THE LOSS of historical perspective is a characteristic of our time. Keeping abreast of the day’s events generally allows little space for a backwards glance. The internet, laptop, and mobile phone merely allow the compulsive gathering of information to dominate yet more of each day. Ignorance is not so much a lack of knowledge as a lack of comprehension. These are sombre reflections for a celebratory issue. They flow from the perception that one of the key factors in the disjointedness of Anglicanism since our 7000th issue is not poor theology, but poor history. Without a grasp of the painstaking and painful wrangling of the Early Church, the triumphs and disasters of the Reformation, the long relationship between Church and state in the UK and Europe, the growth of missionary religion in the southern hemisphere, and the formation and development of the Anglican Communion, it is easy to pay too little heed to the ties that ought to bind Christ’s Church together.
The Church Times is a case in point. Having been partisan for so much of our history, the last thing we wish to do is to slip back into such an adversarial world. We still believe there is some distance to travel in the direction of comprehensiveness, which, by our definition, means communicating how the Holy Spirit is moving in all parts of the worldwide Church. We confess to being puzzled that we see so many Anglicans travelling in the opposite direction. We cannot help feeling that they would benefit from the lesson learned by Church Times editors: that it is a hard task to eject the spirit of dissension once it has been invited in.
It is for this reason that we continue to strive to make this newspaper a forum for debate in the Church. The only qualification for entry is a belief that debate is fruitful. Our readers have told us that they wish to hear about how other Christians fare; that they don’t need us to fill these pages with like-minded churchpeople, reassuring though that can be on occasions. They share their worshipping lives with a great variety of believers, and don’t expect the people they encounter on these pages to be any different. Our task, and it is hard enough, is to represent people fairly and without prejudice. This is one of the joys of being an independent periodical: that we can report on events across the sweep of Churches without introducing institutional or proprietorial prejudice into the process.
Of course, the task of putting together a weekly newspaper gives little opportunity for measured reflection. It is impossible to weigh up the balance of an issue in the last minutes before going to press, or do anything about it if it is found wanting. The direction of the Church Times can be judged best when its recent history is recalled. We are all too aware of our shortcomings. It is for this reason that the good humour of the readers of the Church Times is invaluable. The road to full, visible Christian unity is a long and stony one, and we do well to keep each other encouraged and entertained on the way.