The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that John Bowen, parishioner at Church of St. John the Evangelist in Hamilton and regular columnist of this paper, is receiving the prestigious Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness. The Lambeth awards recognise outstanding contributions to the Church and wider society.
“I was very surprised,” said Bowen, “because all I have done is try to be the person God made me to be, and do the things God has put in front of me—and isn’t that what we all do anyway?”
His award citation reads, in part, “for his attractive articulation of the love of God for all people, with a particular heart for those who have not yet heard the name of Jesus, and for his mentoring and discipling of Christian leaders.”
Bowen served with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in universities and camps in both Canada and the United Kingdom for a quarter century. He then joined the faculty of Wycliffe College in Toronto to teach evangelism from 1997 until his retirement in 2016.
“John Bowen has devoted his life to winsomely sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Susan Bell in response to the announcement. “He is known and loved across our church, across denominations, as a mentor, a soul friend, and innovator. In all things, Christ is his centre. I am so pleased that his ministry among us has been honoured in this way.”
In retirement, Bowen continues his pioneering witness and mentorship to the church-planting and missional movement in Canada. He is also spending more time on the things he loves best, including teaching with the fledgling Niagara School for Missional Leadership, preaching, and writing. His latest book, God is Always Bigger: Reflections by a Hopeful Critic, was published earlier this year.
In announcing the awards, Archbishop Justin Welby said that during the pandemic, “we have seen just how vital the contribution of churches is to the fabric of our society” and that this year’s recipients embody a spirit of service through years of faithful work. “I commend them and their efforts, and look forward to the time when we meet to celebrate their contributions to society.”
With his characteristic humility, Bowen notes that “if award-winners do get to meet the Archbishop in October—which is the plan, COVID allowing—I will have in my back pocket to give him a list of dozens of folk in Niagara who have been doing the same, and who should also get one of these awards.”
In addition to Bowen, three other Canadians were among this year’s 30 recipients, which included scientists, musicians, academics, activists, peacemakers, doctors and clergy from around the world. Dr. Rupert Lang received the Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship, while Archbishop Colin Johnson and Canon Isaac Kawuki- Mukasa received the Cross of St. Augustine for Services to the Anglican Communion.