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Tributes pour in for British evangelical leader John Stott
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 17:10
ekklesia4_logoTributes from across the world and from Christians of widely differing backgrounds have been pouring in for British evangelical leader John Stott, who died last week.

An internationally known Anglican author and biblical thinker and evangelist, Dr Stott, aged 90 died on Wednesday 27 July 2011 in England.

Having retired from public ministry in 2007, John Stott spent his retirement at the College of St Barnabas, a residence for retired clergy in Lingfield. Prior to that he had lived a very modest existence in a one-bedroom flat above a garage in central London - not far from the church where he gained his global reputation, All Souls Langham Place, opposite the BBC.

"The death of John Stott will be mourned by countless Christians throughout the world. During a long life of unsparing service and witness, John won a unique place in the hearts of all who encountered him, whether in person or through his many books," said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

"He was a man of rare graciousness and deep personal kindness, a superb communicator and a sensitive and skilled counsellor," Dr Williams added.

"Without ever compromising his firm evangelical faith, he showed himself willing to challenge some of the ways in which that faith had become conventional or inward-looking. It is not too much to say that he helped to change the face of evangelicalism internationally, arguing for the necessity of 'holistic' mission that applied the Gospel of Jesus to every area of life, including social and political questions. But he will be remembered most warmly as an expositor of scripture and a teacher of the faith, whose depth and simplicity brought doctrine alive in all sorts of new ways."

New York Times columnist David Brooks once famously wrote (quoting Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center) that if evangelicals chose a pope, they would likely select John Stott.

As a principal framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, a defining statement for evangelical Christians globally, Dr Stott was at the heart of evangelical renewal in the United Kingdom for more than half a century.

He entered a famous but politely conducted public dispute with Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a convinced Calvinist, arguing that evangelicals should remain engaged with the mainsteam Christian denominations, like the Church of England, rather than retreat from them.

In 2005, he was honoured by Time magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."

John Robert Walmsley Stott was born on 27 April 1921, in London. His father, Sir Arnold Stott, a physician, was an agnostic, while his mother, Emily, was a Lutheran who attended church at All Souls, Langham Place. He converted to Christianity at Rugby School in 1938, and after finishing there went on to study modern language at Trinity College, Cambridge.

After earning double firsts in French and theology, he transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge, and was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1945. Stott became a curate at All Souls Church (1945-1950) and then rector (1950-1975). He resigned as rector in 1975, although he remained in the church and was appointed Rector Emeritus.

In 1974 he founded Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the United States), a ministry that seeks to equip "majority world" churches for Christian mission and spiritual growth.

Dr Stott authored many books, including Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ, and Christian Mission in the Modern World, He was also a major contributor the 'Bible Speaks Today' commentary series.

He lived a frugal lifestyle, in keeping with his beliefs and in contrast to some of those with whom he mixed. But his passions included films and - especially - bird watching. He acquired considerable ornithological knowledge.

Though conservative in his theology - and persistently so on some issues, such as homosexuality and capital punishment - Stott was acknowledged to be gracious and pastoral in his demeanour, and disliked the rancour and bitterness that often accompanied church disputes. He also became a strong advocate of a range of social justice issues, respectful of the peace church position (though he did not hold it himself), and a principal architect in the mainstream evangelical position of holding together proclamation of the Christian message and engagement in social action. He distanced himself considerably from the 'religious right' in the US and elsewhere.

Dr Stott played a considerable role in encouraging evangelicals and others in the Church of England to accept the ordained ministry of women, though he held the rather quixotic view that they should not be given 'oversight', indicating a strong streak of conservatism alosngside a considerable amount of openness.

He was a key figure the the influential Eclectics group of young clergy and scholars, which ended up with 17 linked groups and a combined membership of more than 1,000 across the country.

They joined Dr Stott in organising a landmark National Evangelical Anglican Conference (NEAC) at Keele University in 1967, which was addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It took place 10 years later at Nottingham University, drawing nearly 2,000 delegates.

At the end of an interview published in Christianity Today magazine on 13 October 2006, John Stott concluded: "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."

Dr Stott's final book was entitled A Radical Disciple. His funeral due to take place at All Souls Langham Place on 8 August 2011.