THE Archbishop of Canterbury has led tributes to Canon Michael Green, one of the Church of England’s most intellectually brilliant evangelists, who died on Wednesday of last week, aged 88.
“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,” Archbishop Welby said. “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.”
The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, said: “He was an inspiration — an evangelist, a scholar, an encourager, a true enthusiast in an often cynical age.”
A statement from St John’s College, Nottingham, said that Canon Green “was brilliant academically and a gifted evangelist. He was very engaging and became well known overseas and at home, which helped to raise the College profile, with the result that the numbers of students coming into St John’s College rose.”
A statement from St Aldate’s, Oxford, where Canon Green had been Rector, described him as “a remarkable and highly gifted man who was used by God to touch countless lives in this nation and worldwide”.
The Principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Revd Dr Michael Lloyd, said: “Michael was a superb evangelist, as exemplified by the way he cleared the table over his hospital bed of its water jug, glasses, grapes, and get-well cards — and replaced them with copies of his books, and a sign that read, ‘If I’m not conscious, please take one!’
“He was a serious scholar, always preaching from the Greek New Testament, and offering some of our students extra study of the Greek text, to their huge enrichment. . . He modelled to staff and students at Wycliffe that integration of passionate heart, rigorous mind, disciplined life, and kind engagement to which we aspire.”
Canon Green was an outspoken advocate of the Charismatic renewal movement in the Church of England. In a review in the Church Times in 1971, he wrote: “The modern Church, impoverished in spiritual power and lacking spiritual direction, cannot afford to continue to neglect the third person of the Trinity. A careful theology of the Holy Spirit, covering the whole New Testament, is a crying need.”
The Anglican evangelist J. John said that Canon Green showed “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.”
In a review of a series of New Testament commentaries in this newspaper in 1975, Canon Green showed some sympathy for scholars of a more liberal or radical persuasion. He wrote: “All three commentators combine a deep faith in God with genuine skill in communication; and, when they cannot accept the biblical account, they do so in the most spiritually constructive manner possible. But the question remains — will those who have had great confidence in Good News for Modern Man have comparable confidence in these commentaries? Time will show.”
But he could be highly critical of the Anglo-Catholic movement. In a speech at the Catholic Renewal Loughborough Conference in 1978, he said: “Teaching — equipping the laity for service — is not a great strength, is it, of the Catholic element of the Church? Nor is Scripture. Or preaching. The Church of England is in a parlous state because it runs down the ministry and does nothing to train laymen. Leadership should be plural. Do take this to heart.
“There is an overdependence on ‘Father’ in Anglo-Catholic circles, an erecting of the clergy on to a pinnacle which makes them unreal and inhibits other Christians from using their faculties in the service of the Church.”
His funeral service - for those who knew him personally - will be held at St Aldate’s, Oxford, on Saturday 2 March at 10 a.m. A public Thanksgiving Service in Coventry Cathedral will be announced shortly.