London, July 27 2011 (NYT): The Rev. John Stott, one of the world’s most influential figures in the spread of evangelical Christianity over the past half-century, died Wednesday in Lingfield, Surrey, in the south of England. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by Suanne Camfield, a spokeswoman for his publisher, InterVarsity Press.
The religion scholar Michael Cromartie once said that if evangelicals could elect a pope, they would be likely to choose Mr. Stott. Though less known in the United States and hardly a household name outside the evangelical sphere, Mr. Stott, an author, preacher and theologian, was often compared to the Rev. Billy Graham, his American contemporary.
But while Mr. Graham’s influence is rooted in a rousing preaching style and a personal magnetism that has filled stadiums, Mr. Stott’s relied on a proliferation of books — grounded in learning but accessible to all — and the evangelical organization he founded, Langham Partnership International, named after its cradle, All Souls Church at Langham Place in London’s West End.
“We must be global Christians,” he once wrote, “with a global mission, because our God is a global God.”
Beginning at the college campus level and branching out country by country, the Langham Partnership (known as the John Stott Ministries in the United States) grew into an organization comprising 5 national and 10 regional nondenominational movements.
Before then, through the Anglican Church, Mr. Stott had led a revival of evangelical Christianity in Britain, exhorting Britons to find personal salvation by repenting sin and accepting Jesus as their savior.
But he also demanded that evangelicals look beyond liturgy and Christian tradition and remain engaged in worldly matters — “to take more responsible attitudes toward economics, the arts, politics and culture in general,” as Mark A. Noll, a University of Notre Dame professor and scholar of the movement, said in an interview in 2007.
“And perhaps most importantly,” Professor Noll added, Mr. Stott became “a patron, mentor, friend and encourager of thousands of pastors, students and laypeople from the newer Christian parts of the world.” He became a bridge, Professor Noll said, “between the West and the rising Christian world.”
Mr. Stott was dedicated to helping the poor in developing countries, what he termed the Majority World. Using royalties from his books, he set up trusts to help gifted students from the developing world earn doctorates abroad and then return to their native countries to teach in theological seminaries.
For all his fame on several continents, Mr. Stott’s travels and appearances were remarkably devoid of pomp, befitting his simple message of reason and faith and his unassuming demeanor. Those in his ministries knew him simply as Uncle John. In his later years, he lived in a two-room apartment over the garage of a London rectory, and for many years he kept a small cottage on the Welsh coast, where he did much of his prodigious writing in longhand and, until 2001, without electricity.
“Pride is without doubt the greatest temptation of Christian leaders,” Mr. Stott said in 2006 during a visit to the United States. “And I’m very well aware of the dangers of being feted and don’t enjoy it and don’t think one should enjoy it.”
Believing the college campus to be the most effective pulpit from which to preach, he frequently led weeklong evangelist meetings at universities in Australia, Asia, Africa, North America and elsewhere around the world. One event drew as many as 18,000 students. Until 2003 he was an active vice president of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
“I declare myself an impenitent believer in the power of preaching,” he told an evangelical group in New York in 2006, by then a frail and stooped figure walking with a cane. “The pew cannot rise higher than the pulpit.”
Mr. Stott, a leading evangelical theologian, was regarded as the framer of the Lausanne Covenant, a declaration of the movement’s beliefs and global aspirations. Drafted in Switzerland in 1974 at an international evangelical congress, it is regarded as a 20th-century milestone of evangelicalism.
Mr. Stott was the author of about 50 books published in 65 languages. Among his best known are “Basic Christianity” (1958), “Christ the Controversialist” (1970) and “The Cross of Christ” (1986).
“Basic Christianity” alone has been translated into more than 60 languages and has sold more than 2.5 million copies, according to the John Stott Ministries, which said his books have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. His last book — he himself described it as such — was “The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling,” published in 2010.
“To read Stott is to see someone practicing ‘thoughtful allegiance’ to Scripture,” David Brooks wrote in The New York Times in an admiring column 1n 2004 titled, “Who Is John Stott?”
“For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.”
The books have become staples of evangelicalism, said David Neff, editor of the evangelical publication Christianity Today. “Almost anyone who is a leader in American evangelicalism has read those books and been shaped by them.”
John Robert Walmsley Stott was born in London on April 27, 1921, the youngest of three children of Sir Arnold W. Stott, a prominent physician and an agnostic, and his wife, Emily, a Lutheran who attended All Souls. His older sisters died before him. A lifelong celibate, he left no immediate survivors.
The young Mr. Stott originally intended to train for the diplomatic service, but influenced by the Christian Gospel, he changed plans while still in preparatory school, determined to enter the Anglican Church.
He graduated from Trinity College at Cambridge in 1943; transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, also at Cambridge; and was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1945. He started as an assistant curate at All Souls Church. After receiving a master’s degree at Cambridge in 1947, he advanced, at the age of 29, to rector of the church in 1950. When he turned rector emeritus in 1975, he moved from the rectory to a modest apartment over its garage.
The British government acknowledged his contributions in 2006 by naming him a Commander of the British Empire. He was appointed a chaplain to the queen in 1959 and served in that post until he reached retirement age in 1991. In 2005, Time magazine selected him as one the world’s “100 Most Influential People.” He retired from the public ministry in 2007.
An avid birder and bird photographer, Mr. Stott took his binoculars and cameras on all his travels and wrote a book about the many species he encountered. Titled “The Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons From a Lifelong Bird-Watcher” (1999), the book is illustrated with his own photographs.
At Mr. Stott’s death at the retirement home, his friends and associates were at his bedside, reading Scriptures and listening to Handel’s "Messiah," the All Souls Church Web site said.
“The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen,” Mr. Graham said in a statement on Wednesday, “and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisers. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to heaven.” (WOLFGANG SAXON)
Visit John Stott Memorial site: http://www.johnstottmemorial.org