Tuesday, March 20, 2007

John Pugh XVIII: Statesman

Today's evangelical scene can often seem more international than in the past, with Christians in Britain looking as much to America as to their own back-yard for favourite preachers and theologians. This is nothing new, as we have seen from the visit of Moody and Sankey to Cardiff. And the still-expanding British Empire presented other spheres of activity.

Although Pugh generally restricted his activities to Wales, rejecting a suggestion he should accompany Moody to Chicago, he was too well-known to avoid international recognition. A visit to South Africa on doctor's orders in 1896 saw Pugh preaching to Welsh settlers in the colony in their native language - a departure for the man who had been called to be evangelist to the English-speaking people of South Wales.

And in 1899, Pugh was invited as a delegate to the pan-Presbyterian Alliance in Washington. The vigorous style of the evangelist shook the normally staid Presbyterians with a description of his work, even getting the assembled delegates to sing a Moody and Sankey hymn - many of the delegates were Psalms-only. The Washington Post carried a report of the address of this plain evangelist. Pugh, for his part, identified a serious weakness of the gathering: "The Alliance is good, solid, but it lacked somewhat in brightness and enthusiasm. There was not sufficent Methodism in it." Surely a verdict on much of modern reformed Christianity.

There, too, Pugh preached to Welsh churches and met the President, whose plainness and lack of protection impressed him (this would have been William McKinley). On his departure, the University of Kentucky conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on Pugh.

On his return, Pugh saw the opening of the hall at Heath. The work in Cardiff was expanding, drawing more to Christ. And these were not simply 'respectable' people, but those to whom the Saviour came, the rough men, the prostitutes and drunkards. It is with these people that the next two posts will deal.



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