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Tributes paid following the death of former Church of England evangelist Michael Green

Posted on: February 8, 2019 10:22 AM
Dr Michael Green pictured with his wife, Rosemary
Photo Credit: Wycliffe Hall via Twitter

The renowned evangelist, theologian and apologist Dr Michael Green, who once served as senior evangelism advisor to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, has died in hospital at the age of 88. “It is with great sadness that I pass on the news that Michael Green went to be with the Lord yesterday Wednesday 6th February at around 3pm at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford”, the Director of Ministerial Training at Wycliffe Hall theological college, Greg Downes, said in a statement on Thursday. “His passing was peaceful and he was surrounded by Rosemary and his immediate family. . . I’ve just spoken to Rosemary on the phone and prayed with her and she is feeling at peace and grateful for the many messages of support and love that she has received from around the world.”

Downes added: “As we grieve with hope (1 Thess 4:13) we give thanks to the Lord for the privilege of being associated with such an amazing man of God and for his incredible legacy.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that Dr Green’s legacy was still having an impact on the Church of England. “Later this month the General Synod of the Church of England are meeting at what has been subtitled a ‘Synod for Evangelism’”, he said. “That evangelism is now being established as a prime priority for every church is partly due to the life and ministry of Michael Green.

“I’m told that from his hospital bed Michael had let his close friends know that, whilst things were complicated medically, God was giving him ‘lots of opportunities’ to share the gospel.

“Michael was a compelling and consummate evangelist, 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.

“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.”

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said: “Michael was a giant of his generation, known and loved by many around the world and an evangelist to the last. He inspired and encouraged several generations of clergy and bishops – including me.

“I first heard him preach on my first Sunday as an undergraduate in St Aldate’s over 40 years ago. Michael’s words then were: ‘I only have one life and I want to live it all for God’ have stayed with me through the years. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

The evangelist J John said that Dr Green had “led a life that was so innovative, varied and dynamic that it’s hard to summarise what he did. He was – often at the same time – vicar, evangelist, writer and theologian.”

He added: “One curious observation of longevity is that you can end up outliving not only your contemporaries but also your achievements. Something of this applies here. Throughout his ministry Michael played a significant part in shaping what is modern evangelicalism in the UK. Yet precisely because many of the battles he heroically fought occurred so long ago, there are many today who are unaware of the role Michael played in creating a culture that they now take for granted.

“Particularly important was the way that, in two key areas, Michael was able to dispel prejudices. One was the belief, widely held until into the 70s, that you couldn’t be a scholar and an evangelical, and certainly not one who was passionate for evangelism. Michael had an extraordinarily sharp mind and accumulated academic honours – 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.

“The second widespread preconception was that the only people who believed that the Holy Spirit might be a powerful and active force in the world today were those who were uneducated and knew no theology. Yet by giving early and outspoken support for the Charismatic Movement when it emerged onto the global scene in the 1960s, Michael demonstrated that to believe in the Holy Spirit did not demand that you ignored theology. The fact that today we take it for granted that you can be spiritual and scholarly and clever and charismatic owes much to his labours.”

Ordained a Deacon in 1957, Dr Michael Green served his curacy in Holy Trinity, Eastbourne before becoming lecturer at the London College of Divinity in 1960. In 1969 he became principal at St John’s College, Nottingham, an evangelical Anglican theological college; a post he held alongside that of Canon Theologian at Coventry Cathedral. He also served as a member of the C of E’s Doctrine Commission, between 1968 and 1977.

In 1975 he became Rector of St Aldate’s in Oxford; before moving to Canada to serve as Professor of Evangelism at Regent College, Vancouver in 1987. In 1992 he returned to the UK to serve as the Archbishops’ Advisor on Evangelism during the Decade of Evangelism. He retired in 1996 and became Honorary Fellow at Wycliffe Hall. From 2005 to 2007 he served as Co-Rector of Holy Trinity, Raleigh, a church in North Carolina that was formed by people who left the US-based Episcopal Church following the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Writing on the website of Premier Christianity magazine, Evangelist Matthew Fearon, who works with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, said: “Michael’s gift of distilling the complex into the memorable made him one of the most exceptional and accessible evangelists of the last 60 years.

“His sense of humour, his infectious joy allowed him to get away with more than most, found deep expression in You Must Be Joking: Popular Excuses for Avoiding Jesus Christ (1976). While in books including Man Alive (1967), and Who is this Jesus? (1998), his lightness of theological touch and intimacy with Christ saw him reach an audience far beyond the Christian community, as well as equipping lay Christian believers in their grasp of the Gospel.”