Looking back to Sydney Anglican Nostalgia

Anglican dean gains five years as ‘moral conscience’
Date: December 10, 2009 – Linda Morris (note the date)

(re Dean of Sydney Phillip Jensen and Archbishop Peter Jensen).

AS HIS brother did before him, the Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Phillip Jensen, has won the right to lead the city’s Anglicans for another five years.

The dean was due to retire next year as spiritual leader of the mother church of the Sydney Anglican diocese, at age 65, the retirement age set down for all its clergy.

The cathedral’s powerbrokers extended his term in August last year without public fanfare in a clear endorsement of his mission to convert large numbers of the city’s residents to evangelical Christianity and expand the congregation.

Dean Jensen, renowned for his fire-and-brimstone sermons and his distaste for traditional sacred music and vestments, was appointed by his brother, Archbishop Peter Jensen, in 2003 amid accusations of nepotism.

The dean was to refashion his position to become the city’s ”moral conscience” but soon ran into controversy when he replaced Sunday evensong with contemporary rock music and called Mother Teresa an instrument of the devil and Prince Charles an adulterer.

With at least 18 months of his term to run, the dean asked the cathedral’s governing body to clarify his future.

”We decided that with Phillip’s focus, energy and ability,” said Bishop Rob Forsyth, who chaired the chapter meeting, ”it would be a pity for him not to keep going.

”He would have been forced to stop relatively soon after developing the ministry.

”We believe he was [creating] a modern evangelical cathedral and the job was only halfway done. He started it and wanted to keep on while he could. It was not time for change.”

Bishop Forsyth said Archbishop Jensen, who was chairman and had voting rights, was not present at the meeting.

The move brings the brothers’ retirement ages into line – the archbishop also had his retirement age extended from 65 to 70 and stands down in 2013. The church’s standing committee is reviewing the term and conditions of the archbishop’s successor.

The move has prompted internal debate as to whether age restrictions should apply to other members of the church when even the Federal Government has flagged changes to the pension age.

The rector of the parish of Epping, John Cornish, said the extension of the dean’s retirement age was inconsistent with long-standing church practice.

”I think it is inconsistent that only special people get their retirement age extended that long. You can have an extension if requested and it’s only usually a year or two. I’m not saying everyone should work after they’re 65 but the option should be available to all.”

Father Gwilym Henry-Edwards, the rector of St Luke’s Enmore, was unaware of the cathedral’s decision but said the chapter was ”master of its own destiny” and questioned whether age restrictions should apply to church leaders.

”Historically, in the church there was no retirement age and now the community has done away with it and the church retains it. There should be no age restrictions but people should have to undergo some kind of professional review of their ministry to ensure they are competent.”

Bishop Forsyth, who chairs the diocese’s retirement board, said compulsory retirement at 65 ”is arbitrary but appropriate where you have tenured office”.

”There was a time when clergymen could stay on for life, like the Queen, but sometimes a person in the job is not aware they should retire.”


Looking in on the recent appointment of the new Dean of Sydney’s Anglican Cathedral, I came across the link to this article, announcing the re-appointment – beyong the normal retirement age – of his predecessor, Philip Jensen – brother to the then Archbishop Peter Jensen who was one of the founders of the GAFCON conservative sodality in the Anglican Communion situated in the Global South.

The fact that the new Dean, Kanishka Raffel, a convert from Bhuddhism, is now the next in line for Sydney’s conservative evangelical cathedral ministry marks a change from the old system of family governance provided by the Jensen Family, beginning with Peter Jensen’s appointment as Archbishop and now ending with the actual retirement of his brother, Philip Jensen, from his ministry at Sydney’s Cathedral:

Here is an account of the historic changeover:


Sydney’s conservative Anglican provenance has the support, historically, of the local Moore Theological College, of which the Jensen brothers were both products. The story of their hegemony over the churchmanship of the Sydney archdiocese might best be understood in the context of its liturgical non-conformity and male-dominated ministerial provenance. There is an outright ban, for instance, on any Sydney diocesan clergyman wearing the traditional chasuble to preside at the Lord’s Supper (the title preferred by some of its clergy for the Eucharist). The Sydney diocese was the first Anglican diocese in Australasia to discuss the possibility of authorising a layman to preside at the Holy Communion service. The diocese still has a problem with women clergy and bishops.

However, all is not lost in Sydney’s determination to outlaw Anglo-Catholic worship in the diocese. There are at least two churches in the City that practise the more colourful liturgies of the Anglo-Catholic tradition – Christchurch Saint Laurence, near the Central Railway Station, and Saint James, King Street. These two large congregations have a long tradition of  worship that proclaims the sacramental vitality of a lively and life-giving catholic Anglicanism restored  by the early Oxford Movement into the Church of England and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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