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OPINION - Remembering Rev. Stephen H. Wright

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I would have liked to hear more of Pastor Stephen H. Wright's sermons. For several years, I heard him almost every Sunday. He was heard on WSAU at 7am on Sunday mornings for a half-hour each week.

First Presbyterian Church in Wausau used to purchase a 30-minute block of time on WSAU. Since their church service was usually 60-minutes, the broadcast was an abbreviated "best of" presentation. The church would record the prior week's worship, and deliver the tape to the Broadcast Centre for editing. The actual broadcast would usually consist of an opening hymn, Pastor Wright's sermon, and a closing blessing. Usually one of our part-timers would make the edits. Sometimes the job fell to me... I am richer spiritually for those times.

I've been told I would not like Stephen Wright's politics. He was a publicly professed progressive. No matter. I believe in the great Protestant tradition of 'privilege of the pulpit'; I don't have to agree with everything a minister says. What I remember most about Pastor Wright was his frequent topic of science and religion -- which many preachers simply ignore as too divisive. It is one of the most difficult issues facing religion today. What do we do when modern scientific discoveries conflict with biblical text? Wright was always rejected an either/or answer, insisting that science and faith could, and do, coexist. We will never have a definitive scientific answer to the question 'is God there?' That would crowd out faith, and eliminate the choice that we all must make about the Almighty. But what about science that challenges the Old Testament? Carbon dating, dinosaur fossils, evolutionary evidence and big bangs don't seem to square with the Bible. Wright argued - forcefully at times - that it was un-Christian to reject science. Our intellect and our scientific minds are also Divine gifts. The Lord holds no malice towards inquisitiveness. God did not intend for mankind to know everything -- we'd have no need for a Deity if we did.

Stephen Wright was a thought-provoking man. I believe that's how he'd like to be remembered.

Wright died in a car crash last Thursday, a tremendous loss for our community. He was 56. My condolences for his parishioners at First Presbyterian and to his family and many friends.

Chris Conley

Image: Stephen H. Wright, First Presbyterian Church, Wausau, WI