Comments: John Stott: some obituaries

With all these " infallible" pronouncements by some evangelicals that John Stott has been promoted to the highest degree of Heavenly glory, may I respectfully offer some more balanced comment? Over the years I had a very interesting correspondence with John Stott both as an Anglican and then as a Catholic. He was always kind and gracious, answering all my letters.

However do evangelicals realise that his endorsement of ordination for women, as long as they were not in positions of headship, swayed many within the Church of England to accept this development. In fact it was evangelicals who swayed the vote in 1992, and of course that is why there are now nearly 3,000 women clergy in the Church of England. John Stott's illogical corresponding position that they should not be in pastoral oversight has of course been ignored. This was his contribution to the future of the Church of England more than NEAC and his row with Doctor Martyn lloyd Jones. Yet his biographers do not even mention it.

As regards his book "Evangelical Truth" he stated Evangelicals were able to say the creeds without equivocation or mental reservation. I challenged him on the baptismal regeneration clause in the Nicene Creed and he immediately distanced himself from the Council Fathers! In so many areas, like eternal punishment, John Stott was highly problematic.

John Stott's whole life was proof that you could be a member of the Church of England for ninety years and not believe in baptismal regeneration, the real objective presence in Holy Communion and the Apostolic succession. Truly he was loyal to the Protestant roots and of Anglicanism, but his authority although couched in scriptural language was highly subjective.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 6:54am BST

John R W Stott was more than Anglican but not less. Earthed in his ‘beloved’ Church of England, his influence has percolated throughout the world-wide evangelical movement, through preaching, theological reflection, writing, statesmanship, and personal contact.

As well as the two volume biography by Timothy Dudley-Smith, 'John Stott: the making of a leader' (IVP, 1999) and 'John Stott: a global ministry' (IVP, 2001), it will be worth reading next year Alister Chapman's profoundly perceptive biography 'Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement' (Oxford University Press, 2012), which combines erudition with concise comment. With full access to John Stott’s private papers, Chapman writes out of a hinterland of historical perspective, comprehensiveness and scholarly critical distance.

From August 1977 to August 1978, I was a caretaker at All Souls Church Langham Place, living at the back of the church. I first met John Stott then and benefited immensely from his reading group, which discussed contemporary literature and film.

His royalties helped towards the funding of Langham Scholars from Africa, Asia and Latin America who studied for PhDs, usually in Britain. These include, among hundreds of others: John Chew, Archbishop of South East Asia and Bishop of Singapore, who visited him at the College of St Barnabas, Lingfield, near London on 16 July, soon before his death on 27 July 2011; Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester; Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria; Michael Poon, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity College, Singapore; and Joseph Galgalo, Vice Chancellor of St Paul's University, Limuru, Kenya.

At the end of an interview published in Christianity Today (13 October 2006), Stott concluded with a breathtaking breadth of mission:

My hope is that in the future, evangelical leaders will ensure that their social agenda includes such vital but controversial topics as halting climate change, eradicating poverty, abolishing armories of mass destruction, responding adequately to the AIDS pandemic, and asserting the human rights of women and children in all cultures. I hope our agenda does not remain too narrow.

I thank God for his life, ministry, mission and writing.

Posted by Graham Kings at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:19am BST

I truly mourn his departure from this world. 'Knowing God' was the one book, apart from the bible, that most influenced my early Christian course.

He was one of the most lucid Christian writers that I have read. It would not be too great an accolade to call him the 'thinking man's evangelist'.

The uncharitable words of his critics fade in comparison to the grace that was poured into his life by Christ. People who live in the glass-house of papal infallibility should never throw stones.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:42am BST

Robert - apologies but I think it is worth noting a number of things from your comment above. Firstly, "these pronouncements" are not written by evangelicals - they are obituaries in the national press-es. Secondly, obituaries, in their very nature, usually speak of people in their best light and we should nothing different in what has been written about John Stott. Thirdly, although I didn't know him personally, I don't think he would have agreed with some of the things written about him. Fourthly, you graciously criticise him for his various theological positions, however I would have thought John Stott was a model Anglican in that he held to one position but desired to graciously and humbly engage with those from other traditions and theolgical positions view points whilst keeping unity where possible. I am evangelical and John Stott is the kind of evangelical I would like to be like!

Posted by AGPH at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 1:44pm BST

A correction. 'Knowing God' was by J.I.Packer. The book by Stott was 'The Cross of Christ'.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 7:44pm BST

Oy vey, I feel torn. On the one hand, I read RIW's "J'acuse!" and thought, geez, "Too Soon" Much?

...and then I read G Kings' Langham Scholars list: Yikes! He influenced *them*? (the phrase Rogues Gallery comes to mind)

But I will pray for the repose of John Stott's soul, nevertheless: may he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Posted by JCF at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 8:54pm BST

dear John Stott an Evangelical hero, loved and treasured well beyond the confines of the Church of England.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 9:55pm BST

New York Times link saying 'not found'...

ED NOTE: sorry, now fixed.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 9:57pm BST

The obituary in the Telegraph is very touching; as are the 11 following comments.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:10pm BST

John Stott's holiness notwithstanding, I am concerned that the books of the Langham Trust distributed by the Langham Partnership around the world, especially to Africa, Asia and the Pacific, are incredibly fundamentalist in their approach to Scripture, and, indeed, their anti-Catholic rhetoric. Global south colleges are so starved for books they take them. But they are not books I would want in my library and they do not promote the Catholic faith.

Posted by tmb at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 4:44am BST

I had the privilege of getting to know John back in 1990 when he took five days off a bird watching trip to the Canadian Arctic to do a retreat for five isolated pastors, one of whom was me. His biblical expositions were wonderfully nourishing, but his personal presence was humble and self-effacing. He had a true servant's heart. I thank God for him.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 6:12am BST

"But I will pray for the repose of John Stott's soul, nevertheless: may he rest in peace, and rise in glory."

Yes, pray for repose of his soul...*that'll* show them Evangelicals!

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 5:39pm BST

You've got a cheek, Bill as John Stott did not believe in prayer for the dead and wrote against it all his ministry. It had no part of his 1662 Prayer Book faith.

John Stott as a dyed in the wool Protestant, albeit a nuanced one.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 5:58am BST

oh heavens ! prayer is prayer ! No doubt the Lord can sort them out for himself ! He must have more convoluted twistings of hearts than prayers for a departed evangelical minister. OK so Mr Stott needs them no more himself - God 'll cope, or apply them as and where...

'absent from the body, present with the Lord'

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 2:25pm BST
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