Monday, October 12, 2020

editor as detective and gardener and servant

I’ve just sent off to the publisher my first ever edited contribution.
- 1 editorial, of around 2,600 words
- 5 blind peer-reviewed journal articles, each around 6,000 words
- 3 reviewers, together reviewing 4 recently published books relevant to mission

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The edited contribution is Volume 1, Issue 2 of Ecclesial Futures, an international, ecumenical peer-reviewed journal, aiming to provide high-quality, original research on the development and transformation of local Christian communities and the systems that support them as they join in the mission of God in the world.

Ecclesial Futures began for me in August 2016. As part of the International Association of Mission Studies conference in Korea, a group of us met to reflect on what we felt was a gap in missiology – research focused on the local church, that offered a dialogue between academic and practitioner. Over the next few years, a number of organisations agreed with us, generously offering seed money for an initial four issues. Momentum developed and an editorial board began to form.

It was just over a year ago, in September 2019, that I met with co-editor, Rev Dr Nigel Rooms. We spent the day wandering York. Nigel is an experienced editor, of the Journal of Adult Theological Education and now of Practical Theology. During the day, we talked about an editorial ethos of encouragement, of prioritizing constructive peer review and a willingness to mentor potential writers who have not published before.

Volume 1 was published in June 2020 and has been well received. This includes affirming feedback about the visual appeal (“attractive, easy to handle,” “looks great”), the readability (“well pitched”) and connectivity (“interesting research and reflections on mission and the church and crucially it relates to what is happening on the ground”). There have been requests for permission to use articles in training and formation of ministers, along with affirmations from an acquisition librarian in an internationally recognized University regarding the quality and craft. There have also been challenges, including the need to further diversify our editorial board.

My task over the last 3 months has been project-managing volume 2. This involves finding blind reviewers for various articles, moderating between reviewer and author, providing encouragement to authors and gratefulness to reviewers, editing for argument and clarity. Finally, writing an editorial, which introduces the issue and maps out some trajectories we as editors want to encourage.

It’s been a new experience, chipping away in the midst of a myriad of other changes. I’m passionate about the local church and the interface between thinking and doing. But like any new thing, there’s been lots of learnings and plenty of questions.

Why be an editor?

You get to be a detective – It’s been a lot of fun trying to work out who might be a good blind peer reviewer. Each article is unique and each invites examination from different perspectives. Hence co-editing means asking around, seeking recommendations, checking CV’s online. In the process, I’ve been enriched. It has certainly extended my networks and I’ve met some really interesting new people.

You get to be a gardener – The 5 articles are quite different now from the 5 articles individually submitted. It has been fascinating to see authors respond to review, sharpen their argument, read more widely, draw in new material. To use the gardening image, each article is a different plant. Each has required different approaches to pruning. Each author has needed different amounts of fertiliser. As editor, it has been a great gift to watch a stranger read something an author is so familiar with and say “I think this is the heart of your argument.” And then see the author respond, and the article return stronger, more coherent.

You get to serve – The local church deserves the best of our thinking and acting, our research and our praxis. Co-editing Ecclesial Futures is one way for me to seek to serve the local church, for which I’m grateful.

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