N. T. Wright Retires as Bishop

From the Diocese of Durham:

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.’


  • Dave

    Well, that takes away his critics’ argument that he should do one or the other. Personally, although I am saddened for people of Durham, I am glad that Wright is choosing to further share his talents with the rest of the world.

  • Ben

    I’m torn on this. I find Wright to be a solid, productive, and important scholar, but have also greatly appreciated the fact that he was pastoral in that he cared for a “flock”.

    It saddens me that, in order to fulfill what Wright feels is his calling, he had to let go of one to grasp the other.

  • William Varner

    I have often said that my greatest appreciation for Wright is that he is both a world class academic and a committed churchman. I guess I won’t say that as loudly now. He has stated that one of his goals in life is to lessen the divide between the academy and the church and he embodied that through his dual role. I guess he can still do that but not quite as dramatically.

  • Larry S

    my guess is that when you hit your early 60’s you reevaluate where to put your time, when to slow down, what to focus on (perhaps you feel the clock ticking) Hopefully it will be easier for him to balance family and academics without the church responsibilities.

  • Ryan K.

    Who are these critics Dave that said NT Wright should be either Bishop or scholar? I have followed Wright rather closely for a long time and never heard anyone say that. Can you give an example of who you are talking about?

    I actually have long admired both the example of Piper and Wright who have chosen to do their scholarship from the pastorate. Yet at the same time fully understand why Wright is making this move as he has a tremendous gift to offer the church in his studies.

  • John H. Armstrong

    Larry S. grasps something of the human reality of the matter. Since I am Wright’s age and have done something that put me in a place where I write and teach, yet serve the church actively in the parish, I understand. I actually heard Tom explain the “weight” of this in person at the Wheaton Theology Conference. I humbly submit he will not cease to be pastoral anymore than a “retired” churchman ceases to serve the church and use all his experience for the service of the whole church. You do not have to be inside the workings of a parish or office to serve the church, especially given the lifetime work of this man. An academic he is but one who loves people and the church and bridges the gap between the academy and people.

  • John H. Armstrong

    I just clicked over to the link provided by El Bryan Libre that includes the article (it is really an editorial or opinion piece) by Gerald Bray. I have read some very serious disagreements with N.T. Wright from academics (many are helpful) but this is one of the most disingenuous pieces of caricature that I think I have read. Bray shoots from the hip and does so in a way that is beneath his considerable gifts and past noteworthy contributions to the church. I believe he is a good man, a lover of the gospel no less, but this kind of editorial is what so many of us tired of in the numerous attacks on Tom Wright.

    Bray says Wright’s views “have not been widely accepted.” Well, if so, why bother with all the books and debates by non-academics and all the dialogue on the Web? Bray should have joined us at the Wheaton College Conference two weeks ago, but then there was no room since no one showed up!!! It was the largest such theology conference in the history of our institution and hundreds were turned away. The vast majority of those who came were not professional theologians but men and women who have read Wright and love him. Many bore testimony to initially thinking editorials like Bray’s had to be correct but then they read Tom and changed their mind. Amazing what can happen if you actually read what someone writes and ask some good questions.

    I wonder what history will say of all this? We have no idea, of course, but to suggest that Tom Wright is widely opposed, with such sweeping certitude, is a totally inaccurate appraisal of the real facts based on a growing love for the man’s body of New Testament work.

    I also wonder if Dr. Bray knows how routinely John Piper has jumped into the fray of polemical debate on one issue after another over the course of a twenty-plus years of writing himself. When he jumped into the N. T. Wright conflict he did so with advance warning that he was not up to the task. Readers of both books can judge for themselves but Dr. Bray, and his readers, should know a growing number of evangelicals believe Wright is correct. Piper shoots broad buckshot and misses the target most of the time. Wright’s stress on Christian unity in his Pauline theology is brilliant but this frankly scares folks who want to keep our considerable divisions alive.

    For those who want to hear Tom Wright on all of this, and even see him speaking about it, check out all the free material from the 2010 Wheaton College Theology Conference at:

    I once stayed far away from the writing of Tom Wright because of critics like Gerald Bray. In time I was urged by friends to at least listen to him fairly. I love Christ and the gospel more than ever as a result of Tom Wright’s considerable skill in helping me understand the N.T. so much better. Here sola Scriptura is practiced with love and respect. Something very good happens to those who read this man with an open mind and heart thus these kinds of editorials make us very sad since we respect Dr. Bray. I really believe this older polemical stance is dying and I hope it will soon be a relic of the past. A more irenic ecumenical and missional theology is emerging among my evangelical students at Wheaton, for which I am deeply grateful.

  • Scott

    Wright does more with half the time than Bray does with all of his time. All one has to do is read Bray’s article to understand how limited his contributions are (and should be).

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