By Mark Michael

Packer College, a seminary named for famed Anglican evangelical theologian J.I. Packer, will be launched by the Anglican Network in Canada Saint John’s, Newfoundland, in Fall 2022, according to a report from Sue Careless of The Anglican Planet. Packer, who died in 2020, was among the founding members of the Anglican Network in Canada, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America which includes most of the denomination’s Canadian parishes.

Bishop Charlie Masters told delegates to the diocese’s synod on November 17 that Packer’s widow Kit had given permission to honor Packer with “much joy” and “hearty approval.” The residential seminary will be housed in Good Samaritan Church, which relocated to a large new building in the city center of the provincial capital in 2020.

Packer College will aim to represent Anglicanism’s Anglo-Catholic, evangelical/reformed, and charismatic traditions and will have a program of spiritual formation focused on daily chapel worship. Its academic program will focus on scripture study, along with church history and historical theology, and it will have a focus on “church planting, mission, pastoral care and supporting the faith of children and families.”

Dr. Gary Graber, who served for nine years as professor and academic dean of Ryle Seminary in Ottawa, worked as a special advisor to Bishop Masters to develop plans for launching the seminary. Founded in 2012, Ryle is also a church-based seminary, hosted by the Church of the Messiah, one of the Anglican Network in Canada’s congregations. Though Ryle defines itself as “an evangelical, cross-denominational school,” it is named for J.C. Ryle, a Victorian-era Anglican Bishop of Manchester and noted biblical commentator.

According to Careless, in addition to Ryle Seminary, the diocese’s ordinands are currently training for ministry at Artizo, an apprenticeship program based at St. John’s Anglican Church in Vancouver; at interdenominational evangelical seminaries Christ College and Regent College; and at Wycliffe College, Toronto, North America’s largest Anglican seminary, whose principal, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Andrews, is a bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Anglican Network in Canada began to form in 2007, as a grouping of conservative and mostly evangelical congregations which had left the Anglican Church of Canada. Its 80 churches are mostly in Canada, though it also includes one congregation in Vermont and two in Massachusetts. Dioceses in the Anglican Church in North America often have overlapping geographical boundaries, but the Anglican Network contains nearly all of its Canadian churches. Six additional congregations in British Columbia also belong to a missionary district called Via Apostolica, and the Reformed Episcopal Church’s Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic has one congregation in Ontario.

The day after the seminary launch was announced, the synod elected Archdeacon Dan Gifford, who serves at St. John’s, Vancouver as bishop coadjutor to Masters. Gifford, 56, will become the Anglican Network in Canada’s third bishop when Masters retires in a year’s time.

Gifford was ordained as a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada. He began serving at Vancouver’s St. John’s, Shaughnessy in 1998, and was part of a group of the church’s clergy, including Packer, who walked out of the Diocese of New Westminster’s synod to protest the approval of same sex blessings in 2002. In 2008, he was part of a majority of the congregation, which left the Anglican Church of Canada to form the church now known simply as St. John’s Vancouver.

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Andrews is a member of the Living Church Foundation. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Wycliffe College, Toronto is “affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada.”