Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, continues to outsmart the hierarchy of the world-wide church, and now has its dithering leadership exactly where he wants it – unable to do anything about the alternate international group he is clearly helping to establish.
Last week Jensen confirmed that he, and the powerful Archbishop of Nigeria, will convene a “Global Anglican Future Conference” in Jerusalem in June – just weeks before the Lambeth Conference which is supposed to be attended by all Anglican bishops from around the world.
The Jerusalem meeting will bring together church leaders who are opposed to the “liberal” policies of the US church, and some churches in Canada and Australia, especially on same sex marriage and gay clergy issues.
In the meantime, Jensen continues to refuse to say whether the six bishops from the Sydney diocese – easily the largest in Australia – will even attend the Lambeth Conference, and there remains a real possibility the rapidly growing African dioceses, as well as Sydney and other conservative dioceses, will boycott the meeting.
It is likely the Jerusalem meeting will lay down some “ground rules” either for attending Lambeth, or on the decisions it makes.
If the conservatives then don’t get their way they will be well placed to argue that the worldwide church is effectively divided, and will become no more than a very loose association such as the Commonwealth of Nations. That is a prospect Jensen frequently alludes to.
Jensen is at a significant advantage because the nominal leader of the Anglican Church in Australia, Brisbane Archbishop, Phillip Aspinall, cannot match Jensen in the media, and has an almost zero public profile even in his own diocese. The national television Christmas messages from church leaders featured Jensen, not Aspinall.
Aspinall’s efforts at seeking a “compromise” with Jensen and other conservatives have come to nothing. Jensen has him, and the remainder of the leadership of the church, exactly where he wants them…….in suspense while he rapidly puts together an alliance that may end up representing a majority of the world’s Anglicans.
In what looms as a most critical year for the Anglican Church, it is Peter Jensen who is making all the running in Australia, and, increasingly, internationally.
And each statement he makes that goes unanswered and unchallenged highlights the extent of his influence, and the impotence of his rivals in the Australian church, and increasingly in the world wide Anglican communion.