The news that Dr Jim Packer has been served with a ‘notice of presumption of Abandonment of the Exercise of Ministry’ by the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada is a significant moment for ‘ordinary’ evangelicals in the Church of England.
For decades we have pursued our traditionally pragmatic, if somewhat intellectually deficient, ecclesiology that the CofE is ‘as good a boat to fish from as any’. Even with the turmoil engulfing the Anglican Communion, many evangelicals have focussed on getting on with the job. For better or worse, our (Anglican) priorities have been local rather than national. They have certainly not been international.
The suspension of Jim Packer’s licence to minister suddenly brings it all very close to home. The name of Jim Packer has an iconic resonance across vast swathes of English evangelicalism. If Jim Packer is being suspended from the Anglican Church in Canada today, then who knows what will happen here tomorrow?
This is not a time for knee-jerk reactions. There are notable differences between the situation in Canada and here, not least in terms of Church structures and polity. But it is a significant moment, nonetheless. These issues are not going to go away. We may feel deeply reluctant - but it is time to get our heads above the parapet.
Professor Glynn Harrison is Professor of Mental Health at the University of Bristol, Church Warden of Christ Church, Clifton Bristol, a member of General Synod, and of the Crown Nominations Commission.
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Saturday, 8 March 2008