J. I. Packer’s Presentation at Anglican Network in Canada Launch Conference

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For what should we think of global Anglicanism today? It has often been said during the past few years that the Anglican Communion is like a torn net, due to denials by some of things that the rest believe to be integral to the gospel and affirmation, mainly by the same people, of behaviour that the rest believe the gospel absolutely rules out. In certain cases communion with a small “c” - that is, full and free welcome and interchange of clergy and communicants at the Lord’s Table - has been suspended. How, we ask, has this come about? In brief, it is the bitter fruit of liberal theology, which has become increasingly dominant in seminaries and among leaders in what we may call the Anglican Old West - that is, North America in the lead, with Britain and Australasia coming along behind.

This has been the story over the past two generations, since Anglo-Catholic leadership began to flag. Let me explain. Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each “in thing” is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss.

Well now; with liberal leaders thinking and teaching in these terms, a collision with conservatives - that is, with upholders of the historic biblical and Anglican faith - was bound to come. It came over gay unions, which liberals wish to bless as a form of holiness, a quasimarriage.

As part of its current agenda of affirming minority rights (that is the “in thing” these days), western culture has for the past generation accepted gay partnerships as a feature of normal life. Despite the pronouncement of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in favour of the old paths, New Westminster diocese began in 2002 to bless gay couples, and others followed suit.

The Windsor Report called for a moratorium on this, which was not forthcoming. The St. Michael’s report said that the issue, though theological, was not against Anglican core doctrine so was not a matter over which to divide the church. On a side wind and by a stopgap motion, the General Synod of 2004 declared gay unions to be marked by “integrity and sanctity”. The 2007 General Synod affirmed the St. Michael’s position. So here we are now, the Anglican Network in Canada, accepting the invitation to realign in order to uphold historic Anglican standards, not only regarding gay unions but across the board, as those standards were formulated in our church’s foundation documents and reformulated in the Montreal Declaration of 1994.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of CanadaSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings

Posted November 26, 2007 at 8:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. drjoan wrote:

This is Packer at his best.
I asked this over at Stand Firm and I repeat it here: Where is Packer going to church these days?  Does anyone know?
Right around GC03 he wrote a piece called something like “Why I Walked.” talking about leaving the Anglican Church of Canada.

November 26, 10:13 pm | [comment link]
2. Toral1 wrote:


Short strokes: he walked out of the synod of New Westminster (and thereby the ACC) after Bishop Ingham approved the SSBs there.  The congregations that left formed a small group (Anglican Communion in Canada). These congregations formed a small breakaway group.  They are now being accepted into the ANiC (2 were among the first 2 congregations accepted into the ANiC; I believe there are another 1 or 2 yet to be formally accepted, and I am not sure which of the 3 or 4 Dr Packer attends.

As for his classic article “Why I Left”: it was published in Christianity Today and is accessible at at online site which has a huge collection of Packer’s articles online.  I will try and find it for you.

November 26, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
3. comoxpastor wrote:

As was posted at SF, Dr Packer is a member of St John’s (Shaughnessy) and was a delegate to the Network conference from St John’s. “Why I Walked” was a reference to the diocesan synod where a number of parishes left the synod after a SSB vote. St John’s has remained in the diocese of New Westminster, although in impaired communion with Bp Ingham. As posted at SF, I believe they have recently changed their constitution to provide that authority to their trustees for leaving the diocese, but have not yet acted.

November 26, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
4. comoxpastor wrote:

I see I was beaten to the response :(

November 26, 10:30 pm | [comment link]
5. Toral1 wrote:

I remembered—I found it through—Wikipedia!

Huge site: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/jipacker.html

Packer: “Why I Walked” :http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?344

It is interesting to note that this article was preserved by the Banner of Truth organization, which historically has taken the position of Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the dispute, over 40 years ago, to which Packer refers in his article. I cannot but wonder whether Dr Packer now wonders whether Lloyd-Jones was right—in which case evangelicals would have left mainstream liberal churches more than 40 years ago.

November 26, 10:36 pm | [comment link]
6. Toral1 wrote:

I was in error about Dr Packer’s place of worship still being in ACC technically, for which I apologize.

November 26, 10:59 pm | [comment link]
7. John Wilkins wrote:

Needs to read Girard. 

There are plenty of clergy who are like he describes.  Generally, responsible Anglicans are going the direction of James Alison, Mark Heim and Catholics like Marion.  A few smart ones read David Bentley Hart.

November 27, 2:21 am | [comment link]
8. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Dr. Packer gets a lot  of respect from us Reformed types.

November 27, 2:50 am | [comment link]
9. carl wrote:

Needs to read Girard. 

Mr Wilkins

I take it you mean by this comment that J.I. Packer should learn from Girard.  I doubt he would agree.  But your comment perfectly illustrates the divide, and the impossibility of bridging it.  We can’t even agree on the definition of a Christian.  For there is not a Christian alive by my definition who would consider Girard’s treatment of the Atonement as anything other than an obliteration of the Gospel.  Indeed, to believe what Girard teaches is to deny the Faith.

I am curious, though.  What is a “responsible Anglican,” and by what authority is he judged responsible?


November 27, 3:01 am | [comment link]
10. Jim the Puritan wrote:

#5 Going to the Monergism.com website, I see how much Packer has written on John Owen.  I have been reading Owen’s Apostasy from the Gospel (1676) and have been amazed at how something written more than 300 years ago so accurately portrays the present state of the mainline denominations.  It could have been written yesterday.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a detailed theological analysis of apostasy.  This version is quite readable: 


November 27, 4:52 am | [comment link]
11. Toral1 wrote:

In the course of doing some research, actually googling, I found the following rather interesting note on the relationship between Packer and LLoyd-Jones. I hope the elves do not consider this as going off-topic: http://blog.9marks.org/2007/07/whered-all-thes.html

November 27, 10:54 am | [comment link]
12. Toral1 wrote:

And even onemore short summary, “Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1966 and all that”: http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2005/12/martyn-lloyd-jones-1966-and-all-that.html

November 27, 11:15 am | [comment link]
13. John Wilkins wrote:

Well, Carl, Fr. Richard Neuhaus would disagree.  Did we read the same Girard?  I’m glad we aren’t going by “your definition.”  Nor would I assume you think that your definition is God’s definition.

November 27, 6:58 pm | [comment link]
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