Guest Editor's Notes

Article excerpt

During the two decades we worked together, first on his own books and then on The New Church's Teaching Series, there came a time when I understood Jim Griffiss's passion as a teacher of theology in a new way. Beneath his urbane exterior I began to sense the conviction that theology, far from being a language game or intellectual exercise, was a rescue operation, a lifeboat, a rope thrown out to the drowning. He once sent me the first chapter of a book, never finished, describing what a failure our theology is when it cannot make sense of the lives of the marginal and desperate, such as a woman struggling to raise children alone, economically and socially isolated, falling between the cracks. What hope would God-let alone a theologian-hold out for such a person? When he later came to write The Anglican Vision, this passionate concern was focused in the response of a young girl who, on being told that Christ died for her sins, retorted, "Who asked him to?' Jim went on to say that this question continued to haunt him as he preached and taught-that those who most needed the theology he cared so much about were the ones to whom theology might never speak.

This special issue of the ATR honors the long and fruitful ministry of Jim Griffiss as theologian, pastor, and friend. It is no accident that all of us who have written for it, including the poets, are women. In addition to enjoying our company, Jim was a strong supporter of our ministries-lay and ordained, professors, editors, and readers-as many of us can attest. These essays are not "about women," however; their job is to reveal women engaged in their distinctive theological projects. If these essays have a common denominator, it is that all of them ring the changes on the question of Anglican identity, a question that is certain to take on a new urgency in the months and years ahead.

Our issue begins and ends with the theme of hope, starting with Fredrica Harris Thompsett s essay on the theological hopefulness of baptism for Anglicans and concluding with Jacqueline Winter s art review of an exhibit called "Time to Hope," which displayed the art treasures of Castile and Leon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, works ranging from the tenth century to the Baroque period. In very afferent ways, these essays each explore the power and courage we are given through the Incarnation. Incamational worship is also the topic of Ruth Meyers's essay. She writes of the personal experiences of congregations going through liturgical change in her firsthand study of parish communities that are trying to move beyond the rites of the Book of Common Prayer while staying recognizably Anglican.

Three essays by Ellen Charry, Kathryn Tanner, and Sarah Coakley are an impressive witness to the breadth of women's theological projects, ranging as these do from happiness to sacrifice to subversion. Ellen Charry's essay, simply titled "On Happiness," points to and tries to undo the confusion we have wrought by misinterpreting surfeit as happiness, all the while assuring us that the task of theology is human happiness. Kathryn Tanners feminist reappraisal of atonement theology uses the Incarnation to move us to a new understanding of sacrifice not as the shedding of blood but as service to the neighbor, while Sarah Coakley sets out to explore (and turn on its head) the classic gender associations of the nuptial metaphor for the eucharist and the implications for "the woman at the altar. …


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