Since Wednesday afternoon, the Anglican blogosphere has been buzzing with the news of the death at the age of ninety of John Stott, rector emeritus of All Souls, Langham Place (a parish conveniently located in close proximity to the studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation) and arguably one of the most prolific Anglican evangelical apologists of the twentieth century.
A contemporary of Billy Graham - whom he introduced to C. S. Lewis in 1955 - Stott had a comparable influence in the evangelical world, but, with the possible exception of his leadership at the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, he was generally removed from the public spotlight.
Tributes are still pouring in from across the world to honor the man whose simple - yet hardly simplistic - biblical exposition still provides context for individual and group study.
What strikes me as most telling, however, is that a man who lived his life within the Church of England, who opposed against early efforts to separate the Evangelical movement from the Church of England in the 1970s, who as late as last year urged Russell Levenson, rector of St. Martin's, Houston, to stay in the Episcopal Church has seen the ecclesiastical polity into which he was born fragment and dissolve, despite his best efforts to the contrary. Born into a world that had but lately witnessed the dissolution of four great temporal empires in Europe and the downfall of the Manchu dynasty, he lived to see the dissolution of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the emergence of China, and the advent of the "Next Christendom", so exhaustively documented by Philip Jenkins.
Perhaps it is the sonorous phrases of Sabine Baring-Gould that he may best be remembered:
What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.