Thursday, July 28, 2011

John RW Stott – In Loving Memory

His Grace has lost count of the number of times he met the Rev Dr John Stott, who sadly (for us) went to be with the Lord yesterday. There were many times during the 1980s and early 90s, often at Christmas over a coffee and a mince pie, and his conversation was invariably charming and thought-provoking: he radiated something of the ineffable wonder of Christ; a serenity, gentleness, sincerity and beauty so often lacking in the Church. And yet there was also firmness and conviction: he was one of those who truly walked with the Lord, day by day.

When you see the number of tributes from all over the world which are appearing in a Remembrance Book dedicated to his memory, you begin to understand that he was more than a vicar, chaplain, rector, and rector emeritus. He was a bishop in the true sense of the word. He wasn’t concerned with status, hierarchy, the pursuit of power, or with any other misunderstood or misapplied definitions associated with that ministry: he was an overseer of the Church and a guardian of the Truth. He was never formally recommended for the office of bishop or appointed by the Queen. But he didn’t need to be. John Stott was raised up by God and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit. He helped to guide the Church of England through a period of turmoil which might well have ended in schism. But by his superintendence, inspection, diligence, visitation and investigation – all of those functions inherent in Episkope – he shepherded the flock towards peace and unity. And he taught – most excellently. And wrote – most inspirationally. He fed the Church like a true Elder, and was respected the world over for his moral character, holiness, faithfulness, and charisma.

John Stott is often categorised as an ‘Evangelical’, a badge he wore with pride, but the popular definition is too narrow for his theology. His views on hell and soul annihilation, for example, would be at variance with the tenets of traditional Evangelicalism. And he was celibate by choice, living an almost monastic life devoted solely to God. When it comes to the ‘wings’ of the Church of England – the political divisions within the Via Media, particularly between the extremities of the conservative Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic wing and the progressive liberal wing – John Stott was firmly of the former: he applied the letter of Scripture to the modern scenario, and was unafraid to call sin sin and preach the cross of suffering and the gospel of salvation. But he was ever aware of what Hauerwas celebrates as the ‘messy complexity’ of both Scripture and the Church, because ‘the diversity of the Gospels illustrates that there is a variety of ways to live faithfully’. He accepted creative tensions as a permanent feature of the Christian life, and he made that life appealing: he was an Anglican for all Wings, and the world is a little darker and the Church all the poorer for his passing.

"Come ye, blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

God bless you, John. You have run the race, and now you have your crown.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.


Blogger Gnostic said...

My condolences.

I have never met John Stott but the loss of a good man, whether deeply religious or not, should be mourned, Your Grace.

28 July 2011 at 08:44  
Blogger The Gray Monk said...

He sounds like a man I would have enjoyed knowing - though I belong in the Anglo-Catholic camp. Requisicat in pacem.

28 July 2011 at 09:04  
Anonymous graham wood said...

Cranmer. A gracious and accurate obit for JRWS from your pen, and for those who knew him your words will find an echo. "A serenity, gentleness, sincerity and beauty so often lacking in the Church. And yet there was also firmness and conviction: he was one of those who truly walked with the Lord, day by day."
I was in his congregation at All Souls for some years, and though I eventually dissented from his ecclesiology, neverthless I still highly value many of his written works which are faithful to Scripture.
As you say: "Well done thou good and faithful servant"

28 July 2011 at 09:56  
Anonymous Colin said...

For many years John Stott had a holiday home in Dale Pembrokeshire which he used as a retreat, to be able to study and write.
Once a year his home was opened up to many of us to meet and talk with him. A local church was booked for the day where 100 or more travelled from many parts of Wales, to cram in to hear John speak.
He was easy to speak with, in spite of his superior knowledge, and always full of love,wisdom and understanding.
Truly 'A Man of God'
He will be missed.

28 July 2011 at 10:23  
Anonymous tony b said...

I read his book ' Basic Christianity' and found it interesting. RIP.

28 July 2011 at 10:25  
Blogger D. Singh said...

‘A Christian's freedom from anxiety is not due to some guaranteed freedom from trouble, but to the folly of worry and especially to the confidence that God is our Father, that even permitted suffering is within the orbit of His care.’

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 10:58  
OpenID markmeynell said...

Your Grace
Many thanks for your kind and gracious words about Uncle John. He was certainly someone who managed garner respect from many different people of all kinds of theological persuasions, including those who disagreed (sometimes profoundly) with him. That in itself is no mean feat, and is testimony to his humility and gentleness, as well as intellectual integrity.

Perhaps this was no more obvious than in the book ESSENTIALS, a dialogue between a liberal (David Edwards) and an evangelical (Stott). Edwards analysed and probed everything Uncle John wrote, summarised and argued with it in a series of essays on specific subjects. Then John would respond. I suspect that there are very few theologians of any persuasion would could endure let alone welcome such exposure. It was brave, or even foolhardy!

It was in this book that John wrote about his sympathies for annihilation. But he would regret doing so because of the turmoil it caused particularly in the USA. He would always (as far as I know) have said that he was agnostic about the issue. It is a shame if things like this become the yardstick or focal point...

The key thing is that he was profoundly influential on British and indeed global evangelicalism (resisting what he saw as the intellectual dead end of Fundamentalism) - committed to scripture in its breadth and depths, and going wherever it leads, however uncomfortable, showing compassion without prejudice or snobbery, and loving Christ in the full assurance and humility of faith.

Anyway, the analyses (important), hagiographies (unhelpful) and lessons (essential) will all be drawn in the coming years and months.

Praise and Thanks to God for a man who under God had a profound effect on shaping my own life and ministry.

28 July 2011 at 11:12  
Anonymous tony b said...

Mark, the essentials book sounds interesting.

Mr Singh. I'm sure there are some on this blog who ought to pay heed to those words.

28 July 2011 at 11:49  
Blogger Pam said...

Thank you for summing up so succinctly what made John Stott such a great man.

I've posted a link to this lovely tribute on i-church.

28 July 2011 at 12:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us."

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 12:53  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Condolences,Your Grace.

We shall not see his like again.

28 July 2011 at 13:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. A fitting tribute to a great man.

28 July 2011 at 13:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While at Rugby School in 1938, John heard Rev. Eric Nash ('Bash') deliver a sermon entitled, What Then Shall I Do with Jesus, Who Is Called the Christ?

After this talk, Bash pointed John to Revelation 3:20:

‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’

Stott later described the impact this verse had upon him as follows:

‘Here, then, is the crucial question which we have been leading up to. Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in?

‘This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me.

‘For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door.

‘Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realise that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life.’

28 July 2011 at 13:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 14:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was your great American wit, Mark Twain, who once said, "Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to." We are ashamed, are we not, of things we've done in the past? Nobody is free who is unforgiven. Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us.

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 15:02  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 15:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.

28 July 2011 at 15:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience.

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 15:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to him. He must disclose to us who he is before we can offer him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.

John Stott

28 July 2011 at 15:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

‘I have gone through the glorious contest; I have run the race; I have guarded the faith.’

Good-bye John, till we have faces.

28 July 2011 at 15:20  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

Sounds like a fella who stuck to his guns, so to speak. Sorry to hear you have lost a friend YG.

28 July 2011 at 15:28  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Not that it matters much, but I was wrong, the book I read was "Why I am a Christian: This Is My Story"

28 July 2011 at 15:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a young man I once went to a church leaders meeting in a theological college. I arrived early and waited in a corridor, not knowing the place and not knowing where to go. John Stott arrived with a rather pompous Vice-Principal who wanted to usher him to greater things and to meet more important people. He gently resisted and spent a few moments asking me about myself and making me welcome. I have never forgotten his gentleness and kindness.

28 July 2011 at 16:20  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

From the little I know of him and his writings, John Stott was clearly an exemplary Christian. A profound thinker who nevertheless made the Gospel simple. A man of love, communion and tolerance - although he refused to compromise on his convictions.

May he rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon him.

28 July 2011 at 18:18  
Anonymous not a machine said...

He was of characture that I sorely miss , and reminds me that the way we live today may be busy , but how much I miss the more contemplative life of the church that used to be.

Your grace points out how he lived and it is a great loss , to not want so much but walk with god so much is somthing that questions ones daily moanings at what we think we see.

28 July 2011 at 18:49  
Anonymous Petronius said...

'For eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has the mind even imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him'.

May the Lord invite Mr Stott to the wonderful room which has been prepared for him.
And may I express my sympathies to you, Your Grace, upon the departure of your friend/acquaintance.

28 July 2011 at 20:40  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Anonymous 13:15.

Very profound and eye-opening; I wonder how many will read that and realsie exactly the same thing...

29 July 2011 at 09:27  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Span Ows, Len, Preacher and the others - please pray for the youngsters who are looking at these posts - they are being moved.

Who knows lads - our country's revival may begin on His Grace's website.

We don't know if some out there might post here and say because of these posts - they have come to the faith.

God be with you.

29 July 2011 at 10:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share an aspect of Stott which I really admired. Due to his true understanding of what Scripture actually teaches about whether divorce is permitted or not, he was not fearful to put deeply Sciptural women and men whose spouse had committed adultery, clearly without any concern for the pain they had caused, and who would not return inspite of several appeals, abruptly out of their misery by advocating that they rapidly divorce their unfaithful partner. He knew adultery should be treated the same as bereavement.Being told this by someone with such authority, stopped the pain of the agonised faithful in its tracks.

29 July 2011 at 12:51  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Those of you who are being neglected and abused in your marriages - there is solid advice based on scripture availble for you through the books of Dr Instone-Brewer:

'This book interprets the words of Jesus and Paul through the eyes of first century readers who knew about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce which Jesus was asked about ("Is it lawful to divorce for ‘Any Cause’" – Mt.19.3). Christians in following generations forgot about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce and misunderstood Jesus.

'The 'Any Cause' divorce was invented by some Pharisees who divided up the phrase "a cause of indecency" (Dt.24.1) into two grounds for divorce: "indecency" (porneia which they interpreted as ‘Adultery’) and "a cause" (ie ‘Any Cause’). Jesus said the phrase could not be split up and that it meant "nothing except porneia". Although almost everyone was using this new type of divorce, Jesus told them that it was invalid, so remarriage was adulterous because they were still married.

'The Old Testament allowed divorce for the breaking of marriage vows, including neglect and abuse, based on Exod.21.10f. Jesus was not asked about these biblical grounds for divorce, though Paul alluded to them in 1Cor.7 as the basis of marriage obligations. This book argues that God never repealed these biblical grounds for divorce based on broken marriage vows. They were exemplified by Christ (according to Eph.5.28f) and they became the basis of Christian marriage vows (love, honour, and keep).'

29 July 2011 at 13:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God "hates divorce" (OT) and every patient and reasonable effort at reconcilation is required. But where hearts are hardened, and when this proves is impossible, He permits it, for one reason alone: adultery in one party. The innocent party is treated as "bereaved" and therefore is not still married. The adulterous party is treated as still married.

Jesus clearly states in Matthew 19.19 "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

29 July 2011 at 14:31  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Anon at 14.31

I have no doubt that His Grace will permit us to debate this in the future. For now let us rest and give honour where it is due.

29 July 2011 at 14:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree - but knowing John Stott's thoughts very well indeed (I sat at "his feet" for 25 years), there is nothing that would thrill him more than that his "promotion to glory" should stimulate an online debate on the true meaning of Scripture - on whatever topic.

29 July 2011 at 15:46  
Blogger Fr Levi said...

Saving Your Grace's presence, it sounds as if John Stott may have been the best Archbishop of Canterbury that the Church of England (& indeed the Anglican Communion) never had.

29 July 2011 at 16:58  
Blogger len said...

John Stott sounds like exactly the sort of man we need today to bring the church back to its roots,if only we had leaders like him?.

'There is no need for us to wait, as the one hundred and twenty had to wait [Acts 1], for the Spirit to come. For the Holy Spirit did come on the day of Pentecost, and has never left his church. Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before his sovereign authority, to determine not to quench him, but to allow him his freedom. For then our churches will again manifest those marks of the Spirit's presence which many young people are especially looking for, namely biblical teaching, loving fellowship, living worship, and an ongoing, outgoing evangelism.' John Stott

30 July 2011 at 08:23  
Blogger English Viking said...

I'm afraid I must declare my ignorance of the both the man and his ministry, although his name rings a bell.

He appeared to be a thoroughly decent sort. His photo reminds me of one of the only schoolteachers that was kind to me. A kind of gentlemanly, intelligent and kindly look about the fellow.

Our loss, Hade's gain, and eventually, Heaven's.

30 July 2011 at 19:13  

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