The Revd. Dr. J.I. Packer – R.I.P.
(The Revd. Dr. J.I. Packer was a staunch supporter of the BCP, and served as a vice-chairman of the PBSC for many years. This tribute was written by a fellow vice-chairman, the Revd. Dr. David Curry, of Windsor, Nova Scotia.)
He was one of the giants of the Evangelical and Anglican world, like the California Redwoods which he used as an image for the Puritan theologians and pastors who had greatly influenced and shaped his life and ministry. A prolific writer of many books which spoke the Word of God in season and out of season to the contemporary world in its confusion and ignorance in Canada and beyond, his A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (1990) captures best perhaps the tenor of his soul and its quest. A work admired by the Revd. Dr. Robert Crouse, it shows the maturity of vision and commitment to the qualities of the spiritual life to which Dr. Packer thought we are all called and which he saw in the wider traditions of spirituality reaching back to the Fathers and to Medieval writers such as Bernard of Clairvaux, but as grounded in the Scriptures; for him, the living oracles of God. He was one of a few Evangelical theologians, like Dr. Peter Toon, who understood and appreciated the doctrinal and spiritual qualities of the Common Prayer tradition and who remained committed to its promotion and use. He was an academic pastor of souls, a teacher and professor at Regent College for many decades, whose teaching has shaped the lives of many, many pastors and preachers. One of the Vice-Chairmen of the Prayer Book Society of Canada, his ministry reminds the Society of the richness and the depth of the reformed traditions that belong to the patterns of spirituality embedded in the classical Book(s) of Common Prayer.
The frontispiece to A Quest for Godliness from John Geree’s 1646 work on The Character of Old English Puritans is a testament to Dr. Packer himself. “He was … [a man foursquare], immoveable in all times, so that they who in the midst of many opinions have lost the view of true religion, may return to him and there find it.” We give thanks to God for his life and ministry. May he rest in peace.