David Jenkins (bishop)

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The Right Reverend
David Jenkins
Bishop of Durham
Diocese Diocese of Durham
In office 1984–1994
Predecessor John Habgood
Successor Michael Turnbull
Other posts Honorary assistant bishop in Ripon (1994–present)
Professor at University of Leeds (1979–1984)
Consecration 6 July 1984
Personal details
Born (1925-01-26) 26 January 1925 (age 91)
Bromley, Kent
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Spouse Stella Mary (Molly) Jenkins née Peet (1949-died 2008)
Children two sons, two daughters
Profession Theologian

David Edward Jenkins (born 26 January 1925) is a Church of England cleric and theologian. He is a former Bishop of Durham, a position he held from 1984 until 1994. Since retirement, he has continued to serve as an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Jenkins was born in Bromley, Kent and educated at St Dunstan's College, Catford.

Having attended a Church of England ordination conference at Bangalore during his service in India, he took up scholarship to enter Queen's College, Oxford[2] where he graduated as MA in 1954.[3]

Military service[edit]

During the Second World War, he was called up in the autumn of 1943.[2] He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery after officer training at Harrogate in April 1945.[4] At the end of the war he was a staff officer at General Headquarters in India.[5] In 1946 he was attached to the 10th Indian Field Regiment, Royal Indian Artillery before its disbandment.[6] He demobilised as Captain in 1947.[3]

Ordained ministry[edit]

Jenkins trained for ordination at Lincoln Theological College. He was ordained priest by the Bishop of Birmingham. He served as curate at St Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham.[7]

At time of his consecration he had been a lecturer in theology at the University of Oxford, Chaplain and Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford and worked for the World Council of Churches and the William Temple Foundation before being appointed Professor of Theology at the University of Leeds in 1979. Jenkins left Leeds in 1984 with the title Emeritus Professor.[8]

In addition to his teaching appointments Jenkins had been Examining Chaplain to the Bishops of Lichfield (1956–69), Newcastle upon Tyne (1957–69), Bristol (1958–84), Wakefield (1978-84) and Bradford (1979–84).[3]

His selection as Bishop of Durham was controversial due to allegations that he held heterodox beliefs. His "conjuring trick with bones" comment, about the resurrection of Christ, was criticised[who?] in particular, though the actual words as recorded on television say the reverse; the resurrection is not a conjuring trick with bones. The original line appears to have been "[the Resurrection] is real. That's the point. All I said was 'literally physical'. I was very careful in the use of language. After all, a conjuring trick with bones proves only that somebody's very clever at a conjuring trick with bones."[9] He had stated on other occasions his view that the resurrected Christ lacked a physical body, but the paraphrase of his quote as "just a conjuring trick with bones", while common, is inaccurate.

Three days after his consecration as bishop on 6 July 1984, York Minster was struck by lightning, resulting in a disastrous fire which some interpreted as a sign of divine wrath at Jenkins's appointment.[10]

As a bishop, Jenkins was known for his willingness to speak his mind. After leaving office in 1994 he continued to voice his opinions, such as in a BBC interview in 2003.[11]

Jenkins also became identified with opposition to the policies of the Thatcher and Major governments and subsequently was a critic of New Labour. He argued that what these governments shared was a dogmatic faith on the market which had many pseudo-religious elements to it. This led him to write at length about what he saw as the intellectual deficiencies of economic theory and market theorising and its pseudo-theological character.

His book Market Whys and Human Wherefores: Thinking Again About Markets, Politics, and People was an extended layman’s critique of economic theory and its application to policy, in which he described himself as an ‘anxious idiot’ using the latter term in its original meaning of an ordinary person with no professional expertise.[12] It nevertheless diagnosed many of the problems with economic theory and its application to a deregulated economy that would later be seen as prescient in the light of the global economic crisis of 2007 onwards. In Dilemmas of Freedom, he also challenged the idea that markets created freedom,[13]

In Price, cost, excellence and worth: Can the idea of a university survive the force of the market? he similarly questioned whether they were compatible with the idea of a university [14] while in The Market and Health Care, he addressed the issue of health care in a similar vein.[15]

In 2005, he became one of the first clerics in the Church of England to participate to the public blessing of a civil partnership between two homosexual men, one of whom was a Church of England priest.

In 2006, Jenkins was banned from preaching in some of his local churches after reportedly "swearing" in a sermon, using the words "bloody" and "damn".[16] In 2002 he published his memoir The Calling of a Cuckoo: Not Quite an Autobiography.[17] His daughter Rebecca is an author of crime novels set in 19th-century Durham[18]

Popular culture[edit]

A David Jenkins puppet appeared in various episodes of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image. In episode 5 of the 9th series he appears alongside the puppet of Robert Runcie and persuades "God" to become an atheist.[19]

Selected works[edit]

He has written numerous books on Christian theology which include:

  • Guide to the debate about God original edition 1966 (2nd ed. Cambridge ; Cambridgeshire : Lutterworth Press, 1985.)
  • The glory of man, London : SCM Press, 1967
  • Living with questions Investigations into the theory and practice of belief in God, London: SCM Press, 1969
  • What is Man, London : SCM Press 1970, 1985
  • The contradiction of Christianity, London : S.C.M. Press, 1976 (based on the Edward Cadbury Lectures given at the University of Birmingham in 1974)
  • The God of freedom and the freedom of God, London : The Hibbert Trust
  • God, miracle and the Church of England London : SCM, 1987
  • God, Jesus and life in the spirit London : SCM Press, 1988
  • God, politics and the future, London: SCM Press 1988
  • Still living with questions, London : SCM, 1990
  • (with Rebecca Jenkins) Free to believe, London : BBC Books, 1991.

He has also given Bampton Lectures on the Incarnation at Oxford.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Church blessing for homosexual vicar, The Daily Telegraph, 22 December 2005
  2. ^ a b Jenkins, David E. (2002). The calling of a cuckoo, not quite an autobiography. Continuum. p. xii. ISBN 0-8264-4991-3. Introduction.
  3. ^ a b c Who's Who, 2012. A and C Black. p. 1201. ISBN 978-1-408-14229-5. 
  4. ^ The calling of a cuckoo. p. plate1. Between pages 106-107.
  5. ^ The calling of a cuckoo. p. 14. 
  6. ^ The calling of a cuckoo. p. xiii. Introduction.
  7. ^ Crockford's Clerical Directory, 2010-2011. Oxford University Press. p. 527. ISBN 978-0-7151-1042-3. 
  8. ^ University of Leeds, List of Emeritus Professors
  9. ^ "Profile: The one true Bishop of Durham: Dr David Jenkins, retiring scourge of sacred cows", The Independent, 5 February 1994
  10. ^ Dr Runcie discounts 'wrath of God' theory, The Glasgow Herald, 10 July 1984
  11. ^ BBC Breakfast with Frost Interview, 2 February 2003
  12. ^ Market Whys and Human Wherefores: Thinking Again About Markets, Politics, and People, David Jenkins, Cassell, 2000, pages 10-11
  13. ^ Dilemmas of Freedom, University of Southampton, 1989
  14. ^ Price, cost, excellence and worth: Can the idea of a university survive the force of the market?, Centre for the Study of Theology in the University of Essex, 1991
  15. ^ The Market and health care, University of Edinburgh, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, 1990
  16. ^ Bishop banned from pulpit for swearing, The Times, August 27, 2006
  17. ^ The Calling of a Cuckoo: Not Quite an Autobiography, David Jenkins, A&C Black, 2003
  18. ^ Family affair, Northern Echo, 6 April 2011
  19. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086807/epcast
  20. ^ Biography on Biography.com

External links[edit]