A Review of The Forward Movement Catalog 2008
The Forward Movement Catalog was in my mailbox at the seminary today. I have appreciated the ministry of Forward Movement over the years. Forward Movement is the semi-official tract publisher for the Episcopal Church. It is a remnant of a renewal movement of the early 20th century in TEC, and among other great publications which you can get from Forward Movement, you can get a pamphlet with the history of how this publishing organization came into being.
In the catalog you will find some real gems that are written in an accessible style that will be much appreciated by the parish faithful. Here are just a few of the very well-known authors from a quick look through the alphabetical listing at the end of the catalog; Bishop Fitz Allison, the scholarly retired bishop of South Carolina; Bishop John David Bena, now of CANA and the author of a study on faith; Richard Bolles, the author of the famous guide to job hunting, What Color Is Your Parachute; Frederick Buechner, perhaps one of the most popular Christian writers of the 20th century; John Booty, the Hooker scholar and former dean at St. Luke’s School of Theology; Tony Clavier, of blogdom fame; John Claypool, who was famous as a evangelical preacher before he joined The Episcopal Church; James Fenhagen, a former dean of General Seminary; Theodore Ferris, the great preacher and rector of Trinity, Boston; Peter Gomes of Harvard; Kathryn Greene-McCreight, priest, Barth scholar and author of an award winning book on theology and mental illness; C.S. Lewis; Henri Nouwen; John Polkinghorne, the world famous physicist turned priest and writer on science and religion; Charles Price, a well known seminary professor of a previous era; Carroll Simcox, another very familiar Episcopal writer of another era; Barbara Brown Taylor; the scripture scholar Phyllis Tickle; Desmond Tutu; John Westerhoff, Rowan Williams, J. Robert Wright.
The above list is just a sample and entirely arbitrary. It consists of people whom I recognize for one reason or another. There are many other authors and the list is on the whole a balanced list. There are recognizable conservatives and recognizable liberals and fine and thought-provoking authors who defy easy pigeonholing. When I was in the parish I found much helpful material here. There are very good pamphlets on preparing for marriage and baptism, on how to use the prayer book and the history of Anglicanism, on the meaning of sacraments, on how to deal with alcoholism and addiction and depression, on prayers for the aged and the young and all sorts of very practical things oriented toward the normal life of the parish church.
The mainstay of Forward Movement is Forward Movement Day by Day. This is a little booklet that is produced on an ongoing basis and keyed to the daily office readings. The author of the meditations is usually anonymous. For years I used this in the parish and recommended it to my parishioners. I had to give up some years ago because the writing became so heretical. If I remember it was the issue that seemed to deny the bodily resurrection that was the last straw for me and I canceled the parish subscription. I kept using the pamphlets, carefully on a pick and choose basis but Forward Movement was still the best source of short readable material on a number of topics that you really wanted to give to people either new to the faith or to the parish.
The press is under new management and I know that the new editor Richard Schmidt wants the press to be genuinely theologically diverse and to include conservative voices. He has visited Trinity and invited members of the faculty to submit articles for consideration and left with us a list of issues on which he is soliciting submissions. It is thus disappointing to review the entries in the catalog that touch on the issues dividing the church. There is a whole page of offerings on human sexuality. The offerings seem to me to be very heavily weighted in favor of the revisionist side. I may have missed it but I don’t see much on the Windsor process or anything that might help the average Episcopalian understand in a sympathetic way the reasons behind the protest of so many provinces of the Anglican Communion to the reigning theology and ethos of The Episcopal Church.
It is very worthwhile for what are sometimes called reasserting Anglicans to go through the Forward Movement Catalog looking for the many useful things they will find there. As I did so today I recognized many tried and true booklets and saw some others that piqued my interest and some that I hope never appear in any parish anywhere. With regard to newer authors and pamphlets on contemporary controversial issues including homosexuality and the crisis in the Communion, reasserting Anglicans will find very little that they can use or recommend.