Prostitution, paganism, adultery, and defamation. Anglicans accused and counter-accused each other of the most heinous sins yesterday in the wake of the Dean of Sydney’s damning of the Archbishop of Canterbury for “intellectual and theological prostitution” and condemnation of Prince Charles as a “public adulterer”.
Australia’s leading Anglican cleric, Primate Peter Carnley, castigated right-wing evangelical Phillip Jensen – the brother of Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen – for what he called extreme, unhelpful and possibly defamatory comments about the international head of the Anglican communion.
Phillip Jensen delivered his personal remarks about Rowan Williams in England at a meeting of the ultra-conservative Reform group, which opposes bishops who are liberal on homosexuality, gay marriage and ordination.
He said Dr Williams should resign and was collecting his salary under false pretences, given his liberal views on homosexuality. Mr Jensen also dismissed King’s College, Cambridge, as “a temple of paganism” for selling CDs in its entrance.
“The language was extreme and intemperate,” Dr Carnley said.
“It’s inappropriate for an Australian to be going to England to lecture the leadership of the Church of England about how it should be doing its job in England.
“The comments appear to be defamatory insofar as the Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have been described as sinful and corrupt, and I think that’s not helpful.”
Dr Carnley defended Dr Williams’s status as an eminent theologian, while noting Mr Jensen’s isolation.
Archbishop Peter Watson, Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, also backed the Archbishop of Canterbury as “a man of great integrity and personal holiness, who has consistently upheld the Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality”.
“He deserves and has the full support of the Anglican Church of Victoria,” Archbishop Watson said.
Mr Jensen defended his florid comments, but denied he intended a personal attack on Dr Williams. “While I did indeed call for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as has Reform, I did not call him a prostitute,” he said, noting his comments about the general “prostitution of Christian ministry”.
Andrew McGowan, director of Trinity College Theological School in Melbourne University, said “the remarkable outburst” had exposed the deepest divisions in the Anglican Communion.
“It’s between a sort of resurgent fundamentalism as close to home as St Andrew’s Cathedral, and the vast majority of Anglicans in Australia and around the world, for whom the marks of the Christian ought to be openness and charity rather than exclusion and scorn.”
Speaking for the Archbishop of Sydney, Robert Forsyth, the South Sydney Bishop, said Mr Jensen was not expressing the official diocese view.
“For those who know Phillip, he is a very able, powerful and often very vivid speaker … but many more would share his views than would put it in the way he’s put it,” he said.