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Thomas Howard

John Stott: A Catholic Reflection

The mystery of the Church.

During the autumn of 2011, there died in England a man whose death aroused worldwide attention. It also occasioned affectionate musings in my own mind.

His name was John Stott. Like the whole evangelical Protestant world—and even, apparently, the English public and the secular media—I knew, and mourned, that a giant had gone from the rest of us who were still left here in this mortal coil. The following remarks do not qualify as biographical in any sense. That has all been done. I cannot offer much in the way of dates and events in his life, even though I knew him for over sixty years. In any case, I need not do so. His life and achievements have been canvassed, scrutinized, and hailed by the media.

He visited in our household when I was a boy, and would stay on occasion with my own family after I was married. But I know—or perhaps I should say remember—nothing, for example, of his parents, nor of the religious flavor of the Stott household, nor even of the particulars of his own coming to faith.

He was, perhaps, the godliest man I have ever known, along with my own father. He emerged into a certain public view in the 1940s, I seem to recall, when he began to give talks, often in evangelical university circles. His own world had been the somewhat exalted world of the English public school and Cambridge University. It was the appearance of his early book, Basic Christianity, that expanded, almost globally, his reputation, again principally in the evangelical Protestant domain. He eventually gained a virtually apostolic eminence, certainly by no ambition of his own. There seemed to be no remotest tincture of vanity anywhere in his entire being. Like Enoch, he walked with God. Like Moses, he was meek. Like Abraham, he was the friend of God. Like Samuel, he was among those who called on God's name.

Over the years he and I met and talked now and again. He was, for one thing, a birdwatcher like my father, and since I had grown up regaled with prothonotary ...

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