As reported on Michael Daley’s unofficial Lambeth Conference blog, the renowned Bible scholar and teacher Dr JI Packer, aged 81, yesterday
received a letter threatening suspension from ministry by the controversial Bishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham.
Two weeks ago, as I reported here, the Anglican church of which Packer is a member, St John’s Shaughnessy, decided to leave Bishop Ingham’s diocese and affiliate to the Province of the Southern Cone. Several other congregations have also voted to leave this and other dioceses of the “official” Anglican Church of Canada.
It is not clear what the bishop’s charge is against Packer. It has not been reported that he took any active part in the decision at St John’s, even that he was among the overwhelming 475 to 11 majority (9 abstentions) who voted to join the Southern Cone. In Packer’s only public comment on the issue that I know about, he did not, despite his strong criticisms, announce any intention to leave the Anglican Church of Canada.
It is also not clear what Ingham’s threats can actually mean in practice. Ingham cannot strip Packer of his priesthood. He can formally prohibit Packer from ministering in those churches remaining loyal to him – but then such a prohibition could hardly be enforced in the current climate, and most of these churches would not have invited Packer anyway.
So Ingham’s threat is in fact not much more than a gesture. But what kind of gesture is it? Not a polite one, I think. It seems that Bishop Ingham, in his zeal to purge his diocese of those who disagree with his theologically liberal agenda, which includes promotion of same-sex marriage, is not prepared even to show common courtesy to an Anglican elder statesman.
Meanwhile there have been so many developments in Anglican churches in Canada, congregations leaving their dioceses and diocesan authorities attempting to stop them, that Michael Daley has set up a special blog to keep track of them. The latest news just in is excellent for at least two of the parishes that have voted to join the Southern Cone: an Ontario judge has ruled that “the parishioners … shall have exclusive use of the buildings” at least until the next hearing on 20th March.