Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

Death of Bishop David Jenkins is announced

Monday 5th September 2016

The Diocese of Durham has issued a short statement from the Rt Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow including a personal reflection by theVenerable Stuart Bain, Archdeacon of Sunderland who was a college of his whilst he was Bishop of Durham. The Archbishop of York also paid his tribute to Bishop David.

The Rt Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow said: "I am sad to announce the death of Bishop David Jenkins who died last night.

"Bishop David was Bishop of Durham from 1984-1994. As is well known, his time as Bishop covered the Miners’ Strike and his impact in the wider community was perhaps even greater than in the Church.

"Certainly there are many in the mining community who still speak of him with great affection. I was lucky enough to meet him on two or three occasions shortly after I arrived in the North East and his energy and sharpness of vision were still much in evidence. 

"He showed a very new and green bishop immense kindness. 

Archdeacon Stuart is the member of the Bishop’s Staff who has served longest in the Diocese and has often spoken of the Diocese when Bishop David was Bishop." 

The Venerable Stuart Bain, Archdeacon of Sunderland said: “Gosh what can one say about +David.

"Who could possibly forget his electrifying sermon at his enthronement which happened during the miners’ strike in 1984 and his less than flattering comments about Ian MacGregor the head of the NCB. The first and only time I have ever heard spontaneous applause during a sermon in Durham Cathedral. + David was never shy of making political statements but it was clear to me that this was driven by a clear belief in social justice rooted so often in the teaching of the OT prophets. When Bishop David retired I was at a gathering at Spennymoor Town Hall and someone came over to me having seen my dog collar and I think knowing who I was.  He explained he was from the Durham NUM and he said, “I just want to shake your hand and say thank you for your Bishop”. Not the usual thing Durham miners had to say about the Bishop of Durham! His intervention and support 10 years earlier had not been forgotten. 

"+David was a master of the one liners “God is as he is in Jesus”, “You can’t keep a good God down” and even his oft misquoted comment about the resurrection “The resurrection is more than just a conjuring trick with bones”. I found myself remembering his sermons and being inspired by them. Occasionally one did get a bit worried when the twinkle seemed to appear in his eye when he was speaking and you were never quite sure what he would say next. As we know going off script sometimes got him into real hot water, but locally and nationally we knew we had a Bishop of Durham. Often his more controversial comments about God got people talking about theology, debating and thinking about their faith and frankly that had to be a good thing. 

"He often got quite frustrated with diocesan structures and politics and he did not have the ability to hide this in my experience. However, as bishop of the diocese I found him to be pastoral and supportive opening up opportunities for me to develop personally within my ministry.” 

Bishop Mark added: "We thank God for his life and ministry and in particular for his time as Bishop of this diocese and we pray for his family. Details of his funeral will be announced in due time.

Adding to the earlier reflections on the news of the death of Bishop David Jenkins the Most Revd John Sentamu, Archbishop of York said: “I am saddened to hear of the death of Bishop David Jenkins, and I offer my condolences to his family at this time.  

“Bishop David made his mark on the lives of countless clergy and laity with his uncompromisingly rigorous commitment to intellectual honesty in the service of theology and the Kingdom of God. Those who listened only to the soundbites from his lectures and sermons which occasioned controversy would have done well to listen longer and harder: his belief in the reality of the resurrection of Christ – despite his doubts about particular historical details- gave him confidence to address injustice with a no-nonsense prophetic directness which often hit home. If his hearers felt disempowered – his message gave them hope: ‘You may not feel up to it, but God is down to it in Jesus, and he is with you and in you in the Holy Spirit!’ He took his teaching ministry as a bishop very seriously indeed, determined that all people, lay and ordained, both find a sustaining faith in Christ and learn to put it into practice in transforming society.

“His ‘Way Ahead’ diocesan mission in Durham bore lasting fruit. 

“He was the External Examiner for my Doctoral Thesis at Cambridge University and the robust, very enjoyable and humorous Viva still lives with me. A gifted teacher who always drew the best out of the learner-though the quickness of his intellectual ability and the speed at which he communicated his thinking left me, at times, breathless.

My prayers are with his family at this time. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”


Bishop David is survived by two sons and two daughters

Back · Back to top