Evangelical Giant John Stott Dies at 90

By Gregory Katz and Rachel Zoll | July 28, 2011 | 12:18 AM EDT

The Rev. John Stott (Photo: John Stott Ministries)

London (AP) – The Rev. John Stott, who led a resurgence of evangelicalism in Britain and went on to become one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the 20th Century, died Wednesday. He was 90.

Benjamin Homan, president of John Stott Ministries, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Stott died surrounded by friends on Wednesday afternoon.

He did not give a precise cause of death but said Stott's health had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks and that he had been in severe pain near the end of his life.

"His body was just wearing out," Homan said.

Stott died at the College of St. Barnabas, a residential community for retired Anglican clergy in Lingfield, Surrey, 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of London, according to information posted on the All Souls Langham Place website Wednesday night.

He was an intellectual pioneer who in the years following World War II spearheaded an evangelical revival in England at a time when evangelical Christians had almost no influence and were often derided as uneducated.

Stott, who studied at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, took a rigorous approach to Scripture that moved beyond the largely emotional appeals commonly used by preachers of his era.

In more than 50 books, he explained complex theology in a way that lay people could easily understand. Among his most popular books was "Basic Christianity," a primer on the faith which has been translated into more than 60 languages, according to his U.S. publisher, InterVarsity Press.

"The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen," evangelist Billy Graham, 94, said in a statement. He called Stott "a friend and adviser." The two men had worked together since the 1950s.

Stott was one of the earliest Western evangelical leaders to recognize the importance of Christian churches in developing countries. He was a primary framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, a declaration of beliefs that was used to build evangelicalism into a global movement.

The document was written at an international meeting that Graham organized at the height of his career and is considered a milestone in the rise of evangelical Christianity worldwide.

John Stott and Billy Graham worked together since the 1950s. (Photo: John Stott Ministries)

"While he was not as well-known as say somebody like Rick Warren or Billy Graham, they all knew him as sort of their mentor," said Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

Stott is credited with renewing an evangelical emphasis on social responsibility, along with spreading the Gospel.

He was born in London to an agnostic father who was a physician and a mother who was Lutheran but attended the Anglican church that her son would eventually lead, All Souls Langham Place. He embraced Christianity in 1938, according to InterVarsity.

He was ordained by the Church of England in 1945, going on to serve as All Souls' curate and rector until 1975.

Known as "Uncle John" to the many people he worked with, Stott was a lifelong bachelor who traveled the world for his teaching and funneled his book royalties into scholarships, especially for students from developing countries who went on to lead evangelical movements where they lived.

The church website said that Stott's close friends and associates were at his bedside reading Scriptures and listening to Handel's "Messiah" when he died.

"His preaching drew many to Christ and kept many on track in their Christian thinking and living," said Hugh Palmer, rector of All Souls Langham Place. "His books did the same for millions more and equipped pastors and lay people to become bible teachers themselves on every continent."

(Zoll reported from New York City)