Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Post-GAFCON at All Souls, 4: Interview with Revd Dr Jim Packer

Summary notes by John Richardson

[Missed the first few minutes, but a very frail looking, but strong sounding, Jim Packer has been speaking about how Michael Ingham pushed through the agenda on gay blessings in New Westminster, leading to a walk-out of a number of clergy from his diocese.]

JP: After 6 years, news came through that the Archbishop of the Southern Cone was prepared to offer provision for them. Revd David Short called the whole of JP’s church together, and 97% was for leaving New Westminster and accepting jurisdictional hospitality from Greg Venables.

Michael Ingham declared that ministries of leaving clergy had been terminated and their property — built by public subscription and maintained by the congregation — belonged to the Diocese (who had never til then put a penny into it).

Interviewer: Why couldn’t this be a ‘live and let live’ situation?

JP: The gospel calls us to turn away from certain sins. In 1 Corinthians 6 there is a specific description of male homosexual practice in a ‘vice list’. New Westminster is negating the truth about repentance.

The diocese have not allowed any discussion of from any standpoint but the one they approved. ‘Discussion’ was not really open and the hope of calling the diocese to repentance was frustrated.

Interviewer: People who moved out of the diocese were described as schismatic — what about that?

JP: Schism means division, but there are proper and improper divisions. If the gospel is at stake there must be division. Separation took place at the Reformation — was that ‘schism’? I would deny this. Unnecessary separation may properly be called ‘schism’, but in the case of a division like New Westminster this is a necessary split and only the person who caused the split can be described as schismatic, ie the bishop who brought in the blessing of gay unions. I don’t like saying this, but I have to.

Interviewer: What about other churches and clergy who call themselves orthodox and yet remain in the ACC?

JP: I respect my brothers, when they seek honestly before the Lord to find what the Holy Spirit would have them do. We were put in a situation comparable to the Puritan clergy in 1662, being required to renounce the principle of ever rebelling against the king, therefore retrospectively condemning Parliament in the Civil War and also requiring episcopal ordination for those who hadn’t been so ordained in the previous 17 years. Those who came after were not put on the spot in the same way.

The issue has not come to a head for other dioceses in Canada in the same way as it did in New Westminster, so people can make different choices. It is important we respect people who don’t immediately see eye to eye with us.

Interviewer: How can we now understand the Anglican Communion?

JP: The AC has grown out of the Church of England and its missionary endeavours, and in the constitution of most Anglican churches there is some reference to the Church of England and its standards. You define the Anglican communion in terms of agreement with the constitution and with deferment to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This has been called into question because the Archbishop has been ambiguous in relation to the presenting issue: whether gay behaviour is a mode of holiness or, as the Bible regards it, as sin.

There is an upheaval when you have a diocese or province with an heretical leader. The Bishop of New Westminster is an heretical leader. When you have that the case is entirely altered from what the Anglican constitution and history envisages. At the time of the Reformation it was taken for granted that Anglican bishops would be efficient administrators and also spiritual leaders in the full and basic sense — pioneers in evangelism and pastoral ministry, in maintaining Christian standards, and in enabling congregations to stand on their own two feet.

An heretical bishop presents a different situation. Where there is heretical leadership you cannot, as a matter of principle, rule out para-dioceses with parallel jurisdictions.

But how can it be stopped? In the churches of the old west, the method of appointing bishops means you’re going to have Liberal bishops elected. There will be heresy, so what are you to do? Parallel jurisdiction is the only alternative. Otherwise the diocese is powerless under a Liberal bishop. You cannot really reform from within in such a situation.

Interviewer: Isn’t Greg Venables fragmenting the Communion?

JP: No. Those who say he is treat something in Anglicanism — geographical territorial jurisdiction — as inviolable. GV has breached that position. There is practical heresy going on. This is spreading in the West, and the question will be brought back and back and back to Synods. This is a strategy. So we are not disrupting the Anglican Communion, we are keeping it together, by ensuring that people in it are kept in fellowship with a biblically based version of biblical Christianity. You make it possible for the faithful to stay together.

Without it, those in heretical dioceses would be cut off from full communion with the orthodox part of the Anglican Communion. Parallel jurisdiction and realignment is the only way to keep the Anglican Communion together.

Interviewer: You were criticised when here for staying in a pluralist denomination. What is different now?

JP: The difference is that in those days the discussions by heretics were purely notional. You could disclaim the errors of the errorists and seek to persuade people to turn their back on them. The 39 Articles remained as the standard of Anglican orthodoxy and one could appeal to the constitution of the Church with a clear conscience. Guilt by association didn’t apply. But this is different from what prevailed in New Westminster and what has happened in TEC. Both have passed motions saying there is holiness in gay partnerships — this was not happening in England.

Interviewer: The you were asked what you would say if you had 10 minutes with the ABC. What would you say in 2 minutes to us?

JP: Keep the faith, resist Liberalism, do not act the ostrich, hiding your head in the sand.

Interviewer: What would be your wisdom about carrying on the GAFCON process in England?

JP: At the heart of the Statement is the Jerusalem Declaration. I would like to see PCCs and, where possible, Diocesan Synod, or even central bodies, committing themselves to this as their own guiding star. I would like to see the Primates who were leaders at GAFCON meeting in a public way in January 2009, casting the Jerusalem Statement into the form of a covenantal commitment, publicly subscribing to it on the part of their provinces, and also seeing diocesans subscribe to it. I would like to see it presented to new bishops appointed in the Church of England to subscribe to it, and I would like to see it established as a basis for orthodoxy and missionary action.

The goal of the Covenant Process begun in the Windsor Report would thus be achieved in essence. Anglican provinces who didn’t come along with this would be in the outer circle of limited communion for not identifying with Anglican orthodoxy.

This would be a first step in getting Anglicanism back into proper shape.

Interviewer: Thank you for letting us look into your ‘crystal ball’.

(A standing ovation was given to Dr Packer, who also stood to acknowledge it.)

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