Tuesday, February 19, 2008

David F. Wright (1937-2008)

Ligon Duncan writes:
My friend, Dr. David Reimer of New College, has just written to tell me of the passing of one of the great evangelical Patristic and Reformation scholars of our time, David F. Wright. David was for many years Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at New College, University of Edinburgh, then became (towards the end of his tenure there) Professor of Patristic and Reformation Christianity, then in his retirement, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Fellow. He died in Edinburgh, with his beloved wife, Anne Marie, holding his hand as he left Jordan's stormy banks.

Professor Wright inspired awe (and not a little terror) among a generation of postgraduates at New College, who often said of him: "David has read everything, . . . twice!"

An indefatigable editor and powerful voice for Bible-believing scholarship, David's last work was an article on the Great Commission (David Reimer tells me). How fitting.

David was my own PhD supervisor, and I owe him more than I can possibly express in words.
Here was a notice about his retirement in 2004 from the University of Edinburgh:
Professor David Wright retired in September, 2003 after almost 40 years of distinguished service to the University of Edinburgh. Born in London and educated in Cambridge where he studied classics and theology, David took up a lectureship in the former Department of Ecclesiastical History in 1964. Promoted to a senior lectureship in 1973, he was awarded a personal chair in Patristic and Reformed Christianity in 1999. The title reflects the breadth of his scholarship and research expertise. A lifelong interest in the career and writings of Augustine is apparent in a range of publications, while his dedication to the traditions of the Reformation has produced notable work on Bucer, Calvin, Knox and Peter Martyr Vermigli. In recent years, these two research foci have been united in work that explores the reception of early church theology in the Reformation, particularly with respect to the doctrine of baptism, a subject on which he has delivered lecture series in several countries. In addition to his own scholarly input, David has established a reputation as an editor of formidable qualities. With an attentiveness to detail, scholarly rigour and linguistic exactitude, he has edited important collections of essays, dictionaries and encyclopaedias, particularly in relation to the history and theology of the Reformed tradition.

Throughout his time in Edinburgh, he has also proved a popular and highly conscientious teacher of students. Attracting doctoral candidates from overseas, particularly the USA, he has proved a successful supervisor to many now in established teaching positions across the world. A Festschrift in his honour was published in 1997.

As an administrator, David has served in many different capacities, not least as Dean of the Faculty of the Divinity (1988-92) and Convener of the Senatus Postgraduate Studies Committee (1981-85). Here again his attention to detail and meticulous preparation were widely appreciated, as was his capacity to chair meetings in a calm, efficient and fair manner. These qualities have also enriched the work of external scholarly bodies and particularly the courts of the Church of Scotland. In 2003-4 he served as Moderator of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, the first elder to have held this post.

Since his retiral David’s scholarly work and overseas lecturing commitments have continued. It is hoped that a monograph on the doctrine of baptism will soon appear following his Didsbury Lectures in Manchester. Amidst all this he has completed a sponsored walk for charity, by reaching the top of Mount Sinai earlier this year. We trust that retirement will bring many more years of scholarly activity and vigorous walking, and extend our warmest wishes both to him and to his wife, Anne-Marie.