by Douglas Comin, RPCNA pastor from Latrobe, Penn.
On Thursday, October 8, 2009 a true servant of Jesus Christ passed from this world into the arms of his beloved Savior. Dr. J. Renwick Wright, who served faithfully as Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in Pittsburgh from 1978 to 1993, fell asleep in Jesus on Thursday evening at the age of 91.
J. Renwick Wright was born in Coleraine, N. Ireland, on May 6, 1918 to James Renwick Wright and Elizabeth (Reid) Wright. Baptized as an infant, he made a public profession of his faith in Christ and became a communicant member of the church in 1932 at the age of 14. Having studied at the Coleraine Model School, Coleraine Academical Institute, and Magee University College, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College (Dublin) in 1938. His formal theological training was received at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Hall (N. Ireland) and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Pittsburgh).
In 1939 he was licensed to preach by the St. Lawrence Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), at the age of 21. Just over a year later, he was ordained by the Northern Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and installed as pastor at Ballymoney, where he served the people of God faithfully for eleven years.
On September 19, 1944 he married Maureen Hamilton, who would be his helper, friend, partner in ministry, and beloved wife for 65 years. In 1962 Dr. Wright accepted a call to pastor the congregation at Dromara (Ireland) where he would enjoy a fruitful ministry for 17 years. Toward the end of that pastorate, he participated in a pulpit exchange with the Rev. Herbert Hays, and spent a year preaching and ministering in the Geneva Reformed Presbyterian Church (Beaver Falls, PA) while also earning a D.D. from Geneva College and an M.A. from Dublin University. The Geneva congregation called him to be their pastor soon after, and he was installed there on May 20, 1969.
His theological acumen and skill in the Greek language soon led to serving as a part-time teacher of exegesis at the seminary and classical Greek at Geneva College. In November of 1975, Dr. Wright accepted a call to pastor the RP congregation in Winchester, Kansas where he remained until the Spring of 1978.
It was at that time that Dr. Wright became Professor of New Testament Studies at RPTS, a position in which he would bless the lives of countless students for the next 15 years. Upon his retirement from the Seminary, the Wrights spent a year in Japan, where he preached and taught at the Reformed Presbyterian congregation at Mukonoso. His waning years were spent at the Reformed Presbyterian Home, where he delighted in the fellowship of the saints and continued to minister in the lives of many.
My memories of this dear and godly man, who was my professor of Greek and New Testament Studies from 1985-1988 and remained my friend thereafter:
- 1. Classroom Excellence. Teaching classical Greek with an Irish brogue, which made pronunciation an interesting challenge. Dr. Wright’s classes were always stimulating and edifying. His love for God’s word was real and palpable. He instilled in his students a deep respect for the Scriptures and a desire to mine the treasures of knowledge that God has given as our only infallible rule for faith and life.
- 2. Personal Accessibility. His genuine love for the students, which demonstrated the genuineness of his faith and the longing of his heart to see men well-prepared for the gospel ministry. It was not uncommon for students to seek him out for counsel with personal problems, and they never failed to find him available and ready to offer wise counsel and heartfelt prayer.
- 3. Pulpit Ministry. His manner of preaching, which was solemn, serious, sincere, sobering, and searching. Dr. Wright occupied the pulpit as a man sent on a holy errand from God. He treated the Scriptures with reverence and pressed the applications of his texts home to the hearts of his hearers.
- 4. Public Prayer. His public prayers, which were among the most moving and eloquent I have ever heard. Far from empty formality, Dr. Wright seemed to be transported in his prayers from earth to heaven, taking you with him into the very throne room of the Almighty.
Dr. Wright is survived by his wife Maureen, and their two sons, Christopher (Cambridge, Mass) and Jonathan (Jamesville, N.Y.).