The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Fred Catherwood continuously encouraged young people to engage in political and social life, since he was convinced that the Word of God was the ethical roadmap par excellence for a world wrought by upheavals and confusion.
The news of the homegoing of Sir Frederick Catherwood at the age of 89 requires more than a mere obituary for an exemplary Christian. The man who has just left us was a model of Christian integrity and coherence in politics and in business. His death has done nothing to enhance the qualities of his character, because during his life he was such a giant of a man.
He exercised an outstanding ethical leadership during the second half of the 20th century in two areas where moral commitment is conspicuously absent: first in business and then in politics, a field in which he held the position of vice-president of the European Parliament for eight years. An untiring campaigner against corruption, his message, or his “discourse” as it would now be called, had a very clear leitmotif: Christian ethical principles can and must always underlie all political and business life. In his case, this “discourse” went far beyond mere words because it was embodied in his life.
Sir F. Catherwood has indeed been a “star shining brightly in the world” (Philippians 2:15) and his visibility has inspired a generation of believers, not only in the United Kingdom but also throughout Europe. He continuously encouraged young people to engage in political and social life, since he was convinced that the Word of God was the ethical roadmap par excellence for a world wrought by upheavals and confusion. He always vigorously proclaimed the absolute relevance of the Bible for today’s world, insisting in his public addresses that its message was neither outdated nor to be confined to the private sphere.
Furthermore, behind this prominent figure who rose to such height in his professional life there was a humble and very approachable man. Sir Fred was not only a public figure whose entire trajectory was beyond reproach, he was also an exemplary husband and father. He was married to Elisabeth Lloyd Jones, the daughter of the renowned Welsh preacher and writer Martyn Lloyd-Jones; his wife and three children were always a priority, even in the midst of his many duties and responsibilities. An essential feature of his character was his humility. Many anecdotes spring to mind in that regard, but one will suffice to illustrate this quality: on a certain occasion, just after we had shared a meal together in the home of Dr. Pedro Tarquis in Madrid, he got up to wash the dishes, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to do!
Besides his social engagement, Sir Fred Catherwood was involved with a number of evangelical organizations in Great Britain and Europe. For example, he was president of the British Evangelical Alliance and the U.C.C.F. among others. Together with his wife, they served as “house parents” in many I.F.E.S international student and graduate conferences. In this role one could easily appreciate their great pastoral heart. They loved students!
He wrote several books, including “The Christian in an Industrial Society” in which he spells out his thinking concerning Christian social ethics. His book “First Things First”, in which he discusses the theme of getting our priorities right, was also greatly appreciated.
I would like to conclude this brief summary with a word of personal testimony. I met Sir Fred while I was still an undergraduate. For a variety of reasons I had the opportunity to strike up a deep friendship with him and his family, a friendship that continues to this day. We have spent many hours together, and with profound gratitude I would like to say that Sir Fred Catherwood is one of the role models who has influenced me most because of his example of integrity and balanced commitment to society and to the Church.
He has gone to his heavenly home, but he has left a rich legacy behind: his work and, above all, his example.
Pablo Martínez is a Spanish author, international speaker and Psychiatrist.