Who is this man named Jensen?

As numerous reporters have it, the mantle of the dissident movement in the Anglican Communion is shifting from Peter Akinola of Nigeria to the smooth talking Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. Ironically, Jensen seems to have cemented his hold by stepping in at a GAFCON news conference gone bad and speaking on behalf of African bishops who are perfectly capable of speaking on their on behalf. (Example: “The smooth and savvy Peter Jensen, Anglican archbishop of Sydney, is being lined up as the frontman for any such association because he can interpret the Africans for a western audience. Ouch.”) Jensen, more than others at the conference, has argued the point that GAFCON is not about schism, and he lead Sydney apart from the Anglican Church of Australia and remain an Anglican. Perhaps he has eye on a larger prize, primate of Australia, a seat currently held by Phillip Aspinall.

Peter Jensen and his brother Phillip Jensen — named Dean of the Sydney cathedral by his brother — are known from the “agressive low church conservativism” of the Diocese of Sydney. For more on their brand of Anglicanism see the two essays by George Clifford in the Daily Episcopalian here and here.

Phillip Jensen has not established a reputation as a smooth talker. According to the Church Times (October 2004),

In a Bible study, Dean Jensen had called for the resignation of Dr [Rowan] Williams [the Archbishop of Canterbury] on the grounds of “theological and intellectual prostitution”. He said Dr Williams took his salary “under false pretences” by upholding his office while having a personal opinion of his own on matters of sexuality. A Guardian story headed “Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute” reached Sydney, Australia, and elicited a furious phone call to the Dean from his brother, Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney.

But the jetlagged Dean, suffering a migraine as well as the wrath of his brother, seemed unable to resist further antagonism in his final Bible study for the conference on Wednesday. He berated Reform as a “bunch of old women” for their timidity, and described Evangelicals who accepted women’s ordination as “mealy-mouthed . . . able to be domesticated and put in their place”.

Worse, especially in the light of gracious and reconciliatory offerings the previous day from Anglican Mainstream and New Wine, the Dean warned Reform not to trust or make friends with “co-belligerents”. These, he said, would “bite you, and you will be seduced by their paradigm”.

His final broadside was to declare that he had known “our side had lost” when Dr Williams got all the Primates at their meeting last October to share communion.

About the same events Stephen Bates of the Guardian wrote,

Dean Jensen was applauded as his sweeping denunciation of the Church of England took in the Prince of Wales – a “public adulterer”; King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, attacked as a “temple to paganism” for selling the records and compact discs of its famous choir in the ante-chapel; and women priests because, “as soon as you accept women’s ordination everything else in the denomination declines”.

But the dean reserved his strictest condemnation for Dr Williams, because he holds liberal private views about homosexual relationships, even though he has struggled to uphold the church’s unity by maintaining its traditional opposition to ordained gays.

“That’s no good. That’s total prostitution of the Christian ministry,” the dean declared, to applause and cries of “Amen”.

“He should resign. That’s theological and intellectual prostitution. He is taking his salary under false pretences.”

Yet Phillip Jensen remains the Very Reverend. (He takes up his own defense here.) A case of good cop, bad cop? Does Phillip Jensen say what Peter Jensen can only afford to believe, but not speak?

Or is this a case of a powerful brother giving his brother special treatment?

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