Christopher Wright

Christopher Wright

Christopher Wright, the son of Robert Wright, was born in Welbeck, Yorkshire, in 1570. Winter's parents were staunch Roman Catholics and spent 14 years in Hull Prison for religious offences. As a child he attended St. Peters School in York with his brother John Wright and Guy Fawkes.

Christopher Wright married Margaret Ward and the couple had a son, John Wright. In 1596 Elizabeth I became ill. As a precautionary measure, a group of leading Roman Catholics, including Christopher Wright, Robert Catesby, John Wright and Francis Tresham, was arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

In 1601 John Wright was involved with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, in the failed attempt to remove Elizabeth I from power. Due to the minor role he played in the rebellion he was not executed and instead spent time in prison. Two years later he travelled to Spain with Thomas Wintour in an attempt to persuade Phillip III to provide aid to support a Catholic uprising.

In 1605 Robert Catesby devised the Gunpowder Plot, a scheme to kill James and as many Members of Parliament as possible. Catesby planned to make the king's young daughter, Elizabeth, queen. In time, Catesby hoped to arrange Elizabeth's marriage to a Catholic nobleman. Over the next few months Catesby recruited John and his brother Robert Christopher Wright, to join the conspiracy.

Catesby's plan involved blowing up the Houses of Parliament on 5 November. This date was chosen because the king was due to open Parliament on that day. At first the group tried to tunnel under Parliament. This plan changed when a member of the group was able to hire a cellar under the House of Lords. The plotters then filled the cellar with barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes was given the task of creating the explosion.

One of the people involved in the plot was Francis Tresham. He was worried that the explosion would kill his friend and brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. Tresham therefore sent Lord Monteagle a letter warning him not to attend Parliament on 5 November.

Lord Monteagle became suspicious and passed the letter to Robert Cecil, the king's chief minister. Cecil quickly organised a thorough search of the Houses of Parliament. While searching the cellars below the House of Lords they found the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes. He was tortured and he eventually gave the names of his fellow conspirators.

The conspirators left London and agreed to meet at Holbeche House in Staffordshire. News of their hiding place reached the Sheriff of Worcester and on 8th November the house was surrounded by troops. The men refused to surrender and gunfire broke out. Over the next few minutes Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy, John Wright and Robert Catesby were killed.


Christopher Columbus

The explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, he stumbled upon the Americas. Though he did not really 𠇍iscover” the New World—millions of people already lived there—his journeys marked the beginning of centuries of਎xploration and colonization of North and South America.


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Horizon three: The new creation

There are times when prophets speak of a future that is described in terms that go way beyond anything we have experienced, in the past or the present. For example, we know that the prophets speak about God judging Israel and also other foreign nations. But sometimes they describe God&rsquos judgment engulfing the whole earth and all nations in cataclysmic destruction of all that is wicked and evil (for example, Isa. 24). Such a universal vision takes us to the ultimate horizon, of the second coming of Christ and the final judgment.

Thankfully, however, the prophets more often have such long-term visions in relation to God&rsquos future blessing. Their words about the world of the future are filled with immense joy and excitement. We find ourselves imagining a world in which everything is perfect. Nature is full of abundance. The earth itself rejoices in its Creator. Human life is safe and fulfilling and free from violence, injustice, hunger, and danger. War and violence are no more. People and animals live in harmony and peace. People never again turn away from God in disobedience. People from all over the world and all nations reject their false gods and turn to the living God and worship him with joy and gifts (for example, Isa. 25:6&ndash9 35 65:17&ndash25 Jer. 32:37&ndash41 33:6&ndash9 Joel 3:17&ndash18).

That kind of vision is certainly not fulfilled at horizon one. The Israelites do return to their land (as we&rsquoll see in a moment). But they are still sinful and far from perfect&mdashas books like Nehemiah, Ezra, and Malachi show. What about horizon two? Well, of course we know that Christ accomplished the redemption of the world in his death and resurrection, but we have not yet seen the fulfillment of all that the prophets describe, a world of perfect peace and justice. We have to take such passages on to the ultimate horizon three&mdashor the eschatological horizon, to use technical terms.

By horizon three, I am referring to the picture of the new creation we see in Revelation 21&ndash22. The whole scene in those chapters very deliberately echoes many of the themes in the prophets (the whole book of Revelation is saturated with Old Testament allusions). Read Isaiah 60 and 65:17&ndash25 and then immediately read Revelation 21&ndash22, and you&rsquoll see what I mean.

The ultimate vision of the prophets will only be fulfilled when Christ returns and the earth is cleansed and renewed to be the dwelling place of God with us.

There are some passages in the prophets that seem to include all three horizons, and this may feel confusing at first. But remember that the prophets are looking into a future that, as far as they can see, is all one single vision. They do not (could not) know that it will be centuries before horizon two comes along, and unknown centuries further before horizon three will come (it still lies ahead). We, with our perspective, can now see that their words have stretched out over a vast period of time. They saw things from the front and saw things near and far as if they were all part of one big, single picture.

Bringing Good News

Isaiah 52:7&ndash10 is a very good example of all three horizons. Take a look. Basically, this text is good news. That is what the running messenger of the beautiful feet announces. This is Old Testament gospel. It is good news at all three horizons.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
&ldquoYour God reigns!&rdquo
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices
together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.

Good news for the exiles: Horizon one.

The messenger&rsquos words are to encourage the exiles to get ready to go home to Jerusalem. Yahweh has won the victory (God reigns), and God is already returning to his city and taking them with him. As at the exodus, God is redeeming his people. They can rejoice and go home. Indeed, that does happen. The prophecy is fulfilled at horizon one.

Good news in Christ: Horizon two.

There are three aspects of the good news in these verses that are also true in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 52:7 speaks of the God who reigns. Isaiah 52:8 speaks of the God who returns. Isaiah 52:9 speaks of the God who redeems. All of those are true in Christ and the gospel. He preaches the kingdom of God. He goes to the temple (to which God promised to return). He is the Redeemer and Savior, through his death and resurrection. Jesus is God reigning, God returning, and God redeeming. Jesus adds a level of fulfillment to the messenger&rsquos words at the gospel horizon two.

Good news for the world: Horizon three.

In Isaiah 52:10 the prophet moves to the global stage, to &ldquoall the nations&rdquo and &ldquoall the ends of the earth.&rdquo This is the Abrahamic promise again. Through the mission of the church, the gospel of the salvation of our God is indeed going to the ends of the earth. The ultimate vision of the prophecy lies at horizon three. It will be finally fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to reign over all the earth and to redeem his people from every tribe and people and language.

God&rsquos plan for the nations

Through all these horizons, there is a missional dimension to the prophets&rsquo vision of hope for the future. They see that, because God&rsquos promise to Abraham always envisaged God&rsquos blessing extending to all nations, there must come a day when people from other nations beyond Israel will be gathered in to be part of God&rsquos covenant people.

That is exactly what the apostle Paul realizes had to happen, now that Messiah Jesus has come and fulfilled God&rsquos promised salvation through his death and resurrection. At the climax of Romans, as he prepares to use the church in Rome as his base for missionary work further west in Spain, he puts it like this: &ldquoFor I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God&rsquos truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for hismercy&rdquo (Rom. 15:8&ndash9 my italics). Then he immediately supports that point with four quotations from the Old Testament.

We don&rsquot know what other scriptural texts Paul must have used in explaining his missionary commitment to take the good news to the Gentiles, but perhaps some like these, which envisage people from many nations being registered in God&rsquos city (Ps. 87:3&ndash6) coming to bring God worship (Ps. 86:8) being blessed with God&rsquos salvation, even as former enemies (Isa. 19:20&ndash25) being called by God&rsquos name (Amos 9:11&ndash12) and being joined with God&rsquos people in Zion (Zech. 2:10&ndash11).

That is where the story has to go&mdashto the nations&mdashand Paul will take it there. The apostolic mission has its roots in the Old Testament.

Christopher J. H. Wright is international ministries director of the Langham Partnership and an ordained priest in the Church of England. This article is an excerpt adapted from his forthcoming book The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Short Introduction to a Vast Topic (IVP, May 2019).


Associate Professor

Chris Wright received his B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Arkansas and spent a year of doctoral work at Indiana University's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. He received his Ph.D. in Middle East History from the University of California Santa Barbara. His research interests include early to modern Middle East and Islamic History, Early Christianity, and Roman Late Antiquity. He is currently preparing his dissertation on the Islamic Conquest of Egypt for publication.

As the History Department's specialist in the Middle East, Dr. Wright offers general courses on Early Islamic History and Modern Middle East History, as well as more specialized courses on the Crusades, a History of Muslim-Christian relations, and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Contact Information
Telephone: 803-953-5356
E-Mail: [email protected]

Office: Mims Row Offices 307-6
Office Hours: by appointment

Degrees:
Ph.D. in Middle East History - University of Californina Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
M.A. in History - University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
B.A. in History - University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Research Interests:
Modern Middle East and Islamic History, Early Christianity, and Roman Late Antiquity


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Book Review: The Mission of God’s People, by Christopher Wright

Mission is a hot topic among evangelicals these days. Not missions, mind you, but mission.

This summer, Southern Baptists hosted a conference called MissionShift, which produced a “missional manifesto.” Just around the corner is a conference sponsored by the Gospel Community Mission Collective, which exists “to promote, create, and equip gospel communities on mission.”

This fall, on a much grander scale, the Third Lausanne World Congress on Evangelization convened in Cape Town, South Africa. It aimed to forge a global evangelical consensus about crucial issues facing the church today as we carry out the task of evangelizing the world. The Lausanne movement has grown out of the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, which produced the Lausanne Covenant, a statement on the nature and priorities of Christian mission which was chiefly authored by John Stott. Now, over three decades later, the Lausanne Congress at Cape Town has produced another document, the Cape Town Commitment, which stands in this tradition and which will surely shape evangelical concepts of mission in coming years. Its chief architect was a noted Old Testament scholar and missiologist, a man who counts Stott as a personal mentor: Christopher J. H. Wright.

What kind of priorities undergird this document, and the movement it embodies? More broadly, what are the shape and emphases of these newer conversations about mission among evangelicals?

Many of the answers are likely to be found in Wright’s new book The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, which is the first volume in Zondervan’s promising new series, “Biblical Theology for Life.”

WHAT MGP IS, AND WHAT IT DOES WELL

Following on the heels of Wright’s denser and more hermeneutically-oriented volume The Mission of God (IVP, 2006), The Mission of God’s People (MGP) aims to answer the question, “What does the Bible as a whole in both testaments have to tell us about why the people of God exist and what it is they are supposed to be and do in the world?” (17). By “mission,” then, Wright means the all-embracing purpose which encompasses everything that the people of God are called to be and do in this world. He writes, “So when I speak of mission, I am thinking of all that God is doing in his great purpose for the whole of creation and all that he calls us to do in cooperation with that purpose” (25).

The first half of the book focuses primarily on the kind of people God’s mission calls us to be. Christians should be “People Who Know the Story They Are Part of” (ch. 2), “People Who Care for Creation” (ch. 3), “People Who Walk in God’s Way” (ch. 5), and “People Who Represent God to the World” (ch. 7). With this theological and ethical foundation in place, Wright turns his focus in the second half to the specific tasks God’s mission calls us to. Specifically, he calls us to be “People Who Bear Witness to the Living God” (ch. 10), “People Who Proclaim the Gospel of Christ” (ch. 11), and “People Who Live and Work in the Public Square” (ch. 13).

This book has several notable strengths. The first is that it is full of evenhanded, plainly articulated biblical theology. Here are several examples:

  • Wright’s concise summary of the biblical narrative and its theological implications in chapter 2 forms an integrative foundation for a biblical worldview.
  • Wright’s solid work on Christian ethics as the foundation of mission in chapter 5 provides an Old Testament flavored antidote to the kind of nominal Christianity that plagues many churches’ corporate witness.
  • Chapter 8, “People Who Attract Others to God,” is a rich exposition of several Old Testament passages which envision all the nations being attracted to worship the true God through his people’s distinctness in the world, along with how these themes are picked up and fulfilled in the New Testament.
  • Wright sketches a simple, straightforward overview of the Bible’s teaching on work and participation in the public square in chapter 13 in which he rightly exhorts pastors to labor to equip their people for works of ministry in the public sphere.
  • Chapter 14 provides a thoughtful reflection on the missional thrust of prayer and praise. That is, Wright argues that worship in Scripture is not only the goal of mission, but that the corporate praises and prayers of God’s people have an evangelistic impact of their own, quite apart from any efforts at being “seeker-sensitive.”

Another of the book’s strengths is that Wright joins together many things which evangelical Christians have too often separated: faith and obedience, evangelism and discipleship, gospel proclamation and social action. Wright correctly insists that all these things and more have a role to play in the life of God’s people, and that these pairs mutually reinforce one another in ways that more antithetical constructions of them have tended to obscure. Even if one wished to raise questions about certain aspects of Wright’s proposal, as I intend to, he is to be commended for painting an integrated, biblically-informed portrait of what God’s people are to be and do in the world.

WHAT MGP ISN’T

Before examining a few of those issues, I should say a few quick words about what this book is not.

First, as Wright explains in the preface, it’s not a simplified version of The Mission of God, although it is both shorter and simpler. The Mission of God argued for a “missional hermeneutic of the whole Bible” and sought to expound the idea that “The mission of God is what unifies the Bible from creation to new creation.” MGP, building on that foundation, aims to answer the “so what” question: “If the Bible renders to us the grand mission of God through all generations of history, what does it tell us about the mission of God’s people in each generation, including our own? What is our mission?” (17).

Second, the book is not a “biblical theology” in the sense of sequentially tracing an unfolding theme through the canon. Rather, it is mainly a selective, topically arranged exposition of a number of (primarily Old Testament) texts which bear on what God’s people are to be and do in the world. While the topical arrangement of MGP gives it a certain layered richness, it leaves one without an overall sense of what the various biblical corpora—particularly in the New Testament—contribute to our understanding of the mission of God’s people.[1]

A FEW ITEMS WORTH PROBING CRITICALLY

As I said above, this book has much to commend it—more than I’ve mentioned. Keeping that in mind, there are a few aspects of Wright’s proposal which are worth probing more critically.

“Everything is Mission”

The first is Wright’s avowed insistence that “everything is mission.” Early in the book Wright explains that he understands “mission” as the all-embracing category and “missions” as specific manifestations of that mission, on the analogy of science and the sciences. He continues,

And it seems to me there are as many kinds of missions as there are kinds of sciences—probably far more in fact. And in the same way, in the variety of missions God has entrusted to his church as a whole, it is unseemly for one kind of mission to dismiss another out of a superiority complex, or to undervalue itself as “not real mission” out of an inferiority complex. The body image has powerful resonance here too. That is why I also dislike the old knock-down line that sought to ring-fence the word “mission” for specifically cross-cultural sending of missionaries for evangelism: “If everything is mission, then nothing is mission.” It would seem more biblical to say, “If everything is mission . . . everything is mission.” (25-26)

One wishes that Wright would have argued his point, rather than dismiss the opposing viewpoint with a wave of the hand as “the old knock-down line.” And it’s hardly clear why his definition would “seem more biblical.” Still, there’s no strictly biblical reason why Wright shouldn’t use the word “mission” the way he does. As he points out in chapter 1, a common contemporary definition of the word “mission” is “a sense of purpose or goal-orientation” (24). So, given this reasonably common usage, Wright uses the term mission to encompass all that the people of God are to do and gets on with his exposition.

A further aspect of Wright’s all-embracing definition of mission is that he intends to explode the hierarchy which evangelicals have traditionally set up between evangelism and the whole broad range of Christian responsibilities. Evangelicals have traditionally restricted the term “mission” to mean something like “evangelism and church planting, especially of the cross-cultural sort,” and this prioritizes such activities over other Christian responsibilities. Wright wants to do away with this hierarchy almost entirely. For example, he explicitly critiques the idea that we should “put individual salvation and personal evangelism at the centre of all our efforts” (273). Further, he poses the question, “Is the church’s mission primarily the delivery of the message of the gospel—in which case the verbal element is all that really matters?” (30). It seems Wright not only wants Christians to give more attention to matters that we may be neglecting, but he wants to do away with the common notion that disciple-making should be our central aim or highest priority or most urgent task.

I say “it seems” because elsewhere in the book, following the Lausanne covenant of 1974 and the “Grand Rapids Report” of 1982, Wright very cautiously affirms that the proclamation of the gospel has “a certain priority” in the church’s mission. Yet even then he is quick to argue that “in missional practice, the distinction is hardly, if ever, a real one” (276). Wright suggests that evangelism and social action should be so intertwined in our practice, much as prayer and Bible reading should be in a Christian’s devotional life, that to ask which is primary is basically irrelevant (277).

Wright continues by addressing the suggestion that “‘centrality’ rather than ‘primacy’ might be a better word for evangelism within mission” (278). Without either endorsing or rejecting this terminology, he interprets the idea of evangelism’s “centrality” in a way that translates to total interdependence between evangelism and social action: “If evangelism is like the hub, connected to the engine of the gospel power of God, then it also takes the living demonstration of the gospel in Christians’ engagement with the world to give the hub connection and traction with the context—the road” (278).

A Response to Wright’s Version of “Everything is Mission”

What response should be offered to Wright’s statements about the place of gospel proclamation within his all-encompassing category of mission?

First, there is certainly merit to Wright’s insistence that the Grand Rapids Report of 1982, for example, “was attempting to ‘reconcile’ two things which should never have been separated in the first place” (276). If Scripture lays a whole range of responsibilities on Christians, one thing we must not do in discussing the relationship between them is marginalize or neglect any of them. “These you ought to have done without neglecting the others.”

Yet on the other hand, I would argue that Wright’s somewhat equivocal statements about the priority or centrality of evangelism within the church’s mission obscure the unique emphasis we must give to evangelism—and its consequents, discipleship and church planting—if we are to be faithful to the whole thrust of Scripture. For example, in discussing the cosmic scope of God’s redeeming work, Wright argues that “Our mission therefore has to be as comprehensive in scope as the gospel the whole Bible gives us” (41). This idea of the all-encompassing scope of our mission is part and parcel with Wright’s insistence that we should not erect a hierarchy of priorities within our mission (30). But Wright’s presentation of these related points seems to veil important distinctions we find in Scripture which should lead us to place a unique emphasis on making disciples of Jesus Christ.

If our mission flows from and in some sense participates in God’s mission, as Wright correctly and repeatedly insists, then we should carefully note the different ways God brings about the various aspects of his comprehensive plan of redemption. For instance, Scripture clearly teaches that God will usher in the new creation unilaterally, apart from anything we do, on the last day. Certainly, we joyfully experience a foretaste of certain aspects of this new creation now, but according to Revelation’s vision of the end, it is only at the consummation that the New Jerusalem will descend to earth from heaven as a bride prepared (by God) for her husband. Scripture also clearly teaches that people will be delivered from eternal hell only through faith in Christ, which will only happen through our evangelistic efforts, only before the last day. I’m fairly confident that Wright would affirm all of this.[2] Yet he tends to so emphasize the comprehensive scope of redemption that he neglects to properly wrestle with the dramatic differences in the means by which—and the timing in which—God works out various aspects of redemption.

Further, I would argue that by dismantling virtually any hierarchy of importance between creation care, social action, and working in the public square on the one hand and disciple-making on the other, Wright’s version of holistic mission fails to reflect necessary practical emphases which flow from these biblical distinctions. For example, whatever we conclude about the nature of our responsibility toward the non-human creation, not one blue whale or Brazilian rosewood is threatened with eternal damnation as the just penalty for its sin. Yet the way Wright works against the idea of the “priority” of evangelism (I prefer the term “centrality”) seems to me to run exactly counter to the way these weighty biblical realities should impact our concept of mission.

If God is going to accomplish one aspect of his redemption apart from anything we do and another aspect exclusively through our efforts, shouldn’t that lead us to give special weight and urgency to what God accomplishes only through us? If only one group of creatures in all of God’s creation (namely, humans) are threatened with eternal, conscious torment which can only be averted through belief in the gospel, shouldn’t that cause us to focus especially on ministering to our fellow humans, without in the least neglecting our responsibility toward the non-human creation? Or again, if human suffering in this life is temporal while God’s judgment against sinners is eternal, should we not seek to address to whole sweep of human suffering, especially that which is eternal?[3] In view of these biblical realities, I think Keith Ferdinando is exactly right to argue that evangelizing and making disciples is absolutely central to Christian mission and that the vocabulary we develop for conceiving of Christian mission must reflect this absolute centrality.[4]

In sum, to place all of our missional imperatives on virtually the same plane of emphasis, as Wright does, does not seem to square with (i) the way the Bible dramatically distinguishes between the nature of the plight faced by humans as opposed to the non-human creation (ii) the means by which God “redeems” the non-human creation as opposed to humans (iii) and the unique role God’s people have in working to bring about the salvation of sinners compared with God’s completely unilateral, eschatological act of creating a new heavens and a new earth. Further, I fear that any concept of mission which deliberately avoids making such distinctions leaves us without crucial biblical ballast for keeping our churches focused on that which is of first importance.[5]

The Exodus as a Definitive Model of Redemption

A second matter worth probing is Wright’s insistence that “The exodus provides the prime Old Testament model of God acting as Redeemer. This is what redemption looks like when God does it” (41). Or again, “God’s idea of redemption is exodus-shaped” (96). By this Wright means that, just as the exodus had political, economic, social, and spiritual dimensions, so too God’s climactic act of redemption in the cross of Christ has the exact same scope. In other words, Wright argues that the Bible’s idea of redemption is not merely informed by the exodus, but that it “matches” the exodus at every key point (103). Wright explains the practical outworking of this view as follows:

The exodus has been seen as the biblical foundation par excellence for theologies of mission that emphasize the importance of social, political, and economic concern alongside the spiritual dimensions of personal forgiveness. Or rather, and with greater biblical faithfulness, it is the biblical basis for the integration of all these dimensions within the comprehensive good news of the biblical gospel. Such holistic, or integral, understandings of mission point to the totality of what God accomplished for Israel in the paradigmatic redemptive event—the exodus. And I believe they are right to do so. (109)

I would suggest that there are a few significant problems with Wright’s articulation of the sense in which the exodus is a definitive paradigm of redemption.

First, Wright arbitrarily privileges the exodus narrative itself (roughly Exodus 1-15) over the rest of the Old Testament in constructing a “paradigm” of redemption. In other words, Wright sets up “the exodus” as the definitive model of redemption abstracted from all that follows on its heels, whether immediately or remotely, including the giving of the law, the establishment of the sacrificial system, the wilderness wanderings, the inheriting of the land, Israel’s inveterate and unending rebellion against their covenant God, and all that follows from their rebellion in the grand sweep of the Old Testament narrative. The problem with this arbitrarily narrow focus is that the Old Testament itself picks up and develops the exodus themes in ways that ultimately contribute to the New Testament’s appropriation of the exodus and shape our understanding of what the exodus “means” almost as much as the original narrative. As the story unfolds, what comes to the fore again and again is the people’s inability to keep God’s law and their need for radical spiritual surgery—along with a covenant that would not merely demand their obedience but supernaturally enable it and provide a truly effectual means of atonement for sin.

Second, Wright’s application of his “holistic” understanding of the exodus to the New Testament obscures the New Testament’s emphasis on redemption as forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God.

Certainly, Wright’s conclusion that redemption through Christ is “holistic” is true in an ultimate sense. The new creation will be a world of perfect justice, of total human flourishing, and of perfect fellowship with God. But in its discussion of redemption the New Testament seems to strongly emphasize the vertical, theocentric dimension (what Wright calls the “spiritual” aspect), while clearly indicating that “holistic” redemption in the social, political, and economic senses will only be obtained in the eschaton.

Examples of the New Testament’s accent on the vertical, theocentric dimension of redemption are found in the parallel statements of Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:13-14. In Ephesians 1:7 Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” That Paul can define redemption as the forgiveness of sins demonstrates that at the very least Paul regarded personal reconciliation to God as the highest peak in the mountain range of redemption. Further, Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In this passage Paul draws on the political imagery of the Israelites being redeemed from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule and brought into the service of God to describe our present experience of redemption as being delivered from bondage to Satan and brought into God’s kingdom. This radical transfer happens on an entirely different plane from Israel’s geo-political deliverance, which is something that Wright’s presentation of the exodus as the definitive paradigm of redemption unaccountably glosses over. That Wright articulates a view of the exodus which doesn’t align with the New Testament’s use of exodus imagery betrays a basic methodological error. That is, Wright fails to allow the New Testament authors’ interpretations of the Old Testament to properly influence his.

Third, Wright asserts continuity between the exodus and New Covenant believers’ experience of redemption where the New Testament plainly asserts discontinuity. God redeemed Israel politically, socially, and economically through delivering them from political oppression, bringing them into their own land, and giving them his law to govern every aspect of their life as a distinct geopolitical entity. Yet at least in its present manifestation, New Covenant redemption differs from the exodus at each of these points.

Consider, for example, the life of a first-century Roman believer who happened to be a slave. What sort of political, social, and economic redemption did such a believer experience? Did the apostles respond to the tangible plight of such a one by saying that he or she had been redeemed, and so must “put on” that redemption by obtaining a new social and economic status, just as the Israelites were delivered from Pharaoh’s oppression? Not in so many words (1 Cor. 7:17-24). Or again, Peter calls Christians “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11-12), which alludes both to Israel’s status in Egypt before they were redeemed and their status in exile as they awaited the second exodus God promised to work for them. Revelation, a book rich in exodus imagery, graphically defines the present experience of God’s people in terms of the grisly experience of being persecuted by a hostile political power, much as the Israelites were before the exodus. Since the New Testament speaks of Christians as already having been redeemed and yet being consistently subject to political oppression, it is imprecise at best to say that redemption always embraces the political, economic, and social dimensions.

Fourth, another way to say this is that Wright’s distinctive portrayal of redemption as “exodus-shaped” partially collapses the New Testament’s eschatological timeline. Granted, Wright admits that “we do not yet see the completion of that redemptive work in present history” (111 see also 103-104). But it seems to me that to speak of redemption as inexorably “exodus-shaped” and as demanding an “exodus-shaped mission” (102) keeps the force of this admission from shaping one’s conception of redemption, and therefore of mission, as it should. Ultimately, we do look forward to the glorious day when we will dwell with God in the new earth, “the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13), at which time we will enjoy all the fruits of a perfectly consummated redemption. But at the present time, we enjoy the foretaste of that redemption in the forgiveness of sins and the spiritual freedom we enjoy as members of God’s kingdom, even while many of our social, political, and economic circumstances remain far from “redeemed.”

This is not to deny that our redemption through Christ has implications that spill over into every sphere of life, including the social, economic, and political spheres—far from it. But it is to say that our theology of redemption, and therefore of mission, must take stock of the differences between redemption’s application now compared to the full consummation of redemption in the eschaton. It should be noted that these differences strongly parallel the differences between our present experience of redemption and the Israelites’ experience of redemption through the exodus, which suggests that Wright significantly overstates the continuity between the exodus and New Covenant redemption in its inaugurated form. In view of this, a more typological reading of the relationship between them has more to commend it than Wright’s dismissive label of such a reading as “spiritualizing” would suggest.[6]

“Church” and “Christians” Used Interchangeably

A final matter to discuss is Wright’s consistent reference to the church as the people of God in a generic sense. That is, he uses the term “church” interchangeably with the term “people of God,” with very occasional reference to local churches in his application questions at the end of each chapter. As D. A. Carson points out in a discussion that touches on Christians’ responsibilities in the public sphere, this is not without problems:

But however achieved, this equation between church and any collective of Christians, such that “church” and “Christians” can be used interchangeably, skews discussion in a maximalist direction. John Stott is a fine example of a Christian leader who takes this approach. When he argues that Christians ought to be involved in various forms of social care, he means, equally, that the church ought to be involved in various forms of social care. In other words, when he asserts that part of the Christian’s obligation is to be involved in some enterprise or other, this is, for him, virtually indistinguishable from asserting that the church’s mission mandates such enterprise.[7]

But, Carson suggests, if we suppose that “church” in the New Testament “cannot be reduced to a collective of Christians,” then we have to ask whether the Christian’s responsibility to “do good, to show mercy, to care for the poor” and so on “belong to the church as a church.” If they do, then we would expect to see church leaders taking responsibility for these activities and directing them. But what we find in the New Testament is that the church’s earliest leaders, the apostles, were careful to protect the priority of the Word and prayer in their ministry, and even handed over matters of justice within the congregation to other mature men (Acts 6:1-7). Further, the qualifications for elders/overseers and descriptions of their work seem to place a distinct accent on “the ministry of the Word and prayer.” Moreover, when we examine New Testament teaching about the gathered church’s distinct responsibilities, they seem to cut a narrower profile than that of the individual Christian.[8]

This means that if we want to cling tightly to biblical priorities, we must be prepared to acknowledge that the full range of activities which come along with serving as salt and light in the world “may not be the church’s mission, under the direction of the church’s leaders” while they certainly are “the obligation of Christians.”[9] Therefore our discussion of the church’s mission is incomplete and possibly misleading until we wrestle with the question of the distinct responsibilities of the local church as an institution over against the responsibilities of individual Christians. We need to ask “What is the mission of the local church?” not merely “What is the mission of the individual Christian?”

As is surely evident by now, this review must fall slightly short of a commendation.

I hope that this lengthy critical discussion has not obscured my appreciation for the sound biblical theology which comprises much of The Mission of God’s People. Further, though I have reservations about certain aspects of his vision for mission, I want to state again that I think many of Wright’s correctives are both biblical and needed. These include his admonitions not to neglect the Bible’s insistence that we are to do good to all men and that we are to care for God’s creation. Wright’s vision of what Christians are to be and do in the world draws together biblical imperatives which many evangelicals have wrongly torn apart, whether in theory, practice, or both, and for that contribution I am grateful.

Yet I hope that Wright’s proposal will not be uncritically imbibed, but will rather serve as a catalyst for Christians to continue wrestling with the Bible’s teaching about what we are to be and do in the world—and what the local church is to be and do in the world. I hope that many more voices will contribute to this conversation and help spur us all on to a more faithful practice of the mission to which God has called us.

[1] Readers who want to trace the theme of mission as it unfolds through the canon (with brief but valuable reflections on application toward the end) would be well served by Andreas Köstenberger and Peter O’Brien’s excellent book Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (IVP, 2001).

[2] Though Wright does make an obscure and somewhat concerning statement at the end of chapter 11: “So let us neither (at one extreme) neglect our evangelistic responsibility by forgetting the vital importance that God places on the witnessing role of the church as God’s people, nor (at the other extreme) inflate our evangelistic egocentricity by imagining that God has no other means of communicating his good news” (199-200). I’m at a loss as to what “other means” for preaching the gospel besides God’s people Wright is referring to.

[3] In his informative study of recent debates surrounding the definition of mission, Keith Ferdinando soundly argues that “if men and women are alienated from God and face eternal judgment, then communication of the message of reconciliation must have precedence over social action. Again, this is not to deny the necessity of social engagement. However, the thrust of the New Testament is that eternal realities have immeasurably greater significance than temporal ones. We may feed the hungry, heal the sick, release the oppressed, but if they remain alienated from God then their gain is relatively small, for the eternal reality has a significance that infinitely surpasses the circumstances of the present (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17). Chester makes the same point in the context of a work in which he argues strenuously for Christian social involvement: ‘the greatest need of the poor, as it is for all people, is to be reconciled with God and escape his wrath.’” See Keith Ferdinando, “Mission: A Problem of Definition”. Themelios, Volume 33 Issue 1 [May, 2008], 56. The end of the quote refers to Tim Chester,Good News to the Poor: Sharing the Gospel through Social Involvement (Leicester: IVP, 2004), 74.

[5] I’m borrowing the image of “ballast” from Kevin DeYoung’s excellent article, “There’s Something Worse than Death” in the September/October 2010 issue of the 9Marks Journal. See also Greg Gilbert’s similar reflections in his article “Why Hell is Integral to the Gospel” in the same issue.

[6] For Wright’s more extensive discussion of the exodus, see The Mission of God, 253-80. For a critique of Wright’s views of the exodus which complements the discussion here, see the review of The Mission of God by Mike Gilbart-Smith in this eJournal

[7] D. A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2008), 150. Evidence that Wright thinks along similar lines is found in the handful of application questions in the book which apply Wright’s expanded definition of mission to the scope of the local church’s responsibilities.

Bobby Jamieson is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is the author, most recently, of Jesus' Death and Heavenly Offering in Hebrews. You can find him on Twitter at @bobby_jamieson.


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Christopher Wright - History

Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair. University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Hugh Price Hughes: Founder of a New Methodism Conscience of a New Nonconformity, 1847-1902. University of Wales Press, 1999.

"The Irony of Hipster Beards," in Hipster Culture: A Reader, ed. Heike Steinhoff (Bloomsbury, 2021)

"Social Science, Gender Theory and the History of Hair," in New Perspectives on the History of Facial Hair, ed. Jennifer Evans and Alun Withey (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

"Mustaches and Masculine Codes in Twentieth-Century America," Journal of Social History 45:1 (Fall 2011)

"The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain," Victorian Studies 48: 1 (Fall 2005).

"The Forgotten Origins of the Ecumenical Movement in England: The Grindelwald Conferences,1892-95," Church History 70: 1 (March 2001).

"The Fall of Parnell: Hugh Price Hughes and the Nonconformist Conscience," Éire-Ireland 30: 4 (Winter 1996).


Christopher Wright

     Christopher was born at Gissing, Norfolk, England, on 4 January 1809. 1 He was the son of Robert Wright and Tabitha Banham . He was baptized at Gissing Parish Church, Gissing, Norfolk, England, on 11 January 1809. Religion: Church of England. 1 He married Ann Bond at Gissing Parish Church, Gissing, Norfolk, England, on 3 June 1833. 2
He was listed as head of household in the 1841 census at Chequers Lane, Gissing, Norfolk, England. Those recorded in the household were: Christopher Wright, 32 Ann Wright, 30 Elizabeth Wright, 8 Mary Wright, 4 Ann Wright, 3 Sarah Wright, 1. 3

He was listed as head of household in the 1851 census at Diss Back Road, Gissing, Norfolk, England. Those recorded in the household were: Christopher Wright, head Ann Wright, wife Ann Wright, daughter Sarah Wright, daughter James Wright, son Robert Wright, son Eliza Wright, daughter John Wright, son Susan Wright, daughter William Wright, son. 4

He was listed as head of household in the 1861 census at Upper Street, Gissing, Norfolk, England. Those recorded in the household were: Christopher Wright, head Ann Wright, wife Sarah Punt, daughter James Wright, son Robert Wright, son Eliza Wright, daughter John Wright, son Susan Wright, daughter William Wright, son Maltilda Wright, daughter. 5

He was listed as head of household in the 1871 census at Diss Back Road, Gissing, Norfolk, England. Those recorded in the household were: Christopher Wright, head Ann Wright, wife Susan Wright, daughter Harry Edwards, grandson. 6
Christopher's death was registered in the period July to September 1876 in the Depwade registration district. 7


Robert Wright, Esq.

Robert eventually became Sheriff of Yorkshire and was granted Arms by patent under the hand and seal of William Flower, Norroy. He married firstly Anne Grimston of Grimston Garth, the daughter of Thomas Grimston and Ursula Podaton, and secondly Ursula Rudston[e] of Hayton about 1567. Ursula was the daughter of Nicholas Rudston[e] and Jane Mallory.

By his first wife Anne, Robert had issue three children

1. William Wright of Plowland in co. Eborum. (or York) was born in Plowland, England, and died August 23, 1621. He married Ann Thornton, of E. Newton, daughter of Robert Thornton and by her had issue:

Francis Wright of Sowerby in co. Ebor., (a quo Wright, of Bolton-upon-Swale see Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire in 1584/5 and 1612, p 98.) born in Sowerby, County of York, England married into the Markham family (cousins) of Yorkshire, England.

Robert Wright of Foston, b. 1572 d. 1620 married Ann Girlington of Sandal and had issue:

Mary Wright who married Ralph Crathorne of Ness, and by him had a son Thomas Crathorne

William Wright, b. abt. 1560 d. 1648 m. Ann Mills

Nicholas Wright, b. abt. 1550 d. 1648.

Anne Wright (Marked "o.s.p." on Visitation of Yorkshire in 1584/5 and 1612, pg. 145)

By his second wife, he had issue five children:

1. John Wright of Twigsmore, bapt. Jan. 16, 1568 d. Nov. 8 1605, Holbeche House, Staffordshire, married Dorothy

2. Christopher Wright, b. 1570 d. Nov. 8 1605, Holbeche House, Staffordshire, married Margaret Ward of Mulwith and had issue:

John Wright, b. abt. 1593, married Miss BUSFIELD of Lincolnshire and had issue:

3. Martha Wright, married the conspirator Thomas Percy, who was descended from the Percys of Beverley (and kin to the Earl of Northumberland), and had by him:

Robert Percy who married Emma Mead, 22 October 1615 in Wiveliscombe, Somerset

"Daughter" Percy who married Robert Catesby, son of Robert Catesby the conspirator

4. Ursula Wright, married Marmaduke Ward of the Wards of Mulwith, and by him had a daughter

Mary Ward, b. 23 January 1585, d. 23 January 1645, Heworth, York

5. Alice Wright, of Plowland , secretly married William Readshaw of Oulston in 1593 in the home of her sister Ursula Ward.

Robert initially increased the size of the family estates through the purchase of the manor of Weeton from Robert Rudston[e] in 1555-56, however, his eldest son William conveyed property in Weeton, probably including the manor, to Richard Legard in 1579, as it is not included in the list of properties conveyed to William on Robert's death. Robert was buried 18 July, 1594, in Welwick, seised of the manor of Plowland and lands in Weeton, and Pensthorpe.

Of Robert's younger brother John, we know that "John Wright was granted lands by the crown in Sancton in 1553, also parts of the former Acaster property in Selby".

A curious entry is noted in Catholic Recusancy in the City of York 1558-1791 by J.C.H.Aveling:

"f.6v 19 July Margaret, wife of Jn. Wright of York/suspected in religion/she promised to go to church and was enjoined to do so and certify no bond".

This is almost certainly a reference to Robert's younger brother and his wife. The entry occured along with entries regarding the arrest of Alice Oldcorne, who we have noted below was imprisoned for recusancy between 1560 and 1580 along with John's sister-in-law. No further details of John are available, but present research is attempting to determine if the Wrights of Skelton, from whom the priests William Wright and his brother Thomas Wright are descended, are descendants of either John or Christopher, the younger brothers of Robert Wright of Plowland.

Robert Wright of Foston's daughter Mary married Ralph Crathorne of Ness as we indicated in the tree above. The estates of the Wright family were eventually devised by Francis Wright (son of Nicholas and great-grandson of Robert) on his death in 1664, to his cousin Thomas Crathorne, and hence passed out of the Wright family, curious indeed as there were several potential male heirs through other lines. These properties included Plowland Hall, the manor of Thorpe (purchased by William Wright from Robert Thorpe in 1608), the manors of Pensthorpe, Welwick Thorpe and Thorpe Garth (the original covenant of sale for these four properties was dated 8 October 1607, but Robert Thorpe must have died soon after as the sale was confirmed on 20 April 1608 by Robert's widow Frances Thorpe), and the manor of Welwick Provost, which was sold in 1623 to John Wright by William Whitmore and Edmund Sawyer, and the rectory estate of Orwithfleet, purchased in 1637 by William Wright, from Francis Braddock and Christopher Kingscote.

Faith and the Tainted Blood

The strength of the Wright's Catholic faith is well documented. Ursula Wright, wife of Robert, was incarcerated for a total of 14 years, chiefly in Hull prison with a number of other recusant wives including one of her Babthorpe cousins, and Alice Oldcorne, a relative of the Jesuit Father Edward Oldcorne. It is said that "the courage and cheerfulness of this forceful old lady provided great moral uplift for the other prisoners". William and his wife Ann were likewise attainted several times for recusancy. An interesting anecdote from The Yorkshire Papists says Ann was considered a "lunaticke person" and subsequently absented herself from church. Whether she was indeed mentally unbalanced, or merely employing thoughtful subterfuge against church services that were contrary to her belief we cannot say, but given her previous record it is not difficult to believe her maintaining some charade to avoid attending church.

John and Christopher were related not only to the Wintour brothers of Huddington through their Mallory grandmother, but also to the Rookwoods and the Keyes' through their Babthorpe and Tyrwhitt connections. In fact, John is occassionally referred to as "John Wright of Twigsmore", a manorial estate in the parish of Manton, Lincolnshire, owned in the latter part of the sixteenth century by the Tyrwhitt family. Ex-school colleagues of Guy Fawkes and the priest Oswald Tesimond, and tied by marriage through their sister to the Percys of Spofforth, this completes the picture of these two young men and helps us in understanding how they became involved in Catesby's plot to kill James I.

John Wright married Dorothy, perhaps a close family friend, and is said to have had a family (Poulson's work The History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness refers to him thus "John, an unfortunate victim to the Gunpowder Plot, had issue, ut pater Welwick Register", but the source for this entry is still being researched. His younger brother Christopher married Margaret Ward, a sister of Marmaduke Ward, of the Wards of Mulwith, and by her he had issue, a son, John (born abt. 1593), who married into the Busfield family of Lincolnshire, and himself had a son called John (Visitation of Yorkshire 1612). As a point of interest, Christopher Wright's widow then married a noted papist, Sir Henry Curwen of Northumberland (the marriage is reported in Cecil Papers 192/63 HMC Vol. XIX accompanied by the date 8 January 1606). This would indicate that Margaret Wright (nee Ward) remarried less than two months after her first husband's death.

The two brothers have variously been described as excellent swordsmen, but hot-headed and often spoiling for a fight. Whether this is a legend or merely propaganda to help explain their later actions is unsure, but John Wright is described as one of the finest swordsmen of his day, and is generally regarded as the first of Robert Catesby's recruits for the Gunpowder Plot. John Wright's part in the Gunpowder Plot is somewhat unclear, although his devotion to the cause was clear. He had formed part of the entourage of the Earl of Essex along with his friend Catesby, and after the aborted uprising in 1601, had spent time in solitary confinement for his crime.

His younger brother Christopher (who was brought into the circle of the conspirators along with John Grant and Robert Wintour in March 1605) was selected by Catesby, Garnet, and several other discontented Catholics to plead their case to the King of Spain in 1603 by means of the Jesuit Joseph Creswell, and to proceed with the invasion of England that had been negotiated by Thomas Wintour the previous year. Wright may have met up with yet another old ally in Anthony Dutton, although Father Albert Loomie, S.J., in his work Guy Fawkes in Spain : The Spanish Treason argues that Anthony Dutton was merely an alias of Wrights, much like Thomas Wintour had used the alias Timothy Browne. Unfortunately no example of Christopher Wright's writing exists to prove either way.

Christopher Wright is also acknowledged as the first of the plotters to learn of Fawkes' capture and the discovery of the gunpowder beneath the Parliament building. Escaping from London early on the morning of Tuesday 5 November 1605, the band of conspirators rode north then north-west, eventually arriving at Holbeche House in Staffordshire, where they planned to make their final stand. On Friday 8 November, the Sheriff of Warwick surrounded the house with the intention of arresting the men for a theft of horses from Warwick Castle whilst fleeing, supposedly unaware that within lay most of those who had plotted to blow up the King three days before. After a series of brief skirmishes, the Wright brothers, Robert Catesby and Thomas Percy lay dead. Today, no stone or plaque marks the spot where these men died.

Ursula Wright, the eldest of Robert Wright's daughters by his second marriage, first married John Constable of Hatfield. Secondly she married Marmaduke Ward, Lord of Givendale, who was brother-in-law to her brother Christopher, and they had a daughter, Mary Ward, who was born on 23 January 1585, and died on 23 January 1645 at Heworth, near York.

In 1590, Marmaduke Ward's house was raised by fire, and he took his daughter to live with her grandmother at Plowland, before going on the run to avoid capture by Henry Hastings who had sworn to rid Yorkshire of all papists. Mary then went to live with her cousins, the Babthorpes, who had a household of fifty-two, including two priests. She entered a convent of Poor Clares at St. Omer as a lay sister in 1606 along with her cousin Barbara Babthorpe. The following year she founded a house for Englishwomen at Gravelines where she became a lady of fashion and society and a harbourer of Jesuit priests. In 1609 she and her devotees established themselves as a religious community at St.Omer called the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was based along the lines of the Society of Jesus, and opened schools for rich and poor.

The venture was a success, but it was a novelty, and it called forth censure and opposition as well as praise. Mary advocated things such as freedom from enclosure, from the obligation of choir, from wearing a religious habit, and from the jurisdiction of the diocesan. Moreover her scheme was put forward at a time when there was much division amongst English Catholics, and the fact that it borrowed so much from the Society of Jesus increased the mistrust it inspired. Pope Pius V had declared solemn vows and strict papal enclosure to be essential to all communities of religious women, and this clearly went against what Mary was trying to achieve. As her order gained ground in Flanders, Austria and Italy, she received great praise for her work from a number of quarters, and was allowed to plead her case for formal approbation in front of the congregation of cardinals appointed by Pope Urban VIII. Unfortunately, there was also much opposition to her schemes, and the order was supressed in 1630.

  • The visitation of Yorkshire in the years 1563 and 1564 by Flower, William, ca. 1498-1588 Norcliffe, Charles Best Harleian Society Publication date 1881. Page 351link

In time, the order gained more momentum, and in 1703 was approved by Pope Clement XI, and became an institute in 1877 under Pope Pius IX.

Mary eventually returned to England in 1639 with letters of introduction from Pope Urban to Queen Henrietta Maria and established herself in London, before moving north to Heworth near York in 1642, where she died.

Holderness was a wapentake and seigniory, over which the family of Constable have resided as lords and chief bailiffs. It was divided into three divisions or chief constableries, middle, north, and south, each of which may be considered as separate wapentakes, and contained the following number of townships, parishes, &c. viz. Middle Division, 36 townships, 15 of which are parishes, 11,942 inhabitants. North Division, 30 townships, 18 of which are parishes, 7577 inhabitants. South Division, 22 townships, 14 of which are parishes, including Sunk Island, 7,007 inhabitants.

"Holderness is bounded on the east by the German ocean, on the south, by the Humber on the west, by the divisions of Hunsley and Bainton-Beacon and on the north, by the wapentake of Dickering. Although the general surface of this district, viewed from the Wolds, appears low and flat when examined upon the spot, it is found to possess a surface capable of being made dry, and every part of it adapted to the purposes of cultivation. The drainages in this district since the year 1762 have been very extensive, and though effected at an immense expense, not less than 190,000L. have proved very beneficial to the country. The seigniory of Holderness was given by William the Conqueror to Drew de Bruerer, a Fleming, on whom William bestowed his niece in marriage it was afterwards given to Ode de Campania, who had married the King's sister at his death it devolved upon his son Stephen, whom the King created Earl of Albermarle and Holderness and after passing through various hands, we find it, in 1682, in the family of the Coniers, Lord Darcy and Coniers, created Earl of Holderness by King Charles II. in that family it continued many years, and now belongs to Sir Thomas Constable, Bart. for whom the town of Hedon is obliged to find a prison for such malefactors as are taken in this liberty, till they can be sent to the castle of York and an hall to hold therein a court, called the wapentake court for the trial of actions under 40s. (Source: Magna Brit)

Robert Wright, (b abt 1501-d July 1594- buried 18 Jul 1594 in Welwick), John Wright's son, succeeded as the owner of Plowland (or Plewland). Robert eventually became Sheriff of Yorkshire and was granted Arms by patent under the hand and seal of William Flower, Norroy. Robert initially increased the size of the family estates through the purchase of the manor of Weeton from Robert Rudston[e] in 1555-56, however, his eldest son William conveyed property in Weeton, probably including the manor, to Richard Legard in 1579, as it is not included in the list of properties conveyed to William on Robert's death. Robert was buried 18 July, 1594, in Welwick, seised of the manor of Plowland and lands in Weeton, and Pensthorpe.

Robert married firstly Anne Grimston of Grimston Garth, the daughter of Thomas Grimston, about 1526 in Yorkshire. Anne's ancestry is listed in Collins's Peerage of England, and states of Anne’s father: THOMAS GRIMSTON, Esq. of Grimston, who married the daughter of Nicholas Girlington of Harkfurth, and had (with two daughters, Ann, married to Robert Wright, Esq. of Plowland, county York and Maud, married to John Thwenge, Esq. of Upper Helmesley) many sons, of whom John was ancestor of the Grimston's of Neswick. His eldest son was another Thomas Grimston. This family is denominated from its possessions in the county of York, and descended from Sylvester de Grimston of Grimston, who attended William, duke of Normandy, in his expedition to England as standard-bearer, and in that station valiantly fought at the battle of Hastings, where the kingdom proved the reward of their victory over Harold, who then possessed the throne and the year following, on the Conqueror's settling his household, he was appointed his chamberlain, and did homage for Grimston, Hoxton, Tonsted, and other lands, which he held of the Lord Roos, as of his honour of Roos in Holdernesse, Yorkshire.

Robert and Anne (our direct ancestors) had three children:

1) William (see below) born about 1526, died Dec 1616 at Ploughland, Welwick, Yorkshire.

Robert married second Ursula Rudston, whose family had been lords of Hayton, near Pocklington, from the days of King John. Robert and Ursula were staunch Catholics, Ursula Wright, wife of Robert, was incarcerated for a total of 14 years, chiefly in Hull prison with a number of other recusant wives including one of her Babthorpe cousins, and Alice Oldcorne, a relative of the Jesuit Father Edward Oldcorne. It is said that "the courage and cheerfulness of this forceful old lady provided great moral uplift for the other prisoners". Ursula Wright was akin to the Mallory (or Mallorie) family, of Studley Royal, Ripon, and so a cousin in some degree to most of the grand old Yorkshire gentry, such as the Ingleby family, of Ripley Castle and of Harewell Hall, Dacre, near Brimham Rocks, in Nidderdale, and the Markenfields, of Markenfield Hall, near Ripon, to mention others beside." Ursula was the daughter of Nicholas Rudston and Jane Mallory, daughter of Sir William Mallory, of Studley Royal, near Ripon.

Robert and Ursula had at least 5 children. This is as far as I have taken their descendants:

1) John WRIGHT (of "The Gunpowder Plot") (b.13 Jan 1568-probably at Ploughland Hall,parish of Welwick,Yorkshire d.8 Nov 1605-Holbeche House,Staffordshire killed after the Gunpowder Plot was exposed)

2) Christopher WRIGHT (of "The Gunpowder Plot") (b.1570-Ploughland Hall,Welwick,Yorkshire d.8 Nov 1605-Holbeche House,Staffordshire,killed after the Gunpowder Plot was exposed)

3) Ursula WRIGHT (b.Abt 1571 d.1588)

4) Martha WRIGHT (b.Abt 1577)

John and Christopher Wright are well-known instigators of the infamous Gunpowder Plot, now commemorated every year on Guy Fawkes Day in England. The book The Gunpowder Plot and Lord Mounteagle's Letter gives fascinating details about the entire plot and its consequences.

John and Christopher Wright were schoolfellows of Guy Fawkes. John was the third to be initiated into the Gunpowder Plot, some time in May 1604. Their intentions were to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The plan, of course, failed. Dictionary of National Biography states: “He took an active part in all the operations of the conspirators, and on the eve of the actual discovery of the plot (on the afternoon of 4 Nov.) he fled from London with Catesby. At Holbeche on the morning of the 8th, when an accident took place with some gunpowder, he wished in his despair to ignite the rest so as to blow up the house and all. In the fight which followed with Sir Richard Walsh's men, he and his brother fell mortally wounded. Sir Thomas Lawley, who was in this affair assisting the sheriff of Worcester, wrote to Salisbury: "I hasted to revive Catesby and Percy and the two Wrights, who lay deadly wounded on the ground, thinking by the recovery of these to have done unto his majesty better service than by suffering them to die," but the people standing by roughly stripped the bodies naked, and no surgeon being at hand, they soon died." After the capture and imprisonment of the conspirators, the bodies of those who had died at Holbeche were exhumed, and the heads removed for display at Westminster Palace. One quote says he was "shot, buried, dug up, beheaded, and head hung on gates of London."

Christopher Wright married Margaret Ward, a sister of Marmaduke Ward, of the Wards of Mulwith, and by her he had issue, a son, John (born abt. 1593), who married into the Busfield family of Lincolnshire, and himself had a son called John (Visitation of Yorkshire 1612). As a point of interest, Christopher Wright's widow then married a noted papist, Sir Henry Curwen of Northumberland (8 January 1606). This would indicate that Margaret Wright (nee Ward) remarried less than two months after her first husband's death.” Much more can be found online about Christopher, who shared his brother’s fate.

The Estate of Plowland came into the Wright family in the reign of Henry VIII., owing to John Wright, Esquire (a man of Kent), having married Alice Ryther, one of the co-heiresses of Sir John Ryther, of Ryther, on the banks of the "lordy Wharfe", between York and Selby.

John Wright's son, Robert, succeeded as the owner of Plowland (or Plewland). Robert Wright married for his second wife Ursula Rudston, whose family had been lords of Hayton near Pocklington, from the days of King John. Ursula Wright was akin to the Mallory (or Mallorie) family, of Studley Royal, Ripon, and so a cousin in some degree to most of the grand old Yorkshire gentry, such as the Ingleby family, of Ripley Castle and Harewell Hall, Darce, near Brimham Rocks, in Nidderdale, and the Markenfields, of Markenfields Hall, near Ripon, to mention none others beside.

Robert Wright (the second Wright who owned Plowland) had been married before his marriage to Ursula Rudston. His first wife's name was Anne Grimstone. She was the daughter of Thomas Grimstone, Esquire, of Grimstone Garth. Robert Wright and Anne Grimstone had one son who "heired" Plowland. His name was William Wright. He married Ann Thornton, of East Newton, in Rydale, a lady who was related to many old Rydale and Vale of Mowbray families in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The names of William Wright and Ann, his wife (born Thornton), are still recorded on a brass in the north isle of Welwick Church.

William Wright was a half-brother to Ursula Ward, the wife of Marmaduke Ward, of Mulwith, Newby, and Givendale, near Ripon, the parents of the great Mary Ward, the friend of popes, emperors, kings, nobles, statesmen, warriors and indeed of the most distinguished personages of Europe during the reigns of James I. and Charles I. William Wright (or Wryght, as the name is spelt on the brass in Welwick Church) was also half-brother to the two Gunpowder conspirators, John and Christopher Wright, who were slain at Holbeach House, Staffordshire, a few days after the capture of Guy Fawkes by Sir Thomas Knevet, early in the morning of November 5th, 1605.


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