Completion of the cataloguing of the Stott papers

The fourteen month project to catalogue the personal papers of John Stott (1921-2011) and the complementary collection of research papers from his biographer Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith is now complete, with the descriptions full searchable via http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/calmview/ , using the references STOTT* and TDS* for the respective collections.

John Stott’s personal papers primarily document his activities after his time at All Souls Langham Place, focusing as they do on his work as a writer and as a key protagonist in events on the national and international evangelical stage. As previous blog posts (9 July and 11 September 2013) mention, the papers provide rich evidence of Stott’s wide range of professional activities such as his involvement as a founder, supporter and member of a significant number of organisations, including the Church of England Evangelical Council and the Langham Partnership International. However, the papers also crucially provide evidence of the man himself,  his personal faith and his convictions. Within papers lent to Bishop Dudley-Smith for the biography, you can find a fascinating file of correspondence referred to by Stott as ‘Pre-Ordination’ (ref. STOTT/11/3/1). The majority of letters concern the efforts of Stott, his teachers and Cambridge tutors to confirm that Stott had formally declared his wish to be ordained prior to September 1939, and therefore that he might be exempt from military service. It was not, however, just a battle for recognition from the War Office – it also involved a concerted effort to justify his decision to his father Sir Arnold Stott, a physician who served in both World Wars and had high hopes for his son’s career. Sir Arnold  was concerned that John was both rushing into a career in the Church and neglecting his obligation to serve his country. There is a series of letters from John in which he determinedly sets out how strongly he perceived his calling. In one, featured here, he states that- ‘nothing short of complete conviction would bring me to the decision I have made in view of the sorrow I am causing you…I have had a definite and irresistible call from God to serve him…I would not be writing this unless I were convinced in my own mind’. Furthermore, Stott contrasts his father’s involvement in the physical war, with his own involvement in the spiritual war and suggests to his father – ‘I have been called to the one war, you no doubt the other. Both are service to our country’.

Stott's letter of justification to his father STOTT/11/3/1 f. 67 r. and f. 70 r.
Stott’s letter of justification to his father STOTT/11/3/1 f. 67 r. and f. 70 r.

Furthermore, at the time John Stott concluded that he could not, as a Christian, justify fighting in a war. Indeed he made notes, including biblical passages, to support his belief.

Stott's thoughts on justifications for war STOTT/11/3/1 f. 41 r.
Stott’s thoughts on justifications for war STOTT/11/3/1 f. 41 r.

Notably though, as time passed and events on the world stage progressed, Stott came increasingly to believe that under certain circumstances the concept of a ‘just war’ could warrant involvement by Christians. However, his alertness to the pitfalls of war were maintained through his involvement in the debate on nuclear weapons. Indeed, this last point directs us to one of the guiding forces of Stott’s ministry, a keen sense of the importance of maintaining the relevance of Christian faith to the modern world, with both the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, established by Stott in 1982, and the four editions of his book ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’, bearing testament to that effort.

The International Congress on World Evangelism, Lausanne 1974

Stott at a meeting of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Executive Committee) in Springfield, Missouri in September 1978.
Stott at a meeting of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Executive Committee) in Springfield, Missourin September 1978.

A second batch of John Stott’s papers has now been made publicly accessible*, including those relating to the Lausanne movement. Correspondence, reports, memoranda, minutes and related material provide a rich resource on the history of Lausanne.

Papers documenting this important dialogue of global evangelicals and its beginnings in the International Congress on World Evangelism, Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974, reveal the increasing importance of Stott’s role on the international stage. He was, a year later, to formally withdraw from the day-to-day duties of a rector, becoming Rector Emeritus of All Souls, Langham Place in 1975. This allowed him time to fully engage with developments in the wider evangelical community.

The 1974 Congress, arranged by a committee headed by the well known American evangelical, Billy Graham, drew more than 2,300 evangelical leaders, from 150 countries. However, it was not just the scale of the congress featuring discussions and debates over theology, strategy and methods of evangelism, but the creation of the Lausanne Covenant that cemented the reputation of the gathering. Stott was the chairman of the drafting committee, known by some as the ‘chief architect’, and was given the formidable task of creating a statement which emphasized mutual goals and points of agreement from across the spectrum of evangelical opinion.

The success of the Congress and the resultant Covenant was consolidated by the creation of the Lausanne Continuation Committee, which met for the first time in Mexico in January 1975, and was later known as The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. At a meeting in Atlanta the following year the committee identified their intended functions as intercession, theology, strategy and communication, and set up a working group for each. Stott was himself a key member of the Lausanne Theology and Education Group (LTEG).

The second major congress, known as Lausanne ll (Manila, Philippines, July 1989) drew 3,000 participants from 170 countries and produced the Manila Manifesto, and is reflected in the material, alongside the many other Lausanne related conferences. These include the Consultation on World Evangelization (Pattaya 1980), and the Relationship between Evangelism and Social Responsibility (Grand Rapids, USA, 1982).

The series of evangelical conference papers in the Stott collection further includes papers relating to the World Council of Churches Assemblies in Uppsala (1970) and Nairobi (1976), as well as two National Evangelical Anglican Congresses in Nottingham (1977) and Caister, Norfolk (1988). The variety of conferences covered not only reveals trends and developments in evangelism, both domestic and global, but also Stott’s vital role in contributing to and shaping key discussions.

To view descriptions of the newly released documents please  go to our Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue and type STOTT/4/2 in the ‘Order no.’ box on the search page.

* Researchers based in the USA who are unable to access the original papers relating to Lausanne at Lambeth Palace Library also have the opportunity to refer to copies held at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Illinois – collection 590 (http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/590.htm).

The papers of John Stott

Portrait of John Stott
John Stott at the 1973 Urbana Student Missions Conference sponsored by the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowships and held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The project to catalogue the personal papers of the renowned evangelical clergyman John Stott has reached a significant milestone, as the first batch of papers is now being made available to researchers via the National Church Institutions’ Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue. To find these records on the catalogue type STOTT in the Order No. field and click on search and you will be presented with a list of relevant records.

John Stott (1921-2011), served at one church throughout his career, as assistant curate at All Souls, Langham Place from 1945, as rector from 1950, and finally rector emeritus from 1975. It was both his dedication to his central London parish and his efforts on the international evangelical scene which garnered Stott such acclaim. His role as honorary chaplain to the Queen from 1959 to 1991, his multiple honorary degrees, including a Doctorate of Divinity from Lambeth Palace, and his selection as one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ in 2005, attest to the extent of his influence.

Records now available include Stott’s travel diaries (1958-2007), which describe his extensive international travels, featuring busy schedules of University missions, preaching engagements, evangelical conferences, seminars and a multitude of other events. This first release of material also contains the records of notable organisations and societies with which Stott was involved as a founder or significant supporter. The diverse range includes the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, and the Langham Partnership International. The last of these, originally founded in the UK as the Langham Trust, now operates three complimentary programmes, designed to assist in training preachers, educating scholars and providing evangelical literature to the developing world.

Further material includes a series of files amassed in relation to a variety of subjects, ranging from contentious social issues such as divorce and abortion, to debates concerning matters such as annihilation, fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy.

This first release of this material is aimed at enhancing access to a collection which is being catalogued as part of a project due for completion in March 2014. The next release of material will include records relating to evangelical conferences, including the notable 1974 International Conference of World Evangelism in Lausanne, Switzerland.