N.T. Wright to retire? Not really

Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream, quoting the Durham Times, announces that

THE Bishop of Durham is to retire.

But that is in fact a misleading way to put it; the Church Times Blog is more accurate in its headline Bishop of Durham to step down. The truth (at least I assume it is the truth – here quoting the Church Times post but the Durham Times confirms it) is that Bishop N.T. Wright “will be moving to the University of St Andrews to take up an academic post”. Maybe, at age 62, he is able to collect his pension from the Church of England, but he can supplement it with an academic salary. Of course that won’t make him rich, and he will have to vacate the mediaeval castle which is his official home as Bishop.

The bad news is that he is leaving not just the Church of England but also England itself, for the remote but prestigious small Scottish town of St Andrews. The good news is that, in his new appointment as a research professor, he will have more time to give to his important academic work.

Meanwhile this will leave a vacancy in the Church of England’s third most important diocese. I can already suggest a candidate for this post: Archbishop Rowan Williams. He would make an excellent Bishop of Durham, traditionally a post for a top theologian as the diocesan responsibilities are relatively light. By accepting this move Rowan can set aside with honour the political bits he doesn’t like of being Archbishop of Canterbury, and spend the last decade of his working life (until retirement at 70, in 2020) in a post more suitable for his skills.

0 thoughts on “N.T. Wright to retire? Not really

  1. Not surprisingly, Ruth Gledhill also has this story. And quite independently from me she has brought Auckland Castle into the picture, suggesting that the Church might want to sell it, and that that might be why Wright is stepping down. But, as Ruth acknowledges, the truth is more likely to be in this:

    A source told me the bishop had loved his recent sabbatical at Princeton where he worked on his defining book, on St Paul, and he no longer wished ‘to ride three horses at once.’ During the sabbatical, the source said, he ‘came alive’ and ‘looked and sounded like a professor again.’

    Ruth also quotes Bishop Graham Kings:

    A New Testament scholar of international renown, Tom Wright’s substantial contribution to the House of Bishops will be greatly missed. The good news is that his multi-volume series of New Testament theology can now be completed.

  2. Peter, this will be a good move for the bishop. Trying to write academically and do ministry at the same time is not easy. (It’s almost like blogging and doing ministry together 😉 )

  3. While moving to Durham might ease Rowan Williams’ burden (and suit his skills better), who on earth could be found to step into Rowan’s shoes – at this particular time?

    Looking at the list of current diocesan bishops, there are none of them who are both academic AND pragmatic, pro-active AND listener, sufficiently sagacious AND sufficiently with a light touch who are young enough (from a career POV) to make the kind of mark on the role of ABC that 1 Timothy 3 calls for.

    If one considers that the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans are the extremes that the CoE should avoid, is there still a “via media” bishop available to a “via media” CoE?

  4. Beryl, my suggestion for Canterbury would then be John Sentamu. I recognise that at 60 he is slightly on the old side, but I am not sure that anyone should be burdened with this job for more than 10 years. This would also be a great symbol that the position is for the whole Communion, not just for England or for the global northern minority.

  5. That’s why I appreciate your “gentle wisdom”, Peter. My instincts had told me that when a situation is working well ( i.e. John Sentamu in York), one should allow it to continue – therefore I had not considered such a move.

    So I am glad to concur with you.

  6. Beryl, I see the point of your instincts, but the logical conclusion they lead to is that promotion, in the church and in other areas of work, should be given only to those who are failing in their current job!

  7. “Promotion should be given only to those who are failing in their current job”.

    Looks like the “Peter Principle” (nothing to do with you or your apostolic namesake of course!). All about being promoted to the level of our incompetence. Not that I am imagining ++ John Sentanu would fail as ABC.

  8. Pingback: Art from N.T. Wright's old home saved for tourists - Gentle Wisdom

  9. Pingback: Auckland Castle: home of Bishops of Durham no longer - Gentle Wisdom

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