; and by giving full attention to the global reality of Anglican Christianity. …

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