Packer Leaves Anglican Church of Canada: Thoughts on Truth, Sin, & Grace


Here’s an interesting story concerning JI Packer’s membership in the Anglican Church of Canada. Says the story:

Packer, 81, who was named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in the world by Time magazine in 2005, quit the Canadian arm of the global Anglican Communion with 10 other B.C. Anglican clergy last week, he said, according to The Vancouver Sun. They joined the more conservative and orthodox Province of the Southern Cone in South America.

The Oxford-trained theologian said he can no longer serve under Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham, arguing that he “appears heretical.” Ingham had sanctioned in 2002 same-sex blessings in the British Columbia diocese of New Westminster, sparking international uproar.

The story goes on:

“This is about the fundamental question of how we derive any kind of Christian truth,” he said, according to The Canadian Press.

Packer, who has outlined a conservative Christian theology in his 1973 bestseller Knowing God, described the Bible as “absolute” authority on divine truth and that it clearly describes homosexuality as a grave sin, as reported by The Vancouver Sun.

The Rev. Kevin Dixon, priest at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Kerrisdale, meanwhile believes Packer is adopting a “literalistic” reading of the Bible.

“It’s important for people to understand that the holy scriptures is a very nuanced document. I think we need to allow people room to come to a new understanding,” said Dixon, the local newspaper reported.

“I have not always held the view that same-sex relationships are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but now I do.”

I am currently writing a post in my 90 Days with Jesus series from Colossians that deals with this issue of how we derive truth from the Scripture. I wonder if Scripture agrees with Mr Dixon that the ‘holy Scriptures is a very nuanced document’? If the document is so nuanced, then how can any of us come to salvation and a knowledge of truth? (See 1 Timothy 2:4) Furthermore, if it is so nuanced, then how can any one or any two or any three (etc.) interpretations be correct? If there is no such thing as observable truth in the Bible, then we might as well say that anything goes. Right?

This is a matter of how we come to the truth. I agree 100%. Where I disagree is that the Scripture is so nuanced that we can’t make heads or tails of it as if it speaks of no truth or that it is thoroughly vague at most points. The Scripture, by its own testimony, is a revelation which means that it is an unveiling, not a darkening, of the truth. And truth cannot be both truth and lie. That is, this issue of homosexuality (or any sin for that matter) in the church is not quite as vague as some would lead us to believe. This issue is not whether or not it is a sin; clearly the Scripture declares it to be so. The issue is how much homosexuality in the church is too much homosexuality in the church: where is or should the line be drawn? Where is grace being taken advantage of?

This is an issue of grace. Packer would not deny God’s grace, but neither would he say it is a license to sin. So, I’ll open up the can of worms. Where should the line be drawn when it comes to sin in the church? Where does grace give way? How do we derive truth? How vague is the Word of God on this issue? I’ll appreciate any thoughts you may have to offer.


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