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Diocese Threatens to Suspend J.I. Packer

Observers: It's not a surprise, but it's news.

Prominent theologian and Christianity Today senior editor J. I. Packer has made no secret of his break with the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of New Westminster. More than five years ago, he wrote a Christianity Today article explaining why he left the diocese.

The story has developed a bit since then. Earlier this month, his Vancouver church, the largest Anglican congregation in Canada, voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to join the Province of the Southern Cone, which is based in Argentina.

Now New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham has sent Packer and seven other clergy members a "notice of presumption of abandonment of the exercise of ministry." He says he wants them to declare "whether they have left the ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada, and if they are seeking admission into another religious body outside Canada."

Seems like Packer and the others have been awfully clear on that point.

The news that Ingham may suspend Packer is getting a lot of buzz in the Anglican blog world. As always on these Anglican news bits, see TitusOneNine and Stand Firm, though the lead on this story came from the Canadian site LambethConference.net.

Frankly, this story isn't terribly newsworthy in the traditional sense. It's predictable, and any suspension would be irrelevant. Packer will continue his ministry just as he has been doing since he left the diocese.

But as Nicholas Knisely notes on the left-leaning Episcopal Cafe (the official blog of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Washington, D.C.), Packer's name will give the story attention it might otherwise not have received.

[While] Packer's teaching and writing is not commonly encountered the Episcopal Church, it is widely known and respected by Evangelicals in the Anglican Communion. The possible suspension of Packer may create a bit of a problem for both the Archbishop of Canada and the Archbishop of Canterbury given the reaction that could be expected from many parts of the Communion.

It also has potential to make non-Anglican evangelicals worldwide more interested in the Anglican crisis. If you're one of those who has been skipping the coverage until now, start with Packer's story. More CT coverage is available here.

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