WHAT IF JOHN STOTT HAD BECOME A NORTHERN BISHOP?


According to his obituary in The Telegraph, the late Dr John Stott, the Anglican evangelical leader who died last week aged 90, had at one time

let it be known that he would like to become a bishop in order to increase his influence and “the opportunities for preaching and defending the Gospel”.

Which gives rise to a ‘what if’ scenario.

If Dr Stott had become a bishop in a northern diocese, such as Bradford, then the trajectory of UK evangelicalism in the last quarter of the 20th century would have been very different.

And arguably better.

He could have acted as a magnet drawing evangelicals to that diocese and led them forward in biblical preaching and pro-active evangelism. He could have become familiar with ministry in smaller parish churches where, unlike in All Souls Langham Place, the large West End of London church of which Dr Stott was rector from 1950 to 1975, resources are scarce.

In a region where Islam was becoming a potent force, he could have shared his experience of evangelising Muslims with the wider evangelical constituency.

Furthermore, if he had been busy leading a diocese, he would not have had time to devote to the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity and its roadshows. Cranmer’s Curate attended one in 1988 when he was training to be a journalist in Cardiff. Dr Elaine Storkey, who subsequently became director of the LICC, used her platform on this occasion to undermine the classic evangelical doctrine of male headship in the family and in the Church.

Four years later in 1992, the ordination of women to the presbyterate, contrary to Scripture, was passed by the General Synod of the Church of England on the back of evangelical votes.

So, this is a significant ‘what if’ of recent evangelical history.

Who knows? If he had become a northern bishop, Anglican evangelicalism might have been spared Fulcrum, the liberal leaning pressure group of which Dr Storkey is president.

Dr Stott’s greatest bequest to the Western Church is his magisterial 1986 book, The Cross of Christ. In it, Dr Stott defended the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, which happens to be faithfully reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, particularly in its service of Holy Communion.

Dr Stott wrote:

My contention is that ‘substitution’ is not a further ‘theory’ or ‘image’ to be set alongside the others, but rather the foundation of them all, without which each lacks cogency. If God in Christ did not die in our place, there could be neither propitiation, nor redemption, nor justification, nor reconciliation. In addition, all the images begin their life in the Old Testament, but are elaborated and enriched in the New, particularly by being related to Christ and his cross (IVP, 1986, p168).

This by cc about the New Testament basis for press ethics appeared on the US-based orthodox Anglican news service VirtueOnline.

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