ELEVEN YEARS as Books Editor of the Anglican Journal have convinced me that the biblical author was right when he said “of making many books there is no end.”
He might have added something about there being a much smaller output of good books. Each year, our reviewers were able to cover between 60 and 70 religious titles, chosen from about five times that many received, to say nothing of those listed in catalogues but never ordered. Those reviewed were chosen primarily for their possible appeal to the quarter-million Journal subscribers who are the interested, intelligent Anglicans in the pews. I end my term as Books Editor by suggesting two books worth considering for future publication: one a “golden oldie” and the other, as far as I know, yet unwritten.
From a Christian Ghetto: Letters of Ghostly Wit views the 20th century church from the perspective of 500 years in the future when Christianity is a subversive contagious disease to be eradicated by torture and execution, its adherents banished to underground ghettos. It was written in 1953 by theologian Dr. Geddes MacGregor, as letters from a history tutor, Paul, to a theological student, Tim, studying the “medieval” 20th century church, probing its delusions, stupidities, and real or imagined orthodoxies with a gentle but devastating touch. The comparisons of the underground remnant, the state-sanctioned “Temple of Orthodox-Pretend Christianity,” and the 20th century church strike uncomfortably close to home. Mr. MacGregor told me 25 years after writing the book that he intended it as satire and was surprised when it proved instead to be prophecy.
“Heretics” Then and Now I suggest as a working title for a book about people through the ages whose ideas were branded false or “heretical” by the ruling establishment, and what happened to them later. Such people have been a part of church history since the beginning – in fact, challenges to conventional wisdom have often been the anvil on which true faith has been hammered out. But some of those “heretical” views, spanning the first through the 20th centuries, now are part of mainstream Christian teaching – once condemned by majority vote, vindicated through time and the Holy Spirit. This is the final column by William Portman who retires this month after 11 years as Books Editor for the Anglican Journal.