Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Update on the Suspension of J.I. Packer

Commentary by Sue Careless

You know there must be something terribly wrong in the Anglican Church of Canada when one of its bishops threatens to suspend a world-renowned theologian whom Time magazine has called the 'doctrinal Solomon' of Christian thinkers.

The Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, has sent Dr. J.I. Packer a letter threatening suspension from ministry. The letter claims that the Oxford scholar “abandoned the exercise of ministry” after the church where he serves as honorary assistant, St John’s Shaughnessy, voted to separate from the diocese and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone under the oversight of Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables.

The Southern Cone is in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. In contrast about half the primates or leaders of the 38 provinces of the global Communion have declared themselves to be in “broken” or “impaired” communion with the Diocese of New Westminster after Bishop Ingham approved the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002 and was a consecrator of Bishop Gene Robinson, an actively gay man, in 2003. Currently eight parishes in the diocese are permitted by Ingham to bless same-sex unions and another two have recently requested permission.

Dr. Packer, 81, has been described as one of the most important evangelical theologians of the late 20th century and has served as general editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Dr. Packer is a prolific writer who has authored or coauthored over forty books, including the modern Christian classic Knowing God. Other titles include Rediscovering Holiness, A Grief Sanctified and recently Praying: Finding Our Way from Duty to Delight. Packer is a scholar who can make theology (teaching about God) accessible to the layperson.

Amazon.com describes Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs as offering “precise descriptions without sacrificing depth” and then adds: “Packer's philosophy is that theology is for doxology and devotion, and therefore he presents his material in a way that brings awareness of the divine presence.”

British-born Packer moved to Canada in 1979 and has taught and mentored dozens of priests across Britain and Canada. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bishop Ingham also sent letters threatening suspension to the Rev’d David Short, the rector of St. John’s, Shaughnessy, and the Rev’d Dan Gifford, the assistant minister. Dr. Packer worships and still occasionally preaches at St. John’s, which, with an average Sunday attendance of 760, was the largest Anglican congregation in the Anglican Church of Canada until Feb. 13 when it voted 475-11 to leave the national church. However, under the protection of the Southern Cone it is still part of the Anglican Communion.

In February a total of 15 churches—including the largest Chinese Anglican congregation in Canada—voted to separate from the Anglican Church of Canada.

Articles in TAP by J.I. Packer:

* Jan 2008: Anglicans Adrift: Who we are and where we stand: A theological perspective

* Nov 2005: The Other Quadralateral: What is Anglicanism? It has four main characteristics: It is catholic, canonical, creedal and comprehensive

Articles in TAP about J.I. Packer's writings:

* Packer provides hope for the modern soul

See the original article for links to the above articles: Update on the Suspension of J.I. Packer

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