The Right Reverend Dr David Jenkins died in Barnard Castle, County Durham, on Sunday morning. He had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for many years.
The cleric and theologian was Bishop of Durham – one of the country’s oldest dioceses – from 1984 until 1994 when he retired and took on the post of honorary assistant bishop in Ripon and Leeds.
Before becoming a bishop, Dr Jenkins was a Professor of Theology at the University of Leeds, and spent 15 years prior to that as a fellow and chaplain of Queen’s College in Oxford.
He was a controversial figure in religion who had been dubbed the “unbelieving bishop” after doubting that God would have arranged a Virgin Birth and the resurrection.
York Minster was struck by lightning and burst into flames just days after his consecration in 1984. The events led some to believe that the fire was a sign of divine wrath in outrage at his appointment as bishop.
Dr Jenkins was satirised in television puppet Spitting Image, and was depicted in one episode persuading God to become an atheist.
He served in Durham during the miners’ strike in the 1980s and often joined them on marches.
He was an open critic of the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies, and she is said to have thought of Dr Jenkins as a cuckoo in the establishment nest.
The bishop, who was born in Bromley, Kent, went on to write Market Whys And Human Wherefores: Thinking Again About Markets, Politics, And People about the deficiencies of economic theory.
He leaves behind four children. A funeral will be held at Durham Cathedral at a later date, his family said.