It falls to this Sunday blogger to note the death yesterday of The Rev. John Worrell, whose name might be recognized by the past few generations of Texas Episcopalians, and most certainly will be recognized by their members of the clergy.
Though he accomplished much in his long career as a working priest, John will likely be remembered chiefly as the force behind Nevertheless: A Texas Church Review - founder, publisher (along with wife Vivian), and head writer of a thoughtful publication that prided itself on being an independent voice crying for a little sanity in the Anglican Communion - no, not just in Texas ... and not just in the years before before 2003, but especially, and with hard vigor, in 2003 and beyond, until finally just a few years ago Nevertheless and other small occasional pubs like it were forced to run up the white flag and surrender (swearing many cautions to the rest of us) to the immediacy of the Internet.
John was profoundly captured by the notion that The Episcopal Church was a place capable of having a wide, fair, giving, and intellectually honest conversation about faith and the politics of faith. (He was also less apt to confuse the two, as we sometimes are now, in our rush to keep the story going.) He was, simply, a broad churchman who did not accept the smallness one sometimes perceives in clergy - including bishops - and who never shied from pointing out both the location and remedy of faults. Upon handing over the reigns of Nevertheless to an editorial board, he noted, with a tinge of melancholy, that
... [w]e never quite succeeded in providing, as we had hoped, a place where very different views were argued out in "charitable yet rigorous" debate, at least not often. Perhaps the times had already turned to discomfort with diversity and serious exploration of important differences in a shared environment. It is also likely that our willingness, on the rare occasions when it seemed needed, to question the wisdom or fairness of our Bishops gave us a partisan reputation we had not desired ... I hope that our shared concern for the success of the Gospel and the welfare of the Church will continue and grow.
Let's remember that The Episcopal Church, like any American expression of Christian thought, was upheld by many in the last century who cared enough about her fortunes to do something to in the hope of making a lasting impact upon them. There were many who toiled with blue pencils, pica-poles, and reduction wheels to make their drafts better - who would stay up late copying, folding, applying stamps and fueling it all with cold coffee, because they loved their Church enough to sacrifice for it in ways that just made sense to them. And if today entirely web-based news-and-views organs like Episcopal Café succeed, they do well to recall their forebears in this lineage.
So farewell, John, and thanks for all the carp. We owe you.