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Transition and Tradition

By August 1, 2004 No Comments

With this issue Roy Anker rotates off Perspectives’ team of co-editors, and the bearer of the above by-line rotates on. Nothing personal: it’s Board policy, and a good one. Leanne Van Dyk and David Timmer, the rest of the current troika, will follow in due time, to be replaced by players to be named later. RoyPerspectives is a journalistic trade built entirely on draft choices, with seven-figure contracts filled in only to the right of the decimal point and with no signing bonus beyond the opportunity to do some good work for a worthy cause.

More on the cause in a moment; first a salute to the service Roy Anker has rendered it. The handsome man pictured here might not blush at reading this, but all 6′-7″ of his frame will bow and squirm a little in the quintessential Midwestern humility shuffle he has down pat. Shuffle away, Lake Wobegon boy; the truth needs to be told.

Roy’s contributions to this journal have gone beyond substantial; they have been essential. As a member of the Editorial Board in the 1990s he helped bring about a better fit between Perspectives and the longstanding Reformed Journal which it had subsumed. He then served a stint as Book Review Editor before becoming Co-Editor in 2000. In that role he has set high standards of quality and encouraged his writers with quiet grace to meet them. His tempered judgment has consistently called us in editorial councils back to the important things, the lasting things. High on that list for Roy stands the conviction that Reformed Christianity gives its adherents a critical edge and a deep empathy with which to engage the current scene, whether it be in theology, culture, worship, or politics. His distinguished work as a film critic, both in these pages and in his forthcoming book, Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies (Eerdmans), reflects that passion, and compassion. We’re delighted that Roy will continue in this capacity for us in the years ahead.

Roy embodies the tradition that helps us get through a transition like the present. He hit upon the Reformed Journal as a student in the 1960s and found it, along with Will Campbell’s Katallagete, an invaluable guide to a Christian wondering, in troubled times, whether the faith made any sense or any difference. The Journal helped convince Roy that it did, or at least could; that, beneath the ducking and dodging and reflex pieties which marked so much of American Protestantism in that day, the Reformed tradition offered a critical hope, a way ahead deeply faithful to the gospel while fully aware of the world’s pain and the church’s compromises. Roy’s work on Perspectives has been, in part, a repayment toward that debt and an effort to set forth a similar path today.

Other contributors to this issue have also long played a part in this project. Caroline Simon was a mainstay of Perspectives–as Board member, Book Review Editor, and Co-Editor–in the 1990s; Rod Jellema published in the Reformed Journal already in the 1950s; Abraham Kuyper, from whom we have borrowed the Scriptural reflection this month, remains one of the founders of this particular feast. But we also have two writers–Daniel Hoolsema and John Hubers–making their Perspectives debut in this issue, underscoring the reality that a tradition remains alive only by taking on the new.

We hope you find this transit stimulating and that you will join us as reader, writer, or occasional correspondent in the months ahead.

James Bratt is Professor of History at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Director of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship.

James Bratt

James Bratt is professor of history emeritus at Calvin University, specializing in American religious history and especially the connections between religion and politics. He is the author of several books including Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat, widely considered the definitive Kuyper biography.