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Basic Christianity—with an Oxbridge Accent
If you had to choose two individuals to sum up the recovery and growth of evangelicalism in the English-speaking world in the last half of the twentieth century, you might well pick Billy Graham and John Stott. Graham's crusade in Los Angeles in 1949 and Stott's appointment as Rector of All Souls Church in London the following year nicely symbolize the beginning of the recovery, while their work together in organizing and directing the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in 1974 reflects the global influence and coming of age of the movement.
A growing number of memoirs and biographies of key leaders from this period are appearing now that the pioneers have reached a ripe old age. Alongside several studies of Billy Graham's life and his autobiography, Just as I Am, we now have the first volume of Timothy Dudley-Smith's authorized biography, John Stott: The Making of a Leader, covering "the early years" up to 1960. These memoirs and biographies raise keenly the question of evangelical identity and self-definition.
Frankly, I find the contrasts between Stott and Graham as fascinating as the similarities. Consider their upbringing. While Billy Graham was growing up in a white frame house on a poor dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina, John Stott was being raised as the son of Sir Arnold Stott (a physician to the Royal Family) in a six-floor London townhouse with a nanny, parlor maid, housemaid, cook, between-maid, and occasional chauffeur. Graham credited his father with having taught him the merits of free enterprise; Stott's father interested him in natural history and the cello.
In the early 1930s, when Graham was doing chores on the farm during the depression, Stott was attending an exclusive Anglican prep school in Gloucestershire. While Graham was struggling to stay awake at school and failing tenth-grade French, Stott was excelling in French and Latin, playing a part in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and writing amateur essays in ornithology. ...