July 29, 2011

Few contemporaries in my view lived as full and an apostolic life in Matthew’s view as the Anglican evangelical John R. W. Stott, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90. I’ll let others share their memories and mark their rememberances of this giant of Protestantism, but for me, his books (“Basic Christianity” is an absolute must-to-have), ironically, did much to foment my view that modern-day Protestantism (of which the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the US are among its Anglican representatives) was nothing short of a cancer – not just to Christianity but to people’s souls as well, ultimately leading me to Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, thanks in great part to Dr. Stott, I remain enthusiastically an Anglo-Catholic.

I first came to know Dr. Stott through his writings on David Virtue’s Virtuosity website; no matter how far astray the Episcopal Church was heading in its trading of Jesus Christ as its Lord and Savior for the more amorphous triune god of “acceptance, tolerance, and diversity”, one could always count on Virtue’s preambles to contain a snippet of Stott’s wisdom to make you pause and think about what basic and (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ phrase) “mere” Christianity was. The sad truth is that, no matter how quiet, humble, and powerful Stott’s writings were, they could never be a match for the kind of rabid, self-destructive forces post-modernism, feminism and its stepchild the gay-lesbian-transgender movement brought to the mainline Protestant churches. As David Virtue writes:

He was a rare breed of clergyman most of whom seem always to be looking for the next rung in the ecclesiastical ladder. Stott neither sought nor cared for preferment. He sought only to preach and teach the word to anyone who would listen. His evangelistic forays to universities were thoughtful, unemotional, rational, logical presentations of the gospel. He did not dodge the hard questions.

Stott was a man who lived as simply as possible, writing some 50 books in a simple cabin in Wales. He never married, and was called “Uncle John” by hundreds of younger people to whom he was a mentor.

When he spoke, it was with firm conviction. He never wavered in the pulpit. He was not a topical sermon preacher. He focused on Scripture and the big issues of the faith. He always kept his eye on Christ as the author and perfector of our faith.

Someone wrote that he was polite, not because he was an Englishman, but because the grace of Christ requires it. “Stott demonstrated spiritual leadership not because he built an organization or led an institution. He led by planting the seeds of truth-widely, deeply, continually, over a period of decades. In John Stott’s final public address he raised the question: what are we trying to do in the mission? In his mind the answer was unambiguous: to help people become more like Christ.”

John Stott was one of the, if not the last, giants of Protestantism. Sure, Stott came from another age – an age where the focus was not on you, yourself, and forcing the Church and others to accommodate you so you can feel good about the reckless choices you’ve made in your life. But he and his writings represented a timeless age of humility and living the Gospels as they were designed – not as a way to further one’s own pathetic and corrupt agenda to the ultimate destruction of the Church and its teachings and traditions.

Stott never wavered in his love for Anglicanism and the unique place it once held (yes, unfortunately I’m talking past tense) in Christianity, yet his writings were typically and increasingly at odds with the Church of England’s (and the Episcopal Church’s) leaders of the past forty years. Who was right? Take a look at the health and well-being of today’s mainline Protestant branches and you be the judge. His departure leaves the Church and its traditions and teachings that much poorer, but most assuredly God’s eternal kingdom is the beneficiary.

Rest in peace, Dr. Stott you’ve won your just reward.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:43 | Comments (0)
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