John RW Stott – In Loving Memory
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.