March 22, 2017

April 27, 2010

Bishop NT Wright to retire on August 31st—and return to the academy

from here

The Bishop of Durham, Dr N. T. Wright, has announced that he will be retiring from the See of Durham on August 31.

Dr Wright, who will be 62 this autumn, is returning to the academic world, in which he spent the first twenty years of his career, and will take up a new appointment as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Announcing his move, Bishop Tom said, ‘This has been the hardest decision of my life. It has been an indescribable privilege to be Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Durham, to work with a superb team of colleagues, to take part in the work of God’s kingdom here in the north-east, and to represent the region and its churches in the House of Lords and in General Synod. I have loved the people, the place, the heritage and the work. But my continuing vocation to be a writer, teacher and broadcaster, for the benefit (I hope) of the wider world and church, has been increasingly difficult to combine with the complex demands and duties of a diocesan bishop. I am very sad about this, but the choice has become increasingly clear.’


I don’t blame him. It’s a good time to get out.

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[1] Posted by tk+ on 4-27-2010 at 06:42 AM · [top]

I suppose this means he isn’t interested in being the next ABC.

[2] Posted by James Manley on 4-27-2010 at 07:14 AM · [top]

It is not exactly a vote of confidence in the current one - perhaps he thinks the CofE is going to hell in a handbasket.  I do wonder myself, given the appointment of the new Bishop of Chelmsford, who couldn’t conceivably sign up to Lambeth 1:10 and the GS Covenant requirement.  Is this the pattern our liberal ABC and ABY are foisting on the CofE?  We will have to see who else pops up in the many appointments in train.

But I do feel considerable disappointment in Bishop Tom’s action in deserting his post at this time.

[3] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 4-27-2010 at 07:20 AM · [top]

Hmmm.  My instinctive gut reaction is that the wrong guy resigned to go back to academia.  It ought to have been ++RW.

But while I have mixed feelings about +NT Wright leaving the HoB in the CoE at this critical time in the life of the AC’s mother church, I must admit that the move makes sense to me.  Tom’s Wright’s greatest and most precious gifts are as an unsurpassed Bible teacher and scholar.  If he can continue to crank out great books at an even more prodigious rate, I suspect that will be the most strategic contribution he can make to building up the whole church, the entire Body of Christ (of all denominations).

I have no idea how the guy managed to publish all that he did while Bishop of Durham, but this will set him free to write and speak even more.

David Handy+

[4] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 4-27-2010 at 09:15 AM · [top]

He is getting out while the getting is good…..and he is not the only one…

[5] Posted by Creighton+ on 4-27-2010 at 09:37 AM · [top]

I believe +Tom has correctly discerned his calling. IMHO, being the Bishop of Durham was actually inhibiting his ability to fulfill his true call from God and I truly believe that he is saddened to make such a choice.

Incidentally, don’t underestimate his capacity to be a bolder, more prophetic voice than he was able to be as Bishop of Durham. Personally, I fully agree with my old friend, David Handy+. This is indeed a wonderful change that should produce major benefits for the wider Church.

[6] Posted by Albeit on 4-27-2010 at 09:59 AM · [top]

Well, I am going to miss him. Of course, he remains a bishop, just sans jurisdiction.  The timing does seem unusual, given the level of controversy in the Communion and the current TEC threat to its future.  However, that future is in the hands of his friend and colleague Dr. Williams.

Still, if this means Bishop Tom spends more time writing and has more time for correspondence and communication, it may be a good thing for the formative new Church growing up from the ruins of western Anglicanism.

[7] Posted by tjmcmahon on 4-27-2010 at 10:20 AM · [top]

“However, that future is in the hands of his friend and colleague Dr. Williams.”

That is frighteningly true. I think the ABC is becoming much much more of a difficult friend for NT Wright to defend.

[8] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-27-2010 at 10:22 AM · [top]

I recall a wave of retirements of bishops from TEC between 2000-2003 as they foresaw the approaching disaster. Bishop Wright’s implies that a similar disaster is approaching the C of E.

[9] Posted by Publius on 4-27-2010 at 10:28 AM · [top]

So one of the principal architects of “Windsor” escapes.  I wonder if he will no longer feel the need to attack evangelical allies now?...or will he become more vocal?

And since Durham as a See does nevertheless have academic kudos, perhaps Canterbury might accept a move there?

[10] Posted by naab00 on 4-27-2010 at 10:56 AM · [top]

He is an enormously gifted writer and Biblical scholar. 

He did not seem to be well suited as a conservative leader within the Anglican Communion.  His criticism of some of the more vocal orthodox leaders struck me as naive.

[11] Posted by Going Home on 4-27-2010 at 11:12 AM · [top]

Yeah.  He really had no control over the liberal train-wrecks.  It’s much better to have control over the conservative ones. 

I guess.

[12] Posted by J Eppinga on 4-27-2010 at 11:21 AM · [top]

Yes, this is a matter of fulfilling a vocation. Tom believes that he has a few more things to say to the academy and the next generation of theological students and scholarts. He enjoyed being bishop of Durham and is very proud of the diocese and the work the clergy and people do there in one of the poorest parts of the UK, but he will be 62 this year and the big book series (the little books are great too, but the big set ‘Christian Origins and the Question of God’) may still have several volumes still to be born. The next violume is his magnum opus on Paul (actually it will be two volumes) and then at least a volume on the evangelists (as opposed to ‘the historical Jesus’). When I first had him as a teacher in Montreal he once told me that he anticipated a volume on hermeneutics after the one on the gospels - we will see.


[13] Posted by Grant LeMarquand on 4-27-2010 at 12:08 PM · [top]

Wow - my first reactions are surprise and sorrow. He has been a staunch defender of the faith IMO and a hugely important voice in the COE HOB and the Communion. His voice in those places will be badly missed.

I hadn’t realized his age - he always seems so much younger. I understand if he feels he has three or four major books that remain to be written then a choice has to be made.

Congratulations to St. Andrew’s - I predict a good few more US doctoral candidates will be heading their way. God bless Bishop Tom - ad multos annos!

[14] Posted by driver8 on 4-27-2010 at 02:25 PM · [top]

I predict a good few more US doctoral candidates will be heading their way.

Hmmmm….There might be one of those sitting in this office chair behind the keyboard.  Distance ed, anyone?

[15] Posted by tjmcmahon on 4-27-2010 at 02:58 PM · [top]

In answer to tk+ [1], Tom Wright has pointed out in the past that he is older than Rowan Williams.  It is not probable that he would be seriously considered next time there is a vacancy at Canterbury.  I don’t suppose that in his heart he has given up on the Church of England; but I do note, and think it means something, that he is moving to Scotland.

[16] Posted by Soapy Sam on 4-27-2010 at 04:29 PM · [top]

#16—Soapy, I think you were actually responding to #2; but I wouldn’t put too much weight on the fact that St Andrews is in Scotland. Ecclesiastically, it’s quite liberal and from what I hear not doing so well except in a few pockets; geographically, St Andrews is one of those towns where people go either to vacation or to retire. The biggest significance to the location, I think, would be that when his books are complete, he wouldn’t necessarily have to move again to get to a place that has culture, an intellectual environment to keep up with, good food, a laid-back atmosphere, great scenery, and three beaches.

[17] Posted by tk+ on 4-27-2010 at 04:41 PM · [top]

Pageantmaster [3]

In fact - if one is interested in facts - Cantaur’s foisting upon Chelmsford is more than fairly balanced by his foisting upon Peterborough earlier this month. I suggest a quick visit via Google to Bishop Donald Allister, recently installed Bishop of Peterborough (C of E) will cheer you and all the like-minded up enormously and expunge your rather unfair criticism of Rowan the Good [always remembering that Gordon Brown’s office managed the selection process - not Lambeth Palace as all of you across the pond tend to assume].

[18] Posted by comprador on 4-28-2010 at 12:13 AM · [top]

FWIW I think you’ll find that the good Pageantmaster is resident on the UK side of the ditch.

[19] Posted by driver8 on 4-28-2010 at 12:31 AM · [top]

I believe in apostolic leadership of the church, but at this time, it does seem to be that in some churches, it isn’t toward the bishops we should be looking for such apostolic leadership.  I think increasingly parishes will need to be getting leadership, guidance, financial support, and teaching from networks and parachurch organizations, and will need to strengthen one another along those lines, instead of along the traditional lines of communication and support which dioceses and bishops provide.  They will want to do their best to keep the traditional ecclesial structures God-fearing, but not rely too much on them for their own spiritual well-being, and will need to build structures of authority outside of them also for the purposes of keeping bishops accountable, by pointing them to natural points of spiritual authority.

This is an awful situation to be in, and it’s not how I believe God wants his Church, in ideal circumstances, to be.  But I believe that it’s also important for us to weigh values - and recognize that if our bishops are going to corrupt our church, we must also have structures outside of those bishops to inspire our bishops to good behavior, until such a time that our church has come to a point spiritually where its bishops and clergy can truly be relied upon to defend the faith, including appointments and successions.

I am wondering, “what kind of person is likely to become the new bishop of Durham?”  Especially because of its history of bishops.  For some projects I wonder, “are there any dioceses that are trustworthy for a period of more than 8 or so years? are there any “good” dioceses in the Church of England that are stable?”  I must admit, I do not know.

[20] Posted by Wilf on 4-28-2010 at 04:40 AM · [top]

#18 Comprador
Yes, as the good Driver8 says, I am in the CofE.

fairly balanced

Would say appointing a faithful Christian somehow “balance out” appointing a heretic?  Not that I am suggesting that either bishop is a heretic, but for arguments sake?

by his foisting upon Peterborough earlier this month. I suggest a quick visit via Google to Bishop Donald Allister, recently installed Bishop of Peterborough (C of E)

This still remains to be seen.  There is a problem with getting evangelical bishops appointed, which is still not being addressed, notwithstanding adoption of a Synod report to that effect.  There have been some attempts at window-dressing this problem with the appointment of some pliably “open” evangelicals. will cheer you and all the like-minded up enormously

I am not sure that it does, even assuming I fall into your “like-minded” category at all.

Gordon Brown’s office managed the selection process

Well not exactly the case.  The Crown Nominations Commission consists of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and six members elected by Synod and six members from the relevant diocese Vacancy-in-See Committee who have also supplied the Commission with a “Statement of Needs”.  The Prime Minister’s appointments secretary and the Archbishops’ secretary provide information to the Commission, but do not have a vote in appointing Diocesan Bishops.  That broadly is how I understand the process.
In the past two names were then forwarded to the Prime Minister to select from, but my understanding is that now only one name goes forward, the choice of the Commission.

[21] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 4-28-2010 at 06:42 AM · [top]

Mind you, the information, provided to the Commission about the candidates, it seems comes from…..the Archbishops’ and the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretaries, in summary form.  Just as one would expect of anything Lambeth Palace is involved in….but in this case the procedure predates the current incumbent.

[22] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 4-28-2010 at 06:53 AM · [top]

There is something about martyrdom and the office of bishop that makes Wright’s resignation as bishop in order to pursue another career path which indicates an inadequate understanding of the office of bishop. The bishop is more then just a teacher. In the bishop we see in a unique way the personal witness to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who would lay down his life(and career) for his flock. The witness of a bishop is worth a thousand books.

[23] Posted by phil swain on 4-28-2010 at 08:26 AM · [top]

Thanks to Dr. LeMarquand for his very insightful comment #13.  I fully agree with him.

I also agree with driver8’s #14.  I hadn’t realized how old +Wright was getting either.  I hope someone is already starting to prepare the usual academic tribute, a Festschrift in honor of him turning 65 or 70.

In particular I agree that while Wright’s voice will be sorely missed in the CoE HoB and even the UK HoL, his scholarly work is even more strategically valuable.  His pastoral work in Durham, or his influence among his episcopal colleagues certainly has great value too, but it’s impact is inevitably more fleeting.  However, I’m confident that his books will still be read with profit and bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God for decades or even generations to come (if the Lord tarries).

David Handy+

[24] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 5-5-2010 at 05:46 PM · [top]

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