September 23, 2011

In the education world, academic journals, like so many publishing ventures, are an endangered species. Print-based, peer-reviewed journals are expensive to produce and even more expensive to purchase. The Internet has wreaked havoc—often welcome havoc—on traditional ways of disseminating knowledge. Digital access has leveled the intellectual playing field. Facts and opinions on just about any religious subject are just a click or two away for anyone who owns a laptop or an iPad. Even seminary and university professors rely more and more on digital portals to conduct their own research and to find places to publish their writing. So whether you are engaged
in ministry in the field—as a Christian educator, parish clergy, or vestry member—or simply a Christian believer committed to lifelong learning, I suspect paying a visit to a seminary library to consult an theological journal is not high on your list of priorities, even if such a library is (rare thing indeed) actually in walking distance.

But there are clear risks in relying on cyberspace to deliver the theological goods. A level playing field is a good thing mostly, but only if the games we play on them feature decent rules and discernable foul lines, qualities mostly missing from the Internet, where it is often next to impossible to separate fact from fabrication. Just google a word like “apocalypse” or “jihad,” and you will immediately discover that theological speculation on the Internet is a happy hunting ground for cranks and fanatics.

I serve as the seminary representative on the board of the Anglican Theological Review. The board will gather for its annual meeting in Toronto this weekend. As producers of a printed journal, we know we are something of a dinosaur. But I like to think we are poised to survive and even flourish in the coming post-digital age. Although the ATR runs a very good website (www.anglicantheologicalreview.org), our principle task remains what it has been for the past half century and more—to produce every quarter a reasonably priced, handsomely printed collection of essays, poems and book reviews on topics of compelling interest to Anglicans and Episcopalians. What we print has been read and edited in advance by trusted advisors with a reputation for integrity and theological depth. So next time you feel the need for some challenging theological reflection, consider subscribing to the Review. Or at least check out the website before you google Wikipedia!

—Roger Ferlo, Associate Dean and Director of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership