Bishop of Durham to retire next year

DR DAVID JENKINS, the Bishop of Durham, made one of his less controversial announcements yesterday when he revealed he was to retire. The Bishop, famous for his questioning of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, gave a year's notice to clergy at a diocesan meeting.

Dr Jenkins's deputy, the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Rev Alan Smithson, said the resignation was being tendered for the most ordinary of reasons. At 68, Dr Jenkins was going 'because of his age'.

Dr Smithson was quoted in the Northern Echo as saying: 'He deserves a little rest. He is not a young man and he takes on an enormous workload. He has given it everything. He has given magnificent leadership in a changing time in the life of the Church of England and he has never avoided difficult issues.'

Dr Jenkins's critics will consider that an understatement. The former theology professor has seldom been out of the media spotlight since he became Bishop in 1984. The enthronement of 'the unbelieving Bishop' at York Minster was interrupted twice by demonstrators.

He criticised ministers over their handling of the 1984-85 miners' strike, which was already in progress when he was appointed, and later attacked Government health service changes, railed against free market economics and described Margaret Thatcher's policies as 'wicked'.

Recently he criticised the Government's pit closure plans and two months ago accused opponents of women priests who threatened to defect to the Roman Catholic Church of 'sheer faithlessness'.

While traditionalists consider him disruptive and decadent, others have been grateful for the colour, openness and intellectual debate he brought to a changing Church.