Saturday, 4 August 2007

Richard Kirker links Jensen to Akinola

The Rev Richard Kirker, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has been quoted on the Ecclesia website as saying that the real driving force behind what has been going on in Nigeria vis a vis the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen.

Is this, one wonders, yet another example of the Christian blogosphere turning rumour into 'fact' on which to base speculation?

The original story on which this is based comes from the Church of England Newspaper, and is also on the Religious Intelligence website. This says that information has been received about the possibile appointment of a Nigerian 'flying bishop' for England, from what is called, "A source describing himself as a ‘worker in the Nigerian diocese’" (italics added). In the next breath, though, this 'source' becomes "a clergy member". But whilst every clergy person in the Church ought to be a worker (the source's own self-description), not every 'worker' is a member of the clergy. So which is the source? There is at least some uncertainty here.

That point notwithstanding, though, this is enough for Richard Kirker to be able to join the dots because, "It has been clear for some time that under the guidance of Peter Jensen (the Archbishop of Sydney) the Nigerian Church has been distancing itself from the Church of England and particularly the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

At this point, however, we might ask, 'clear' from what evidence, and for how long?

The idea that whereas once Australia was part of the Diocese of Calcutta, now Nigeria is being controlled by Sydney is a drum Richard Kirker has certainly been banging "for some time".

In an article in the Gay Times for January 2004, he wrote,
"The whole matter of how the Anglican Church will now realign itself is fascinating. Some believe the driving force for this is the Archbishop of Sydney Philip Jensen [sic, also Phillip would be spelt with two 'l's]. Jensen's is undoubtedly amongst the richest and most conservative diocese in the Anglican world, with over $3 billion dollars of assets. Some say he is the 'Kingmaker' and his recent threats to recognize Archbishop Akinola as the Moral leader of Anglicanism, and to ignore Rowan Williams, are the opening shots in his plan."

So, "some believe" this, and "some say" that. And some imagine from this that Sydney Diocese has a A$3 billion 'fighting fund' which isn't tied up in buildings and which they don't have to spend on things like paying the clergy and getting on with mission. But is there anyone else as convinced of this as Richard Kirker, and is there any evidence for these assertions?

Of course, I may be wrong. It may be that Peter Jensen is indeed plotting to replace Rowan Williams, making Peter Akinola the moral leader of Anglicanism, with himself as the real power behind the throne. Who knows? Come to that have they ever actually been seen in the same place at the same time? Have they ever been photographed together? Holy Clark Kent, things may be worse , even, than Richard Kirker thinks!

Or it may, of course, be that Richard Kirker has sound reasons for saying what he has. The trouble is, he hasn't told the rest of us what they are.

Revd John P Richardson
4 August 2007

PS The venerability of this whole rumour can be confirmed by this link, which is over a fortnight old! The rumour mill is going full tilt here and here.

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy .


  1. (Chelmsford)

    Scott Gunn, linked to in your PS, seems to more or less admit that he started this rumour, perhaps out of his own imagination. He also names Chris Sugden as the new bishop. Since Anglican Mainstream has read this post, perhaps its Executive Secretary will be in a position to deny, or just possibly confirm, the part of the rumour which applies to him.

  2. Actually, at the moment I'm also posting to Anglican Mainstream as Chris is away, so it was me who posted the story there. (There wasn't much else going on!) I don't know exactly where the story originally came from. I've just followed a few links from Thinking Anglicans to track down these others 'sources'. It is a safe bet, though, that Chris Sugden won't be putting on the purple for Nigeria (or Sydney!) in the near future.

  3. Wow, what does Richard Kirker know that I don't?

    Michael P Jensen


  4. Peter,

    Actually, I don't think I said I started the rumor. Rather, as I wrote in my post, I heard it from someone in the CofE with good connections in lots of places. I posted this story, not to be a rumor-monger, but to point out the absurdity of where we've gotten in our present "crisis." I didn't devise this out of my imagination, though my imagination imagines that parts of this rumor are likely to be true.

    Frankly, I hope the rumor is completely wrong in every aspect. I guess time will tell.


  5. Please may I remind commentors: name and location are required! No anonymous/pseudonymous posting.

  6. Darren Moore (Tranmere)5 August 2007 at 10:45

    I think Richard Kirker's problem, as with many liberals, particularly of the pro-gay kind is that they are actually racist.

    How could a black Arch-B possbily come up with his own ideas? - kind of thing.

    Obviously Sydney Diocese cares about what's going on. But they'll just get on with their own thing. And they aren't denonminationalist enough to be bothered if people just effectivly became free-Church. Akinola might, which is why he sends flying Bishops, whatever we think of them.

  7. There's something else a bit strange about this rumour - the 'source' describes himself as 'in the Nigerian diocese' - which in ecclesiastical terms is meaningless - there is no such body. In this febrile atmosphere, when trust is almost entirely absent, both sides are prepared to believe anything about the other - and usually the worst. It's pretty depressing really, like watching a family you're part of fall apart not because of what someone's done but because of overactive imaginations and suspicious minds.

  8. A couple of people have left comments suggesting there is something racist in the stance which suggests that the power behind Peter Akinola must be Peter Jensen, as if a black man couldn't run his own agenda.

    I have refrained from publishing these as I think arguments about who is, and who isn't, being racist can be highly emotive and can themselves draw down an adverse reaction towards the poster.

    Having said that, I personally have often felt there is a scarcely-concealed attitude in some circles that many African Anglicans are culturally bound at best and ignorant, unenlightened and backward at worst. It seems inconceivable to some people that they could hold the position they do regarding human sexuality on grounds of faithfulness to the biblical witness and not out of wickedness and homophobia.

    Some of the language used about Peter Akinola, in particular, would be more appropriate from an unbeliever towards their worst enemy than from Christians towards someone who is either a fellow Christian, in which case they should be loved, or an enemy, in which case they should be loved.

    We all sin and err in this area. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa also. Yet we must surely beware of the fault, not excuse it.

  9. Please note, name and location is required to post a comment!

    I am getting the same feeling I used to get when advising people on exam technique. Rule No 1, read the question. Rule No 2, answer the question. There are no marks for saying wise and true things if you aren't answering the question on the paper.

    So read the policy before you post. Then please do what it asks you to. If your blogger profile gives these details - real name and real location - I'll let the post stand. If it doesn't, you won't get posted, which will be a shame if you've gone to all that effort and said something good.

  10. I thought having posted once on this discussion I could post again without all the name/place palaver... sheesh.

    I do think the attitude of some to the African Anglican leaders is quite patronising, whether it is racist or not.

    Michael P Jensen, BA, BD, MTh, MSt,
    Four children
    In Oxford for now.

  11. Scott, thanks for the clarification that this is not entirely your imagining! I wondered if you were playing a silly game like "Let's make up something scandalous and see how many people take it seriously". Obviously not - as I would expect, as I now see that you are clergy and a diocesan communications officer.

    (Location in my blogger profile, and my previous comment)

  12. Peter,

    Just for the record, I *was* the diocesan Communications Officer for Rhode Island. I left that post some months ago to an able successor in order to focus 100% on parish ministry.

    I wouldn't make something up like that rumor. Well, maybe I'd make something up for humor, but I'd hope it was obviously fabricated and for chuckles all around.

    While I happen to be a progressive/liberal, I do want the very best for the Church, and I expect that just about every orthodox/conservative does too. Our assumptions, priorities, and hermeneutics may be different, but I happen to believe almost everyone is behaving in good faith in all this.

    The reason I think this is germane to this post and to this discussion is that rumors and speculations can be helpful, or they can be deadly. Much of our present crisis has been caused by some lousy behavior on the part of a few people (of diverse theological views).

    My hope is that we could be civil to one another. I hasten to add that this is not a response to your post -- you were quite civil in both comments -- but a clarifications that I try to write things that I'm comfortable saying to someone's face (i.e. respectful). I wasn't trying to stir the pot, but to point out where we've gone.

    The point that John+ makes is right on. Lousy things have been said about +Peter Akinola, and that's a shame and it's sinful. (I've probably said some of these things myself, I'm sorry to say.) Of course, lousy things have been said *by* Peter Akinola others, not that this excuses his critics.

    OK, I've said my piece. Bottom line: I would hope we could all try to act like Christians, especially toward our fellow Christians. Where I've erred, I'll add my mea culpa.


  13. Darren Moore (Tranmere)6 August 2007 at 14:15

    Another view that shows Richard Kirker may be unenlightened, I'm surprised Michael didn't pick up on... in the quote from another article he talks about the Archbishop of Sydney - Philip. He is muddleing up his Jensens.

    I've found this before in Jensen bashing. When I've asked the person concerned which Jensen, they look baffled and say, "The Australian one". In most cases they've never met either, read or heard anything of them, but just going by some hearsay. My own encounters with them just doesn't match the image that gets painted of them. I'm glad that they take it in good humour.

  14. Rosemary Behan, Christchurch, New Zealand7 August 2007 at 08:11

    I don't understand, do the rumours talk about Peter [Archbishop] or Philip [Dean with one or two l's] Jensen?

  15. It's Peter - Kirker just got confused, as you do.

  16. I’m always interested in the “racist” label being trotted out again here.

    I can’t see it myself – but then perhaps I just don’t think like that.

    But Nigerian born and South African educated Richard Kirker is the least likely person to be a racist I know ………

    I had hardly thought it anything of a secret that Peter Jensen was the main proponent and senior organiser of the Anglican realignment currently underway. I am sure he would be happy to confirm the help received by Nigeria when reordering their constitution and other matters – they are quiet and modest but I don’t believe they lie.

    The Jensen family and their worldwide allies have not hidden their dislike of Rowan Williams’s theology, nor disguised their pique at being firmly “in the sights” of the Lambeth Commission, and there seems to be no reluctance to laud the Primate of Nigeria. I don’t think they have any problems with that agenda at all! It is quite clear from talking to and listening to Sydneyites such as Robert Tong how key they see their own role in all this.

    Speculation abounds at times like this – but pressed, the Archbishop of Sydney would agree that his presence and advice has been decisive. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh made that clear only a week or so ago. Isn’t it rather disingenuous and dishonest to suggest anything else ….?

    Now where is that happy snap of the two Peter’s on holiday on the Red Sea in Egypt ……?

    Phil(l)ip and Peter (Ahhh!0 My fault completely in this webpage version - sorry and thanks

  17. Martin Reynolds

    Could you please state where you're from - otherwise your comment will be deleted! It is an important contribution, but I'm trying to maintain a policy here, and I have to treat everyone the same.

    John Richardson

  18. I live in the city of Casnewydd.