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Canon Michael Green has died: An evangelical giant has fallen

Canon Michael Green has died: An evangelical giant has fallen
The evangelical world mourns the loss of the 20th Century's most powerful Anglican evangelist

By David W. Virtue with Chris Sugden
February 7, 2019

Canon Michael Green was still preaching the gospel to students in his late 80's. In February 2018, he was the main speaker at Mission events at the Universities of Lancaster and East Anglia. He was a remarkable man, whose contribution to world mission, and particularly Anglican evangelicalism, ranks alongside that of David Watson, Dick Lucas, Jim Packer, even John Stott.

Canon Michael Green died peacefully on February 6th in Oxford after a short period of hospitalization in Oxford, at the age of 88, writes Chris Sugden, a close friend and Oxford resident where canon Green lived a large portion of his life.

"In many ways Oxford was Michael's city. He studied at Exeter College where he was President of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, and married Rosemary, the lady vice-president. They went on to have four children. In the evangelistic ministry for which he was renowned he was a frequent speaker at the OICCU and led some of its University Missions. His book "Choose Freedom" became a standard evangelistic book for its time and was followed by others published by his good friend Edward England at Hodder and Stoughton.

"He did ordination training at Ridley Hall Cambridge where he also completed a post-graduate degree in New Testament studies on salvation. Following a curacy at Holy Trinity Eastbourne he began a long association from 1960-75 with the London College of Divinity, then in Northwood, Middlesex, first as lecturer, and then as principal 'when he was not yet forty', according to the college's publicity.

"It was the era when theological colleges were encouraged to make links with universities, so Michael oversaw the move from Northwood to Nottingham where LCD became St John's College Nottingham.

"He drew together an exciting staff of young lecturers, many of whom, like him, exercised wider ministries, including George Carey, Colin Buchanan, Julian Charley, (for whom St John's students rejoiced to know Michael was 'fag' at school at Clifton College, Bristol) Anne Long, and Stephen and Pat Travis, to battle with the mud and breeze blocks of the new site at Bramcote.

"In 1975 he announced to the college community in the common room that he had accepted a call to become the Rector of St Aldate's Church, a major student ministry in Oxford, following the revered Keith de Berry.

"In 1987 he moved to Canada to become Professor of Evangelism of the recently founded Regent College, Vancouver, the first graduate school of theology in North America to focus on the laity, a brainchild of Oxford don James Houston.

"While in North America he became rector of a church in Raleigh, South Carolina and knew all about the struggles for orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church.

"He retired to Oxford in 1996 and became senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall Oxford, taking up his calling of teaching, training and above all enthusing others in the service of and spreading the good news of his Lord and Master, Jesus."

Bishop John Ellison, former Bishop of Paraguay writes, "Many of us owe so much to him for a missionary vision that took us to the ends of the earth." John Bowen, Professor Emeritus at Wycliffe College, Toronto writes: "He spoke at my first OICCU meeting in October 1966, on 1 Corinthians 1! Never forgot it!".

He went on to be awarded the Cambridge BD (1966), a DD (honorary) from University of Toronto, and a DD from Lambeth (1996). This scholarship combined with his love of his Lord, led Green to pen well over 50 books. He is especially known for Evangelism in the Early Church (1970) and Evangelism Through the Local Church (1990), which have served to shape a generation's thinking about evangelism.

I have known Canon Michael for more than a quarter of a century and had the privilege of meeting him in his home in Oxford in the company of Dr. Os Guinness, a Christian apologist and sociologist. Michael had a winsomeness about him that was compelling. He drew people to Jesus. He was unashamed in his preaching and his books; some 50, will, I believe, be read years from now in seminaries and theological colleges around the world. I saw him as part of triad of great Anglicans that included the late John R.W. Stott and J.I. Packer.

Only a few days ago we were emailing back and forth about the state of the Church of England and he bemoaned the sorry state of theological compromise going on in the CofE, right in the heart of Oxford amongst its clerics. He feared the Church of England was heading down the same pathway as the Episcopal Church.

Tributes to Canon Michael are pouring in from around the world.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said Green had been a 'compelling and consummate evangelist' and 'an example and model to all of the joy and energy that living and loving the gospel bring to proclaimer and listener'.

'He served the church locally, nationally and internationally through his ministry of communication in speech and writing,' he said.

'As the church we are deeply grateful for his tenacious ministry. Beyond telling, however, will be the gratitude of all those that Michael introduced to Jesus Christ -- the Lord in whose presence he now knows joy beyond our imagination.'

In Inspire Magazine, evangelist J John paid tribute to Green's 'rich and extraordinarily fruitful earthly life'. He credited Green with changing British culture, particularly where it concerned evangelism and the church's understanding of the Holy Spirit.

"Michael had an extraordinarily sharp mind and accumulated academic honors -- indeed, had he chosen to be purely a scholar he could have been a professor in any of the great universities -- but he remained openly and enthusiastically committed to sharing the good news of Jesus."

Others paid tribute to Green on Twitter.

Rev Sally Hitchener added: 'Very sad news - hope they have a cathedral big enough for all the lives he's touched to say goodbyes.'

Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, said he was a 'great evangelist and servant of the gospel'.

Dr. James Houston, former president of Regent College, Vancouver, where Michael taught for a period wrote; "He was a great visionary, so unashamed of preaching the Gospel in a Pauline boldness, yet with such joyous humor. It is the finality of death which is so awesome, making our evangelical witness more urgent than ever."

His wife Rosemary wrote; "This afternoon Michael left us, very peacefully. He came through the surgery but his heart (not surprisingly) couldn't cope with a third operation in 10 days...he was spared prolonged suffering and deterioration. He was in active ministry till the day before he went into hospital. And in 10 days there he witnessed to many of the staff (and gave away some of his books). While shining with God's love and joy. Evangelizing to the end! Do pray for fruit from it."

Carrie Headington, a disciple and evangelist wrote, "I knew what compelled him." He said, "Whatever you do with your life, Carrie, share the gospel at every turn. Tell everyone. This is the greatest thing you can do with your life. Follow Jesus, love Him and share Him."


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