Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A brush with Stott

The fact that there is now a John Stott controversy in the blogosphere is interesting, because as David Brooks rightly notes, he is not exactly a prominent media figure. But it is also personally interesting to me because last year I attended a service at Stott's church, All Souls, just north of Oxford Circus in London. I went with one of my classmates, a devout Christian friend who was a regular at the church's services. If I sound like an out-of-touch anthropologist here, I apologize. They're just my impressions. And no, there is no thesis here. Having attended several sober, stolid services at St. Paul's Cathedral through the year, I was a bit surprised by the service. This was a different kind of service: a bit more effusive, reverent, and powerful; the kind one might expect at an evangelical church in rural America. I admit I don't remember whether the minister was in fact Stott. (I believe the sermon was on Thessalonians.) I do remember that unlike the minister at St. Paul's, he made some thinly veiled criticisms of the gay lifestyle and the Anglican Church's leniance thereto. The crowd was a mix of locals, expatriates and tourists. There was much excitement about the imminent arrival of Franklin Graham, the Rev. Billy Graham's son, who was giving a speech at a Christian convention in the near future. There were none of the usual hymnals. Instead, they had a 10-piece rock orchestra play pop-esque songs that must have been written within the last two decades, all of which had lyrics unabashed about the worship of Christ. A friend later told me that such a service, what with the music and all, is known as "modern worship." I don't know enough about Stott or evangelism in general to argue his importance in American Christianity or in the present debate over "values." And I certainly didn't get enough information from one service at his church. But I'm glad I went, because Stott definitely is a major figure of modern British Christianity. UPDATE: I did hear Stott, and the date was 16 May 2004. And the sermon was on Colossians, not Thessalonians. Remarkably, you can actuallyhear Stott deliver the sermon at Allsouls.org (registration required).

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