Comments: Canada: an update

Does Canadian jurisprudence really want to argue that hierarchical churches and religious organizations have no binding authority over their individual congregations and properties? I can think of a few examples in addition to the Anglican Church of Canada, including the Roman Catholic Church, that might not find this helpful - or truthful. Does the Canadian state really want to require congregational polity by law? Can it?

Posted by christopher+ at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 5:14pm GMT

I really liked this one, "Rev. James Packer, a leading conservative Anglican theologian, says the principle of episcopal loyalty is generally sound, but tends to fall apart when congregations find themselves at odds with their local bishop.

" In both Vancouver and Niagara, where the majority of congregations that have left the national church are located, a handful of parishes that are among the most conservative in the country find themselves headed by very liberal local bishops, he says

In such a situation, Packer says, the strict geographic definition of Anglicanism doesn't work, and may have outlived its usefulness."

Funny how the faith once delivered to the saints has outlived it usefulness. I guess the saints are only useful when they agree with what Packer thinks is useful.

Peace, Bob

Posted by BobinSwPA at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 5:17pm GMT

The Toronto Star makes reference to this point "Ignatius's emphasis on loyalty to the local bishop as a defining characteristic of church membership is as important today as it was in the 2nd Century."

Some of the recent fracas are to do with the conservatives subscribing to this belief when they no longer control the agenda.

The recent escapades of the purportedly Lambeth letter could be an example of an attempt to discredit Lambeth. Just as the Sharia discussion was blown out of context in an attempt to discredit Rowan.

The liberals have made a point of ackonwledging the courteousness of Lambeth and Rowan (although some of us ponder what they do in their non-public dealings).

There are those who demand that heathen, women and the unclean must submit to the appropriate authorities. When they are no longer the appropriate authority, they commence on a slander campaign to justify why they will not submit to the same authority figures with which they tried to cudgel others. They are now trying to demonstrate why their cudgel is cleaner than others, so they are the ones to who the heathen and unclean should submit.

All of this is about being the "chosen" priestly caste who bullies the rest of the planet.

There are souls who pray for the persecuted churches, as they should. But they should also pray about the persecuting churches. Both need healing and all souls should live in peace.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 7:17pm GMT

I hope this legal decision can be appealed.

Failing that (and contra Bishop "we have to respect and abide by it" Bird), I hope that faithful Canadian Anglicans will consider *nonviolent civil disobedience*.

To the extent that the schismatic congregations have expelled the GOSPEL faith of the AngChCanada, they have expelled Christ.

In the Spirit of the Liberating Gospel, therefore, I urge Canadian Anglicans to resist "the principalities and powers", and (nonviolently!) retake Christ's church. [Always remembering that the schismatics they resist, are infinitely beloved in God's eyes. Jesus, give us hearts like Yours!]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 7:55pm GMT

It's all relative. These dissidents also claim that they are preserving traditional Anglicanism against innovations. Yet St. Hilda's, Oakville is a charismatic congregation whose web site advertises contemporary forms of worship and "Prayer and Praise" services St. Alban's, Ottawa, claims to be a Prayer Book parish (worshiping the 1962 BCP), but according to their web site (they list Gospel readings and sermon topic for each Sunday), they follow the BCP lectionary only when it's convenient, about half the time, and the rest of the time the readings seem to be chosen at the whim of the preacher.

Despite their claims to purity, they pick and choose like everyone else.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 8:31pm GMT

BobinSwPA commenting on Jim Packer's statement that ".. the strict geographic definition of Anglicanism doesn't work" says "Funny how the faith once delivered to the saints has outlived it usefulness. I guess the saints are only useful when they agree with what Packer thinks is useful."

Bob, "the faith once delivered to the saints" is a quote from the New Testament (Epistle of Jude to be precise): "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."

The "faith" is that revealed through Jesus Christ and the issue in Jude is godless men pretending to be Christian leaders and teachers and leading people astray. Nothing to do with Episcopal organisation (which was fluid, to say the least, 'til well after the New Testament was written) but very pertinent!!

Posted by david wh at Monday, 3 March 2008 at 11:59pm GMT

My wife the lawyer advises that the ruling in favour of the schismatics is purely a temporary thing - and probably as much a function of the fact that they made the initial application to the court as any perceived merit to their case.

The interim order does not limit how the court will rule in the substantive case in a couple of weeks.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 12:14am GMT

In Canada, the legal situation varies from province to province. And in both Ontario and British Columbia is relatively clear.

I have it on good authority that the Act of the BC legislature under which the dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada exist in that province explicitly states that buildings and property belong to the diocese as a part of the ACC.

And in Ontario, a declaratory Act of the provincial parliament explicitly says the same thing. Why the court ruled as it did last week is not clear, though the ruling only applies to the two-three week period until the parties return to court to argue the substantive case.

The only parish in this diocese (Ottawa) to vote to leave is not actually taking any further steps to do so at the moment. But it voted knowing that the likelihood was that it would not take its building with it. In this particular case, the oft-heard comment about "we paid for the building" or something similar is clearly not accurate -- the building predates confederation (1867) by some distance, and those who paid for the extensive refurbishing 10-15 years ago have largely left the parish to get away from the current rector.

Posted by John Holding at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 3:11am GMT


I confess to being really amused when one of the early breakaways in the US declared themselves.

They laud about speaking in tongues and hands on healing.


Except in my local diocese I was told that any kind of "miracles" were proof that one was a fraudster or from the "evil one".

I just love how their camp can have all the "gifts of spirit" but our camp it is proof of our "evilness".

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 8:28am GMT

As a non-Anglican who read Packer's "Knowing God" in college, the part of the story that interests me most is Bishop Ingham's suspension/defrocking? of Dr. Packer,depending on which website one's reading. Can a Canadian bishop defrock a British priest? Or is he just removing his license to practice in British Columbia? Perhaps some of the Church of England members here could enlighten me. Not being familiar with the formalities of canonical language, what does "to have abandoned the exercise of ministry” mean? Which is it?

Sounds about like the Baptists calling Billy Graham a non-Christian because he attended his wife's non-Baptist church.

Posted by Chris H. at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 5:52pm GMT

Packer "abandoned the exercise of ministry" when he decided to disaffiliate from the Anglican Church of Canada and affliate with the Southern Cone. That's because all clergy can only function within the framework of a diocese and a bishop's authority -- and as he has repudiated the authority of his former bishop, that's fairly good evidence that he has abandoned the exercise of ministry to which he was licensed by the Bishop of New Westminster.

No priest has an absolute right to exercise ministry anywheres/he chooses: a priest must be licensed by a bishop.

I wasn't aware that he had been ordained in the C of E, but it doesn't matter where he was ordained. His status in Canada is regulated by the Anglican CHurch of Canada. So when Ingham suspended or lifted his licnese -- an act which must have been of no importance to Packer since he had already repudiated Inghan's authority -- this was simply the logical result of Packer's own actions.

As for a report that Ingham defrocked Packer, if that's what it actually said, that's most likely an error of the reporter's. There's a long legal process required before a priest can be defrocker -- permanently deprived of the right to exercise his/her orders anywhere in the Anglican communion -- and that certainly hasn't happened.

Singlehanded, a bishop can suspend or lift a license - though I would expect there are appeal processes which can be invoked: again, as Packer has repudiated the Anglican CHurch of Canada under which those processes exist, I would not expect him to use them. But a bishop cannot defrock a priest without due process beforehand.

Posted by John Holding at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 10:41pm GMT

Chris H.

"Can a Canadian bishop defrock a British priest?" An excellent question, with a complex answer.

Clergy are all subject to some jurisdiction or other in the Anglican system. A priest is ordained by a bishop and then is licensed by and subject to that jurisdiction. But the same priest may apply to be traneferred to another jurisdiction and put under the authority of the bishop in the new locale. I assume for the sake of argument that Packer did just that when he moved to Vancouver. Thus, whatever his origins and civil citizenship (which I do not know) he is for all intents and purposes no longer a British priest; he is now a Canadian priest under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of New Westminster.

So, yes, the Canadian bishop can indeed defrock him, assuming that he has in fact transferred to that jurisdiction.

To flesh out the situation a bit, however, I should point out that he has not been defrocked. He has been suspended and sent notice of presumption of abandonment of ministry. There is a process, under which Mr Packer has certain rights, to determine whether the bishop's presumption is in fact correct. If so, then Mr Packer will be laicized. But that process must be respected and allowed to work.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 10:47pm GMT

Nom de plume and others,
Thank you for answering my very ignorant questions. If you would kindly spare me a bit more patience:

So if Packer's license is revoked in B.C. he would/could still be a priest in other parts of the communion if another bishop gave him a license. Would he still be considered a priest if he didn't get another license? He's in his 80's, maybe he wouldn't bother.

Thanks again for the info.

Posted by Chris H. at Wednesday, 5 March 2008 at 12:42am GMT

It should be noted that Bishop Ingham has not "defrocked" James Packer or any of the other priests invloved in the parishes that voted to "leave" the Anglican Church.

What he did do was ask them whether they had "abandoned" their ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, and gave them 2 months to respond (as stipulated in the Canons of the Anglican Church of Canada).

As these clerics had declared their loyalty to a Bishop of a different Province this is an entirely reasonable request for clarification. One cannot have a license from two separate Bishops at the same time. So if you have accepted another Bishop then logically you must have abonadoned your current license?

Posted by Charles Nurse at Wednesday, 5 March 2008 at 3:48am GMT

"So if Packer's license is revoked in B.C. he would/could still be a priest in other parts of the communion if another bishop gave him a license. Would he still be considered a priest if he didn't get another license?"

I think there is some confusion here about licenses versus status as a priest. (I should also say thanks to Charles Nurse for his clarification.)

A priest is a priest because of his or her valid ordination. In catholic theology, the implications of which are accepted in the Anglican Church, ordination effects an ontological change in the ordained. He or she becomes a priest forever. In order to exercise the spiritual authority of word and sacrament the priest needs to be licensed by the bishop of the diocese in which the priest is to minister. (A visting cleric from another diocese may be given permission on a temporary basis by the local bishop to function.)

Under Canon XVII of the Anglican Church of Canada no priest may function without either a license or temporary permission.

A priest's license may be suspended by the bishop pursuant to Canon XVII, or the priest may be subject to either temporary or permanent loss of a license as the result of a disciplinary action under Canon XVIII, but this would be subject to due process including a trial, with rights to presumption of innocence and appeal.

Under Canon XIX, however, a priest may voluntarily relinquish the exercise of ministry, which involves the relinquishment of the right to exercise all spiritual authority as a minister of word and sacrament. (I am quoting the provision from memory, so please don't take it as an exact quote.) Also under the same canon, a bishop may give notice to a priest (or deacon or bishop, of course) under the bishop's jurisdiction that the priest is presumed to have abandoned the ministry. There is a time frame (Charles Nurse mentions 2 months) in which the priest may respond, but if after that period it has not been determined that the priest has not abandoned the ministry, then he or she is treated as though he or she had voluntarily relinquished the exercise of ministry.

The consequences of this are that any license held by the priest is null and void, and the priest is not licensable anywhere unless he or she is restored to ministry _in the same jurisdiction_. This is the equivalent of the RC procedure of laicization. In essence, then, the priest though a priest ontologically becomes a lay person for any and all practical and juridical purposes.

In my view, given that ordination has effect throughout the Anglican Communion (except for women whose orders are not recognized by Provinces that don't ordain women) the relinquishment of ministry logically also has effect throughout the communion. It is not the giving up of a license; it is the giving up of the right to exercise any and all spiritual authority. Obviously the Primate of the Southern Cone disagrees with me on this point.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Wednesday, 5 March 2008 at 5:29pm GMT

Is there any concern in the Anglican Church of Canada about having their (probably) most famous theologian delicensed by Bishop Ingram?

In most places that would at least raise eyebrows, if not serious questions about who holds to the correct theology, but has it in Canada?

Posted by Margaret at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 1:11am GMT

Isn't the word 'infamous'?

What was a fundamentalist like Packer doing within Anglicanism in the first place may be a better question to ask

Canada are well rid of him

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 11:59am GMT

As someone who has a special interest in Canadian theologians, I would challenge your assumption that J.I. Packer is the 'most famous' among Anglicans. Fame depends on which wider ecclesial circles one moves in. Among Packer's contemporaries, Gregory Baum (RC) and Douglas Hall (UCC), admittedly not Anglicans, are widely-read among Anglicans. Both have had careers teaching Anglican seminarians (among others). Sallie McFague, a self-identified Anglican, is quite popular too. If, in order to be famous, a theologian must advance a theologia gloriæ, then not being famous is perhaps a more reliable criterion of what it is to be faithful to the gospel (evangelical). The problem with evangelical theology in Canadian Anglicanism is that, faced with the current issue, it has lost its heart and morphed into a loveless bibliolatry that passes itself off as 'orthodox.'

Posted by Fils de Simon at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 2:08pm GMT

"Is there any concern in the Anglican Church of Canada about having their (probably) most famous theologian delicensed by Bishop Ingram?" - Margaret

But you see Margaret, Packer is almost totally unknown in Anglican circles in Canada outside the conservative evangelical stream. And in Canada. that stream is small indeed. Certainly less than 1 per cent of active Anglicans.

In theological colleges, he may be better known, of course.

As to whether there are any Canadian Anglican theologians with any public profile at all, at least in Canada -- I suspect the answer is no.

Posted by John Holding at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 4:02pm GMT

"Correct theology", Margaret?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 4:03pm GMT

With regard to the Reverend Packer, Margaret wrote: "Is there any concern in the Anglican Church of Canada about having their (probably) most famous theologian delicensed by Bishop Ingram?"

Good grief. That has about as much validity as being concerned about a "famous" (infamous to the respective majorities) Anglo-Catholic who had been dwelling with the Southern Baptists, or a Pentecostal who had been dwelling with the ECLA Lutherans.

Sorry, Margaret, the respective religious beliefs are personally valid, but would not be in their proper places if intellectual and spiritual honesty and respect prevailed.

Neither Packer with the ACC, nor the hypothetical Anglo-Catholic with the Southern Baptists, nor the hypothetical Pentecostal with the ECLA Lutherans, would be in the right place.

Each has plenty of opportunities and alternative faith communities in which to nurture his or her religious beliefs and practices, without trying to make over, or take over, the religious communities in which they would be erroneously residing.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Thursday, 6 March 2008 at 5:01pm GMT

Tangentially and regarding the “Anglo-Catholic … dwelling with the Southern Baptists”

Well, there is a case of a pop theologian and Anglo-catholic ‘dwelling’ amongst the Southern Baptists: namely, C.S. Lewis. Lewis and his brother Warnie visited Anglican confessionals on occasion and were certainly high church.

Of course, this has nothing to do with anything other than strange bedfellows are everywhere.

As for Packer, I first heard of him through a Pentecostal friend. I knew he was a professor at Regent College. I was completely surprised that he was both an Anglican and a parishioner at St. John's Shaughnessy Church. (I’m an Anglican in the Diocese of New Westminster.)

As for revoking the license of those priests who abandon the ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada, then recovering church and parish property and then re-establishing those parishes, Bishop Michael Ingham has – unfortunately – experience. It is a case of “Been there, done that.

In 2002, several parishes protested the diocesan synod’s decision on same-sex blessings.

In March 2004, two parishes took the next step when two rectors resigned from the Anglican Church of Canada with the support of a number in their congregations.

A year later, in March 2005, the diocese gave notice to the former diocesan rectors of the parishes of St. Andrew's, Pender Harbour, and St. Simon's, Deep Cove in North Vancouver, that by April 1, it wanted its church buildings back. The former rectors and their supporters did leave and set up alternate worship space (aka a school gymnasium in the case of St Simon’s which is the situation as of today).

On 5 June 2005, the Anglican Church of Canada re-established the parishes in the old buildings. St Simon’s had to be re-named to avoid confusion with the extra-mural congregation. It occupies the old church building and is now called St. Clare-in-the-Cove, North Vancouver. St Clare’s is doing OK as is the re-established St Andrew’s.

Now, in 2008, four more parishes of those 2002 dissidents voted themselves out of the Anglican Church of Canada. I expect that the same process and outcome will be seen.

Posted by David A. at Friday, 7 March 2008 at 3:34am GMT

Personally, I would hazard to guess that the most famous living theologian of the Anglican Church of Canada is +Victoria Matthews.

Posted by Mlcolm+ at Friday, 7 March 2008 at 11:46pm GMT

'Personally I would hazard to guess that the most famous living theologian in the Anglican Church of Canada is +Victoria Matthews.'
--Malcolm +

Dieu, viens à notre aide.

Posted by Fils de Simon at Saturday, 8 March 2008 at 1:28pm GMT
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