The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright is one of the most respected Christian thinkers and leaders in the world. I have followed him for years, especially when he began to work closely with John R. W. Stott.
Chris was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1947. His parents were missionaries in Brazil, though Chris as the youngest son was born after they came back at the end of the Second World War. He grew up in Belfast and was nurtured as an Irish Presbyterian. He studied classics at Cambridge in the 1960s, and then started his career as a high-school teacher in Grosvenor High School, Belfast. In the 1970s he studied for his doctorate in Cambridge, England, in the field of Old Testament economic ethics; his book from this work was published as God’s People in God’s Land (Eerdmans and Paternoster). He was ordained in the Anglican Church of England in 1977 and served as an assistant pastor in the Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, Tonbridge, Kent, England.
In 1983 Wright moved to India with his wife, Liz, and four children to teach at Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) in Pune for five years. At this time he and Liz were mission partners with Crosslinks, an evangelical Anglican mission agency. While at UBS he taught a variety of Old Testament courses. In 1988 he returned to the U.K. as academic dean at All Nations Christian College, an international training center for crosscultural mission. He was appointed principal there in September 1993 and held that post for eight years. In September 2001 Chris was appointed to his present role as the international director of the Langham Partnership International. It is in this role that I was afforded the opportunity to briefly meet Chris after he led the memorial service for John R. Stott at College Church in Wheaton on November 11, 2011. Chris served as the Chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group from 2005 – 2011, and Chair of the Statement Working Group at the Third Lausanne Congress, 2010, which produced The Cape Town Commitment. The Cape Town Commitment is, in my opinion, the most important evangelical statement of mission and theology in my lifetime. I consider it a great support for what I call missional-ecumenism, which follows closely the legacy of John R. Stott himself.
Chris and his wife, Liz, belong to All Souls Church, Langham Place, where Chris enjoys preaching from time to time as a member of the ministry team. This is also the church where LPI’s founder, John Stott, was rector emeritus.
My good friend Jeff Gokee, the executive director of Phoenix One, is the young man that you will see with me in the video interviews on the ACT 3 site where I talk about the Missional-Ecumenical Cohort Groups. Jeff recently called me and told me that he had been invited to share in an evening group that would meet with Chris Wright in Phoenix. He asked me some questions about Chris and wanted to know what to ask him if he had the opportunity. I listened with real interest and prayed for Jeff to have a wonderful life-changing evening. I wrote him the next day and asked, "How did your time with Chris Wright go?" He answered:
It was wonderful. 🙂
There were only 15 people invited to a private home and I was clearly the least educated of all of them. God keeps putting me in rooms with really smart people. I LOVE it.
I prefaced my question by saying that I read John 17 with new lenses this year and it's ruined me in the best kind of way. So, with that being said, I asked: "How important is the unification of the church?"
He said it is THE issue in the church today and went on to unpack his answer. Basically he validated all that you and I are sacrificing our lives and dreams for in our respective missions. He said he can't understand why Western church leaders feel the need to publicly criticize each other… asking, "How does that profit the kingdom?" He then told a story about when he was in India and a local pastor came and told him that the Hindu priests can spiritually replicate all the miracles that the Christians can do, but they can't replicate our LOVE.
I had some time to chat with him about our mutual friendship and then I told him that you and I were praying for him and deeply appreciate his work. I'm going to send him a copy of Your Church Is Too Small to touch base with him again. Who knows what God will do.