Melbourne, Australia

When Angus Skeoch, CEO of Sydney-based Restore Mission, attended the John Stott conference he was simply curious about this remarkable leader of 20th century Christianity. He found himself among an older generation of men and women who had personally known Stott or otherwise been deeply influenced by the man. 

Skeoch, who settles at-risk refugees from Pakistan on the east coast of Papua New Guinea, was one of more than 100 evangelical leaders and emerging leaders from all corners of Australia who came together at Ridley Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, on 24th May, for reflection on the legacy of Rev John Stott

John Stott conference Brian Rosner


John Stott conference Stuart Piggin


John Stott conference Crowd

Top - Brian Rosner, principal of Ridley Theological College, speaks at the conference; Middle - historian Stuart Piggin speaks to one of the attendees; and, Bottom - the audience at the conference. PICTURES: Courtesy of Ridley Theological College

Joining them online was a bishop from Kenya, and 24 others from other nations around the world, all keen to honour the centenary of Stott’s birth in what was one of a series of worldwide reflection events rolling through 2021. 

They heard from six scholars how Stott radicalised evangelical preaching, authored 40 books and wrote the Lausanne Covenant for the Lausanne Movement of 1974 which has shaped so much of world evangelism while, at the same time, teaching and enabling others around the world to participate in developing mature church communities. He established numbers of formational institutions in a global strategy for depth training of Christians and their leaders especially to the world beyond the west where seventy percent of the world’s Christians are now found.     

Stott who died in 2011 age 90, was senior minister of All Souls Church in London from 1950 until the early nineties. His long time friend from the 1960’s, Billy Graham who died in 2018, regarded Stott as the most influential evangelical leader of the 20th century.

Keynote scholars at the Australian event included Chris Wright, global ambassador for the Langham Partnership (his session was pre-recorded from the UK), Australian historian Stuart Piggin and Brian Rosner, principal of Ridley Theological College. In their remarks, Billy Graham’s assessment seems accurate. 

Piggin explained that when Stott delivered a series of expository sermons to the Church Missionary Society conference in Katoomba of 1964 “it transformed the preaching of evangelicals throughout Australia". It was, he said, a new experience for Australian evangelicals to hear a whole book of the Bible preached in a series, to give the meaning of the text when written, and a contemporary application made plain. 

Another attendee, Peter Adam, a former principal of Ridley College, explained how Australian Christian leaders from that era, John Chapman and Dudley Foord, left that Katoomba conference to create the College of Preachers in Sydney and how, from that beginning, Stott’s expository method has become the the standard of evangelical preaching throughout Australia.   

Such was the high regard in which Stott was held in Australia that he was invited three times to become an Anglican bishop in New South Wales - all of which he turned down.

“Stott was not anxious to direct matters in Australia," Piggin, who believes that Stott could not have become so influential as he became among evangelicals of the many denominations around the world had he accepted high office in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, told the conference. “He was grateful for Australians and what they were doing.”  

According to Wright, by 1974 Stott had developed a vision for a world that was changing rapidly.  

“In the early 20th century ninety per cent of Christians were found in the West,” he said. But by the 1970s, it was evident that was changing leading to the situation today in which seventy per cent of Christians are now found outside the west in the "Majority World".

By the 1990s Stott was determined to respond to requests for leadership training from majority world leaders by establishing “a stronger academic basis", according to Wright. It resulted in the formation of the Langham Institute that has since become the Langham Partnership by which almost 400 leaders from all parts of the non-Western world have earned doctoral degrees on Langham scholarships.  

According to Gillean Smiley, CEO of Langham Partnership Australia and another of the speakers, ninety-one per cent have returned to their native countries to fulfil an agreed ten years of ministry.  

Richard Trist, senior lecturer at the Anglican Institite at Ridley, wanted his emerging leaders to be exposed to Stott’s influence.  

“The event came about because I worked at All Souls in London so I knew John and I knew his centenary was coming up. So Brian Rosner and I sat down and worked out a plan for a conference,” he said. 

“It reinvigorates us, personally and theologically, just being reminded of the truth of the Gospel,” he said. 

The reflections of those like Trist and Piggins who knew Stott personally, stirred the younger attendees like Scott Doran-Sargent, state director of CMS Tasmania.   

“I was too young to have known him personally, but those who did were really touched by the humility and the gentleness of the man,” Doran-Sargent explained.  

Marc Dale, rector of the parish of St Albans in Highgate, Western Australia, was also glad to have included the conference into a busy week in Melbourne. 

“One of the highlights was the work of Langham; the legacy that comes from really believing something is important,” he said, “not only that people are evangelised but that they are discipled and there is a depth to all of that.”