- Rita Gross as Coeditor of Buddhist-Christian Studies
My assignment is to celebrate Rita's editorial work on Buddhist-Christian Studies, the journal of our society. But I want to begin by acknowledging Rita's contributions to the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies overall. Her contributions to our society have been enormous. She was a founder and visionary at the beginning. She has, I believe, held every office in the society except for treasurer. And her unfailing willingness to work on whatever needed to be worked on has been an inspiration to us all.
But now I want to focus on her work on the editing of Buddhist-Christian Studies. I was chosen for this because Rita and I were coeditors of the journal for ten years, from 1995 to 2005.
In one sense Rita and I were guinea pigs. For the first fifteen years of the society, David Chappell, the founding editor, edited the journal. When David retired, the board decided that it would be good to have two editors of the journal, one a Buddhist, one a Christian. It was also in keeping with society commitments that one of us was a man and one a woman.
The question was whether two very different people could make a coeditorship work. Coeditorships do not always work. There are two issues. The first is choosing people who actually have the skills to do the job. Coeditorships seem like a great idea when decision makers are wrestling with the internal politics of an organization, especially the issues of proper representation among office holders. In order to avoid appearing to favor one or another identity group within an organization, office-holding choices are often made according to representation rather than skill sets.
There is a second issue with coeditorships. Even when the chosen pair satisfies both the representational needs of an organization and the skill sets requirements, there is a question as to whether these two particular people can work together well enough to produce a good journal, whether their work styles mesh, whether their personalities have a reasonable chance of relating positively. In case you are thinking to yourselves, this sounds like my marriage, the analogy is apt.
So I would like to spend a few moments remembering for you how this worked with Rita and me. My conclusion is that is worked very well, and I have heard Rita say that from her point of view it worked very well. And there are ten volumes of [End Page 85] Buddhist-Christian Studies sitting on many of our shelves, silent testimonies to the fact that this coeditorship worked well enough so that the journal came out, came out on time, and produced essays and reviews that furthered the aims of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies.
My recollections will be in the form of personal anecdotes and stories, since to my mind that is really what made it the fun, voluntary endeavor that the work of the society has become for many of us. I will talk about Rita, I will talk about the editing process, and I will reflect a bit on the challenges and rewards of coediting.
I first saw Rita Gross at one of the early meetings of the forerunner of the society, the Cobb-Abe dialogue group. It was at a press conference called by the organizers of the meeting to get some publicity. Rita was being interviewed along with a male scholar who shall remain nameless. I remember two things about the press conference. One was that Rita was wearing a pair of platform shoes that appeared to me to be tippy, and I remember thinking how hard it must be to balance oneself while wearing those things. The second thing I remember was the dynamics between Rita and the male scholar. The male scholar was coming across toward her as one of the most condescending people I have ever seen, and those of you who know Rita know that she does not take to patronization very well. After the second or third of these snide comments coming Rita's way from this very famous man, she just lit into him...