Sinners and the Sinned Against
Certain rituals surround editing @ this point: Brainstorming topics and writers at a hastily-arranged editorial board meeting. Sending out contracts and sending reminders to our writers to return them. Breathing a sigh of relief when all the essays are in. One of these rituals involves me visiting the Rev. Dr. Ann Clay Adams in the Office of Academic Affairs for the two of us to pick graphics for each edition. Why Dr. Adams? She’s got good taste in pictures—and she also has the company credit card to pay for them.
Dr. Adams and I are never sure what we’re going to find when we type a topic into the search engine of iStock in our hunt for pictures. To judge from the range of pictures we sometimes find, our choices of topics for the journal can be rather esoteric (in spite of our best hopes for the journal). When we decided on “Sin and the Sinned Against” as the topic for this edition, I will admit that I worried that we wouldn’t get many pictures to choose from. Sin is, after all, not an especially popular topic even in the best or most religious of times—and contemporary times are neither.
The sheer range of pictures caught us off guard. Lots of Albrecht Durer woodcut prints. Snakes with apples. Flames. A disturbing number of clowns. Sin gets associated with MANY images. So at least to judge from the volume of sin pictures in iStock, sin may by a taboo topic: we don’t talk about sin but everyone thinks about it (and will gladly sell images of it). And people definitely do not all agree with each other when they picture it.
The taboo quality of sin makes this edition both interesting—though hopefully not in a salacious way—and quite valuable. The lead essay is by Prof. Ernst M. Conradie, who is Senior Professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Columbia Theological Seminary in 2016 where he worked on a project entitled “Redeeming Sin? Social Diagnostics Amidst Ecological Destruction.” His essay here draws from that project. In it and his reply to his respondents, he highlights the multiple ways that sin is understood and how each of those ways of understanding it not only shape how people understand what it means to be saved from it but also how people understand their responsibilities to those who are the victims of sinful behavior. Columbia Theological Seminary was fortunate to have Dr. Conradie with us for a season; the readers of @ this point are fortunate to have his thought with them for an even longer period of time.
Dr. Conradie’s three respondents also have interesting connections to CTS. Dr. Christine Hong and Dr. Mindy McGarrah Sharp are the two newest members of the faculty at Columbia Theological Seminary. Their responses not only give us all a chance to learn from their wisdom but for this journal, in its own way, to introduce them to the wider CTS-related community that constitutes our readership. Dr. Hong is the new Assistant Professor of Educational Ministry and Dr. McGarrah Sharp is the new Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Pastoral Care. Each of them brings the insights of not only their respective disciplines but their capacities as interdisciplinary thinkers to their responses. CTS is fortunate to have these two marvelous scholars joining its ranks and you can find out more about them here. And the third respondent, Dr. Brian Powers, holds both MDiv and ThM degrees from CTS as well as a freshly-minted PhD in theology from Emory University, where he wrote his dissertation on the important topic of moral injury, especially as it pertains to combat veterans. He is early in his career but pay attention to his name!
Speaking of those with CTS and Emory connections, the curriculum for this edition was written by Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum, who earned her MDiv with honors this year at CTS and who begins a PhD in the Ethics and Society program at Emory University in the fall. We at @ this point are proud of the work she did at CTS, grateful for her contributions to this edition, and eager to see what she does at our sister institution up the road.
Beyond these writers, the journal benefits from the continued work of Ginny Seibel, an MATS student at CTS and Associate Editor of @ this point and Andy Schmidbauer, who has been with the journal from its beginning as our website manager. Thanks to the both. Finally, two members of the editorial board have rotated off the board this year. Our thanks to Drs. Marcia Riggs and Kim Long for their work on the journal over the past years.
And so an editor’s note that begins with ritual and sin ends with gratitude. Perhaps there’s something in that transition worth thinking about—much as there is much to think about in this edition of @ this point.