Evangelical Identity

In 1981 J.I. Packer wrote a booklet for the Latimer Trust titled A Kind of Noah’s Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness. It was Latimer Study 10, and referenced, among other things, a short list of the Evangelical Anglican Identifiers Packer first outlined in his 1978 monograph, The Evangelical Anglican Identity Problem. Both of these essays, along with one by N.T. Wright have been republished by The Latimer Trust in one volume as Anglican Evangelical Identity: Yesterday and Today (ISBN 9780946307951).

From the back cover of the new volume, published in 2008:

What does it mean to be both an Evangelical and an Anglican? Can these two theological identities be held together with integrity? How should Evangelical Anglicans relate to the rest of the Anglican Church? Thirty years ago two influential Evangelical thinkers, Jim Packer and Tom Wright, addressed these questions in short and provocative Latimer Studies. Their work remains stimulating and important, and is republished here for a new generation, with fresh prefaces reflecting on recent developments.

The Evangelical Anglican Identity Problem (Packer, 1978) asks what it means to be an Evangelical Anglican.

Evangelical Anglican Identity: The Connection Between Bible, Gospel & Church (Wright, 1980) builds upon Packer’s study, addressing Evangelical attitudes to the church.

A Kind of Noah’s Ark? (Packer, 1981) questions [and answers] how it is possible to be a consistent Evangelical in the Church of England.

Anyway, I would highly recommend the small book (172 pages) as worthwhile for anyone considering the Anglican Tradition, but what I’ve been aiming at was sharing the identifiers that Packer outlines and explores.

In my earlier study I noted as chief among the truths of which evangelicals are trustees:

  1. the supremacy of Scripture as God-given instruction, a sufficient, self-interpreting guide in all matters of faith and action;
  2. the majesty of Jesus Christ our sin-bearing divine Saviour and glorified King, by faith in whom we are justified;
  3. the lordship of the Holy Spirit, giver of spiritual life by animating, assuring, empowering and transforming the saints;
  4. the necessity of conversion, not as a stereotyped experience but as a regenerate condition, a state of faith in Christ evidenced by repentance and practical godliness;
  5. the priority of evangelism in the church’s agenda;
  6. the fellowship of believers (the faith-full) as the essence of the church’s life.[1]

I’d say that’s a pretty good list of essentials. One, in fact, which might serve well as a basis of ecumenical agreement. For those of you wondering why the Anglican focus on this evangelical identity thing…well, another quote from Packer would probably be the best answer here:

I am an Anglican not so much by sentiment or affection as by conviction….I cannot say that I ever particularly liked the Church of England as I found it, but I remain an Anglican out of conviction that here is the right place, for here I possess the truest, wisest and potentially richest heritage in all Christendom. One factor which holds me steady at this point is my veneration (the word is not too strong) for the Thirty-nine Articles, which seem to me not only to catch the substance and spirit of biblical Christianity superbly well, but also to provide as apt a model of the way to confess the faith in a divided Christendom as the world has yet seen.[2]

[1] J.I. Packer, “A Kind of Noah’s Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness” (1981) in Anglican Evangelical Identity: Yesterday and Today by J.I. Packer & N.T. Wright (The Latimer Trust: London, 2008), 125-26.

[2] J.I. Packer & R.T. Beckwith, The Thirty-nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today (The Latimer Trust: London, 2006), p.1. “Preface to the First Edition” (1984).

One thought on “Evangelical Identity

  1. Of the 39 Articles:

    “XXII. Of Purgatory.
    The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

    What do you make of this? Do you reject the 7th Ecumenical Council along with the use of icons? I have not settled this matter for myself.


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