The founder of the Langham Partnership Scholarship programme was John Stott, who, along with Billy Graham, was one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century.
John Stott was never a bishop, and never led a major Christian agency, yet by his teaching, his writings, his example, and his personal interest he was able to inspire the training of a generation of gifted Christian leaders across the Majority World. After he stepped back from the full-time ministry of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in 1970 his growing international ministry took him to all the continents. There he saw the acute need for further training for gifted leaders.
As he travelled, a number of Majority World Christian leaders began to approach John Stott for help in finding funding to assist them with their further training. Sources of support for evangelical Christian leaders to undertake higher level study, especially at doctoral level, were almost non-existent. With the help of friends John Stott began to raise support for them to undertake further training to doctoral level. In an interview he emphasised, ‘Our main concern is to raise the standard of discipleship by raising the standard of preaching’. The Langham Trust was founded in 1969, initially to help support this increasingly global ministry and projects connected with the Majority World (Two-Thirds World). A special bursary fund was established in 1974 to assist scholars from the Majority World in undertaking further studies in the UK, to enhance their training for the work of theological education in their own countries. The first scholar to be supported by the Langham Trust was Vinay Samuel, who went on to found the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. The first scholar supported to doctoral level was Michael Nazir Ali from Pakistan, who completed studies at Cambridge in 1976, and returned to serve in Pakistan for ten years as a theological education, priest and then bishop. He was later be become bishop of Rochester in England. Another early scholar was John Chew, who is now archbishop of the Anglican Church in South East Asia.
As the Langham Scholarship programme developed, John Stott took a close personal interest in each of the scholars, and the personal meeting he held with each one every year was a highlight of their academic journey.
Since its beginning, 266 Christian leaders have been supported in their training to doctoral level through the Langham scholarship programme, and each year more graduate. The scholars programme seeks to invest closely in their training, providing not only help with tuition fees and study expenses, but also providing personal pastoral support, study skills, and leadership mentoring. This is done through the work of the International Programme Director, and the Associate International Programme Director, and local scholar-care co-ordinators who support the scholars in the regions where they study.
In the early years of the programme, scholars studied in the UK, but over time some were also accepted for study at evangelical seminaries in the USA. As Langham scholars have returned home at the end of their programmes, Bible and Theological colleges have become stronger, and have begun to offer their own PhD programmes. In 2005 the first scholars were accepted for study on PhD programmes in the Majority World, and now 36% of all scholars study on these programmes.
Langham also takes seriously its responsibility for the ongoing care and professional development of its scholars who are faithfully serving in the Majority World. In 2010 the first Postdoctoral Fellowship scholarship was offered, and this has become a regular part of the programme. Recipients of Langham Postdoctoral Fellowships spend up the 4 months in a partner theological college in the West, time for study, writing, and refreshing professional skills. In 2010 a Habilitation Scholarship was also given for the first time to a Langham Scholar to enable him to gain habilitated status in Hungary, the sign of formal professional acceptance within the wider academic community in Eastern Europe.