An Important Read: J. I. Packer's Response to the St. Michael Report

The first limitation is an inadequate concept of what in the past has been called heresy (a word not used here), that is, a denial of core doctrine that breaks the church’s prior unity in faith. The Report equates core doctrine with what is affirmed in Anglican foundation documents and argues that blessing same-sex unions, whatever else it is, is not a violation of core doctrine, but is an adiaphoron, a secondary matter, which does not warrant any breach of church communion. But the reasoning on which this conclusion is based is not the whole story, though it is indeed part of it. However, a sounder, profounder concept of what in the past has been called heresy is: any belief or practice that negates any part of the New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ, understood as the divinely revealed truth that shows our sinful race the way of salvation from sin and sin’s consequences. This concept covers not only doctrines of the Creeds and Anglican foundation documents, but also the practice of faith in Christ, repentance, obedience, life in the Spirit, and personal holiness, according to the Scriptures.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 lists behavioral habits that, if not repented of and forsaken, keep people out of God’s kingdom, and male homosexuality is explicitly included in the list (vss. 9-11). Paul goes on to celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit sanctifying persons at Corinth who had previously lived in the ways he has mentioned. It seems undeniable that he would have viewed blessing same-sex unions as sanctifying sin, and thus as a denial of an essential ingredient in the gospel, namely repentance of all one’s sins and forsaking of them. And the gospel as such is surely the church’s core doctrine.

The gravity of the homosexual lifestyle as Paul views it warrants the description of it when found in the church as practical heresy; which raises the question, whether the suspending of full communion pro tem is not warranted and indeed needed as a disciplinary measure, aimed at bringing offenders to repentance. The Report fails to face this issue of conscience and wisdom, which arises from straightforward biblical exegesis and for some is very real and pressing.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canadian General Synod 2007, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

16 comments on “An Important Read: J. I. Packer's Response to the St. Michael Report

  1. Lapinbizarre says:

    As J.I. Packer notes, 1 Corinthians 6 lists various categories of sin that will keep people out of God’s kingdom. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” [NAV; v9 & 10]. Absent the same enthusiasm for the suppression of adultery, fornication, greed, intoxication and slander – sins that in my experience are far more prevalent in Christian circles than is homosexuality – Mr. Packer and those who think like him stand wide to the charge of Cafeteria Christianity.

  2. Words Matter says:

    I would certainly agree that Anglicanism long ago lost consistency in sexual ethics, but Dr. Packer is responding to the challenge at hand. Moreover, no one is arguing that greed, drunkenness, slander, et. al. are, under certain circumstances, moral goods.

  3. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “As J.I. Packer notes, 1 Corinthians 6 lists various categories of sin that will keep people out of God’s kingdom.”

    So very true. That is why we certainly should not, as a church, come up with any blessings for the below activities: “9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    I strongly advise no blessings of sexually immorality, idolatry, adultery, male prostitution, homosexual offenses, stealing, drunkenness, slandering, or swindling. Nor should we come up with rites for blessing of unions between those who practice the same openly and unrepentedly.

    Anyone who says “I’d like you to marry our drunken union” should certainly not be encouraged.

    But as, at present, the church is only dealing with ONE category of those sins that Paul mentions desiring the blessing and approval of the church and society, we’ll be focusing on that ONE right now.

  4. azusa says:

    # 1: But ‘Lapinbizarre’ doesn’t think that homosexuality is sinful, so his comment here is purely rhetorical distraction. If he can name fornicators, idolators, drunkards (excluding alcoholics seeking treatment) etc who have been made bishops, he might have a point. Otherwise, this is the tired old ‘tu quoque’ response.
    Regarde les choses en face, mon cher rongeur: le jeu est fini.
    You’ll hold on to most of Tec, but the AC is letting Tec go.

  5. Lapinbizarre says:

    Sarah, I appreciate your reply. The only point that I intended to make was that of consistency, and you answered it fairly.

    “Moreover, no one is arguing that greed, drunkenness, slander, et. al. are, under certain circumstances, moral goods.” So, by implication, “under certain circumstances”, they can be moral goods? Words do matter.

    Gordian, you know perfectly well that we can both of us name bishops who have been, or are, all of these things. Define idolatry – which I skipped over as too silly to get into – in Pentateuch terms and there’s barely a bishop alive not guilty of multiple infraction. “The AC is letting TEC go.” Don’t believe so – not unless you redefine the AC as that rump of the GS bishops bound and determined to dictate their will to the AC as a whole and prepared to walk when they don’t get it.

  6. Dave B says:

    #5 Lapinbizarre, You are correct, I am guilty of many sins and am called to repentance, for all have sinned. I do not ask the Church to bless them. Will The ABC let the GS go to keep TEC? TEC reminds me of when Christ said I piped and you did not dance, I mourned and you did not weep. TEC wants to do it’s own thing reguardless of what it does to the Anglican Communion or the body of Christ.

  7. azusa says:

    Lapinbizarre: no, I can think of only two alcoholic bishops (Robinson and Tanner), both of whom have received treatment for their problem. I can’t think of any unrepentant adulterers who were consecrated bishop (I am not counting divorcees here, but if you are seriously arguing that the church should outlaw divorce under every circumstance, I am open to hearing your arguments). As for the AC, we’ll see who’s at Lambeth. Rowan Williams is probably having a most restless sabbatical.

  8. Pb says:

    The point of much of this is that you do not have a creed until you have a heresy. No one, as of yet. is lobbying for full acceptance of the other sins.

  9. David Keller says:

    #8 Pb–Key words: “as of yet”. I am always mystified as to why the majority of the leadership of TEC seems to think bishops (and preists) shouldn’t be Godly, righteous and sober people. But then, I remain fairly simple minded.

  10. john scholasticus says:

    Pathetic liberals such as myself think that St Paul’s condemnation of homosexual behaviour can’t be regarded as decisive, because he never encountered the stable, loving homosexual relationships with which many of us (and, I bet, many of you) are completely familiar in our everyday lives and indeed in our churches.

  11. Charles Nightingale says:

    #10: Whether or not Paul “… encountered the stable, loving homosexual relationships with which many of us … are completely familiar in our everyday lives and indeed in our churches.” is irrelevant if we accept that the Bible is the inerrant norm against which we measure our lives in Christ. My faith informs my belief that the word of God which is the Holy Bible, and that Bible, in a number of places, prohibits same-sex behavior, whether it be arsenekoitai or malakoi or some other. The Graeco-Roman world was quite familiar with all manner of same-sex manifestations, and had the extensive vocabulary to describe it. Whether or not the relationship is “stable and loving”, or one of numerous temporary ones, it is still forbidden behavior and will, if not repented, will keep its practitioners out of God’s Kingdom. As noted, it is only one of many sins listed by St. Paul. We are all sinners in need of repentance; without repentance and amendment of life, none of us will find salvation.

  12. Paula Loughlin says:

    I wish people would remember that “love” is really not enough. Any person can use their subjective feeling of love to argue for the rightness of their sexual relationship with another. It should alarm everyone gay and straight that pedophiles are pushing for a new understanding of intergenerational sex. Demanding recognition because they ” love” their victims. It should repulse us that some experts claim such relationships can offer stability and be beneficial to the victims. It is unfortunate that “love” can be used to justify the most heinous of sins.

    However it is not really love that is the problem. The problem is that the “love” used to justify sin arises only from our sinful hearts. It is a shadow love. True love is grounded in the love of God and His Word. It arises not only from our hearts but also from the heart of Christ. It has as its greatest goal to unite perfectly with the will of God. It will never contradict Scripture or lead us to sin. It is Holy.

  13. john scholasticus says:

    The Graeco-Roman world wasn’t familiar with the sort of relationships I’m referring to. They didn’t then exist (for a variety of social and economic reasons). I’m a professional Classicist.

  14. William S says:

    Re John (‘trust me I’m a classicist’) #13.

    Whether or not our culture has discovered a kind of relationship which 1stC people were incapable of creating (for a variety of social and economic reasons) that observation would not overturn Robert Gagnon’s well-made point that the scriptural objection to same-sex unions is not a defect of quality, but of structure.

    It is similar to the objection to incest (too much ‘sameness’). The 1stC AD may not have been aware of stable, loving incestuous relationships, either. Does that mean we have to rethink our views on mother-son sexual unions, or father-daughter, if only they are stable and loving?

  15. john scholasticus says:


    I was responding to a specific point (claim) made by #11: no more, no less.

  16. mathman says:

    I hope that this thread can return to Dr. Packer’s thesis. Where is the theology? On what is the theology to be based? One can argue endlessly about I Cor 6 without any possible resolution, absent a pre-existing view of Scripture.
    I submit to you that our view of Scripture is a matter of core doctrine. That is my own opinion, and I am well aware that my opinion is not universally shared. The view of Scripture of the XXXIX Articles is well-known. Hooker is widely cited, and he began with Scripture. He added reason and tradition, but Scripture was first. And dispositive. But the view that the Scriptures contain everything necessary for salvation is, nevertheless, not the prevailing opinion in TEc, in Canada, or in other parts of the Anglican Communion.
    Where does one begin? Either there is a God Who created all that is, or there is not. If there is no God Creator, stop there. No need to go on. Just do what you please.
    Does the God Creator reveal Himself? Either He does or He does not. If He does not, stop there. You have got nothing.
    Does the God Creator reveal Himself in an accessible, comprehensible way, or is His revelation just a matter of viewing the order and design of nature? If it is order and design, stop there. You are a Deist and God remains unknowable.
    Has God revealed Himself to the prophets of Israel, or not? If not, stop there. You either have no religion or follow another revelation.
    If God revealed Himself to the prophets, do we have those prophecies, or do we not? Many have concluded that there were men who claimed to be prophets, but that in fact the words which purport to be theirs were written by redactor, whomever and wherever he/she may be. If the words are not the words of the prophets, stop there. You have no revelation and it is pointless to continue.
    I’m sorry to have lost many already. But I continue. Does the God Who Is exist forever? Did He create us for fellowship with Him? Did we (I mean, in Adam) all sin? Did God provide for that sin? Did He send His Son, born of a woman, to die for us? Did that same person, Jesus Christ, rise from the dead on the third day?
    If you have followed me this far, and you have a problem with I Cor 6, you have a problem. Admitting to Jesus Christ as being the Messiah binds you to the one person who opened the way for Gentiles to be included as members of the Bride of Christ. Apart from Saul of Tarsus, Gentiles are on the outside looking in, and must follow the entire Law of Moses first.
    And this Jesus (if you believe in Him, it must be as He is in Scripture) proclaimed that sex was given to one man and one woman, who would be joined until one of them died, and it had been that way from the beginning.
    Any Jesus Who proclaims any other doctrine is a false Christ, against whom we were warned by Jesus Himself (not to say Peter, James, and Jude).
    Got a spirit who cannot name the Name of Jesus? You are not one of His. That is what Scriptures say. For some reason GC 2006 could not make that statement. Just what spirit were they following?

    So: if there is no salvation (since there is no life after death), why bother? Why go to all the trouble with all the ritual and pageantry? If, as I was told so many years ago, it is true that when we die, we die, what’s the point?

    And if there is salvation, where do we go? Buddha? Not. Lao Tse? I don’t think so. Mohammed? Highly dubious. Mary Baker Eddy? The angel Moroni? Confucius? The Shining Path?

    None of those authorities have even a measurable fraction of the credibility, history, and authentic effect in the lives of their adherents that Christianity does. No one has any excuse, you can go on the web and look them up.

    So let the discussion be on where we start. Don’t argue about some little branch if you do not belong to the correct root to begin with.