Fans of popular evangelical writer Tom Wright will no doubt be pleased to hear that the theologian, who publishes his more academic works under the name NT Wright, has announced that he is taking early retirement from his role as Bishop of Durham in order to concentrate on his theological work.

Wright’s work has some influential followers such as James Dunn, Rowan Williams and Tim Keller, despite having been challenged on a variety of fronts  – particularly his ideas on the key doctrines of justification and atonement – by both liberal Christians and conservative evangelicals, notably John Piper.  This controversy has not dented his popularity and his works have been bought enthusiastically, and even read, by thousands of Christians worldwide.

Being freed from the work of a bishop will allow Wright to return to the world of academia, and he is taking up a role as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews.  The academic and ecclesiastic worlds are two passions which have long struggled for pre-eminence in Wright’s life, since he studied both classics and theology at Oxford, before studying for the ministry.  He then resumed his academic career, which he combined with chaplaincy before becoming a dean, canon, and bishop.

Tom’s departure will be keenly felt by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for whom he was a crucial ally in holding the Church of England together.  As a leading representative of the centrist evangelical group, he is a figurehead for a large group of Anglicans keen to maintain the traditional teaching and values of the church while remaining committed to staying within the existing church.

It would appear that Wright has finally realised that being a bishop is a full-time job that does not sit easily with being a writer.  In a statement issued by the Diocese of Durham he 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…. 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.

Syzygy hopes that he will continue to publish vibrant, readable yet challenging books for many years to come.