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The Legacy of Dr. J.I. Packer

Bishop Charlie Masters’s (ANiC) personal reflections on the promotion to glory of the Reverend Canon Dr. J. I. Packer.

Last evening I became aware that yesterday morning, July 17, 2020, a godly, mighty, dear man of God, the Reverend Canon Dr. J. I. Packer (Jim) had died and has been promoted to glory.

I awoke this morning with a growing sense of personal loss and grief because one of my heroes, a man who truly had set his mind and heart in handling accurately and faithfully the Word (2 Timothy 2:15) had died. I also have found myself filled with a deep sense of gratitude to God for his life and ministry.

Already, by yesterday evening, the Christian world was beginning to post appropriate tributes to this great man. What is clear is that virtually every Biblical organization and many, many leaders of those groups legitimately lay claim to Dr. Packer as theirs because of the profound and massive ministry this humble man of God has offered so generously through his writing, teaching and speaking to so many now over many years.

For us in the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and the whole of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), we too claim him proudly as ours, as one of our clergy who took his place with joy as a part of St. John’s Vancouver and offered so much to us all.

In the providence of God, already a widely influential Christian writer, Jim Packer and his wife Kit and family moved from England to Vancouver, BC in 1979 to take a position at Regent College. They made Vancouver their home from then on.

Being an Anglican evangelical, he was drawn to what was then St John’s Shaughnessy and is now St John’s Vancouver, and has been a faithful Honorary Assistant ever since.

In 2002 at a famous diocesan synod within the Anglican Church of Canada(ACC) in Vancouver, when some 80 delegates found it necessary to walk from the synod because, with the assent of the Bishop, synod had taken a decision which put them in conflict to the clear teaching of the Bible and in conflict with Anglican teaching, Dr. Packer was one of who walked. Soon thereafter he wrote a very important article entitled “Why I Walked”. He, like the other clergy of what became known as the ACiNW, were soon disciplined by the diocese and suffered, though his only crime was faithfulness to the word of God.

Jim Packer+ loved the Anglican way and was an extremely kind and respectful member of our ANiC clergy. As the second Bishop of ANiC, I was always amazed and humbled by his incredible respect for the office of Bishop and his kind and appreciative support of me. I know he prayed for me and my family and was deeply touched once when he asked me how my daughter (and he knew her name) was doing, as she was going through illness at the time.

In April 2008 Archbishop Greg Venables, Primate of what was then the Southern Cone, visited us at a historic conference in Delta, BC. As of November 2007, Archbishop Venables had given coverage to Bishop Donald Harvey as Bishop and Moderator and those under him in ANiC. In a glorious service, which all of us who were there will never forget, Archbishop Venables presented a new license to each of the some thirty of us clergy, restoring us to right order and now under his godly care, all of us previously having relinquished our licenses to the ACC.

One of those thirty was Canon Jim Packer. Perhaps the greatest joy of that service was to see the radiant joy of Jim+ as he received his license from Archbishop Greg. So absolutely thrilled was he as he clutched that license, seemingly as the most precious thing and with no thought to where he was walking, he almost marched right off the stage and needed to be grabbed and redirected. 

That obvious joy spoke volumes for the rest of us to the importance and value of what was being accomplished in these days. Later that year, in ANiC’s first Diocesan Synod, one of the key speakers, our now Diocesan Bishop and Moderator Bishop Don, invited Dr. Packer to give a key address. I still return to that talk, as it sharpens our focus as truly a three-stream Diocese.

Another time we must list some of the most significant contributions Dr. Packer has made to the Christian world in general, but also specifically to our own ACNA. Suffice it to say, it is an incredible list, all to the glory of God.

For now I just want to mention that in February 2019, another of my heroes, Canon Michael Green died. At the time, again very sad, I realized that three men had had a huge impact on my life who I would consider heroes: John Stott, Michael Green and Jim Packer. By then two of the three were in heaven. 

What struck me was that now only one of the three was still with us on earth and incredibly this great man, in the purposes of God, was actually one of our ANiC clergy. 

I managed to find a copy of Alister McGrath’s great book “J.I. Packer: a Biography” (which covered the first seventy years of his amazing life). Having read that great book again, I made plans to get to Vancouver. It seemed to me this gracious faithful man had an understanding of what was needed to move forward in unity and in truly evangelical, charismatic and traditional Anglicanism.

Since then I was blessed to have a few personal visits with him to discuss these very things, one time with Canon David Short. Each time I came away tremendously encouraged and I believe he was too. And now in the death of Dr Packer (for in deep respect I will always think of him as Dr Packer), all three of my personal heroes are in heaven.

As I reflect today on the promotion to glory of the Reverend Canon Dr J.I. Packer (Jim), and consider his life, message, grace and call to catechesis and his kind challenge to me personally to stay the course, and his belief in the tremendous potential and strategic possibilities of ANiC and the ACNA, all these things continue to stir my heart for our Diocese and Province to go forward together and be faithful, as he was so obviously faithful right to the end, even as I grieve our dear friend’s passing.

I am also reminded of 2 Timothy 2:2: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.“ (ESV)

Though I myself am not exactly young, I find myself stirred even now to be faithful in the days I may have ahead as this dear man was faithful right to the end and to share with others who will share with others the incredible good news of the gospel our precious Lord Jesus.

The Rt. Rev. Charlie Masters
Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Network in Canada

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