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Rev. Dr John R. W. Stott, CBE (1921-2011)

September 2011

Rev. Dr John R. W. Stott, CBE (1921-2011)

John Stott, former Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, in London, leader of evangelical Anglicans worldwide over several decades, pioneer in the Lausanne Movement, founder of Langham Partnership International and author of more than 50 books, died on 27 July 2011, aged 90.
Time magazine named him in 2005 as one of the ‘most influential’ 100 people in the world. Converted as a public school boy through the remarkable ministry of Rev. E. J. H. Nash (‘Bash’), John Stott’s own even more remarkable ministry spanned the second half of the 20th century and well into his 80s was making an impact on the next century.

Intellectual strength

He was universally respected as a man of intelligence, biblical clarity and humble integrity. In his successful ministry at All Souls and in the many good causes he became involved with, he contributed a renewed confidence, graciousness and intellectual strength to Anglican evangelicalism.
Alongside Billy Graham, John Stott was a significant player in the Lausanne Movement and was largely responsible for crafting the Lausanne covenant (1974) and Manila manifesto (1989).
George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said, ‘John Stott’s contribution to developing a balanced evangelical faith and to a biblically rooted Anglican communion is probably without parallel in our generation’.
Rev. John Stott, who never married, was keen to restore the Anglican Church to its evangelical, Protestant roots. He held to that vision with tenacity, and it was that which helped fuel the now well-known controversy that took place at the Evangelical Alliance sponsored National Assembly of Evangelicals, in 1966.
During that Assembly, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones brought a heartfelt appeal to the densely packed meeting to leave their mainstream denominations and unite in a wider, evangelically based unity. For all Anglicanism’s faults, John Stott was not prepared to countenance such a move within his own denomination and, as chairman, publicly and calmly voiced his dissent, as soon as ‘the Doctor’ had finished speaking.
Stott’s and Lloyd-Jones’ friendship and mutual respect survived the event, but a major fault line between Anglican and independent evangelicals, that was in fact already there, had been dramatically spotlighted.
Over the next 35 years, this gap would widen greatly as evangelical Anglicans consciously embraced a more inclusive posture towards fellow Anglicans of other theological traditions.

Social dimension

Nevertheless, John Stott remained, by default, an evangelical. As he spoke ever more widely on the world stage, including at the World Council of Churches, he emphasised the reliability and authority of Scripture, the need for personal conversion and the centrality of Jesus’ atoning death for sinners.
Though a life-long evangelist, he refused to limit Christian engagement with the world to evangelism alone, and was committed (probably to a fault) to practically realising the moral and social dimensions of the biblical gospel, including justice for the poor and the care of creation.
Stott wrote 50 books. His farewell volume The radical disciple was published in 2010. His most significant titles included Basic Christianity, The cross of Christ, and Issues facing Christians today. He also wrote influential volumes for IVP’s ‘The Bible speaks today’ series; those on Galatians and 2 Timothy having a special excellence.
Christopher Wright, director of the Langham Partnership, said of Stott, ‘His books have challenged and nourished millions of Christians into a balanced and thinking biblical faith’. One of them, however, became a source of controversy.
In Essentials: a liberal-evangelical dialogue (1988), which John Stott co-authored with David Edwards, Stott said that he found the prospect of eternal punishment for the wicked a concept ‘intolerable’, from an emotional perspective, and he allowed that Scripture’s statements on hell might legitimately be interpreted to teach annihilation after death for the wicked.
In the early 1990s, he averred that he had held this view for 50 years, adding, ‘I do not understand how people can live with [the orthodox view] without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain’.
Given the unambiguous teaching of Scripture to the contrary, such heterodoxy was highly regrettable from an otherwise great man who remained keen to assert that the Bible was the supreme authority.

‘Uncle John’

Christopher Wright said of John Stott, ‘For the vast majority of people whose lives he influenced, he was simply “Uncle John” — a loved friend, correspondent and brother’.
Canon J. John, founder of Philotrust, said, ‘Uncle John was loved and lovable. He prayed for vast numbers of people. A single man, he acquired an enormous family of those who were loved by him and loved him back.
‘He was also humble, which showed in many ways. He had time for everybody: pastors from remote African villages, struggling curates, Christian Union leaders from tiny colleges, children; all were important to him.
‘He knew he needed to bring all that he was to God for him to be effective in his ministry. John’s dedication to the Lord’s work was costly and he set aside much that he could have enjoyed as a right. He set a challenging example’.
More can be read on: www.langhampartnership.org and www.johnstottmemorial.org