John Stott RIP

The Rev John Stott has died. To many reading this, that may not mean much, but John Stott was had a phenomenal influence on the church and it would be wrong not to mark his passing.

Stott was, for almost all of his ministry, connected with All Souls, Langham Place in London. He was first its curate and then its rector and will be remembered there as a great preacher, whose expository sermons helped to build up that congregation into a powerhouse of the modern Evangelical movement.

People are sometimes surprised at the diversity that is found within Anglicanism. John Stott was one of those who can be credited with keeping it so. It was he who argued convincingly over and against other voices who called for the Evangelicals within the various churches to leave and group together. Though he kept Evangelicals within Anglicanism he also was one of the primary hands behind the Laussanne Covenant, a totemic doctrinal document of the wider Evangelical Movement. That document would have been the kind of thing that all kinds of churches, networks and structures that I once belonged to looked to for inspiration and to codify a certain set of beliefs which would then be held as definitive touchstone of orthodoxy. As I look at it now it looks more like a collection of the things that John Stott might have wished had been in the classic creeds of the historical church but oddly could not find present there.

So influential was John Stott that it was sometimes said that if the Evangelicals had a papacy they would elect John Stott as Pope. In marking his passing I would want to acknowledge that stature but also to remember the consequences of the use to which he put his phenomenal intellect. Already I’ve seen posts on twitter from people remembering the real and lasting harm done to them by reading John Stott’s writings about human sexuality and from engaging with churches which followed his teaching.

His legacy is churches planted. Souls won. Thousands of preachers whose sermons benefited from his considerable intelligence. And his legacy is untold torment for who knows how many thousands. He should be remembered for all his successes, all his good intentions and yet also for the misery of ministries thwarted by those who followed his teaching on the “headship” of women and the impossibility of a Christian being in a loving, physical, faithful gay relationship.

And yet, I’ve no doubt at all whilst thinking about him, that John Stott was motivated in his own way by an intense compassion, a love of God and a desire to be faithful to what he found in Scripture. He (and even more so his disciples) were the architects of a Christianity which believed itself to be utterly right and the only way to God. Such hubris will increasingly seem ever more anachronistic to many. And ever more relevant, right and true to others.

And therein lies a very great deal of our contemporary troubles in the church.

Notwithstanding all that, John Stott was rational, intelligent and one of God’s most gifted children.

May he rest in peace. And rise in glory. (And face one or two surprises).


  1. Amen.

    The ironic thing is that, between his commonsensical annihalationism and personal celibacy (instead of heterosexual marriage), a modern Stott wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the Driscoll-bound sewers of contemporary evangelicalism.

    But, as you say, RIP.

  2. I am reminded of the legacy of Francis Schaeffer.

    A brave and insightful post.

  3. Derek Buchanan says

    I remember a truly inspirational sermon he gave at St Devenicks, Bieldside, Aberdeen, about 30 years ago. Lasted about an hour, with a comfort break in the middle!

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