Bishop Barry Jenks remembered for social justice work

Bishop (ret.) Barry Jenks served as bishop of the diocese of British Columbia from 1992 to 2003. Photo: General Synod Archives
Published July 12, 2018

Bishop (ret.) Barry Jenks died the morning of July 11. He was 80 years old.

Jenks was bishop of the diocese of British Columbia from 1992 to 2003. He was known for his support of social justice causes, including reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, environmental protection and alleviating global poverty.

Jenks also highlighted the importance of global mission during his time as bishop. Under his leadership the diocese began an annual mission conference, and he initiated a partnership with the Anglican Province of Myanmar.

Archbishop (ret.) Caleb Lawrence, former diocesan bishop of Moosonee and metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, worked alongside Jenks on the General Synod’s Programme Committee, before Jenks was elected bishop. He knew Jenks as “a very faithful person,” Lawrence says. “He was not afraid to speak up on issues of concern to him.”

Lawrence, who moved to Vancouver Island in 2010, says that Jenks was “highly respected and loved” in the diocese of B.C.

“He was always a real supporter and a real mentor,” says Dean Ken Gray, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C. “I definitely feel a sense of loss.”

Gray worked alongside Jenks while doing full-time lay ministry in 1984. They stayed close over the years, and Gray succeeded Jenks on General Synod’s ecoJustice committee. Jenks “embodied very much a traditional churchmanship,” says Gray. “He was very progressive, but he spent as much time in the church as he did outside the church, ecumenically, and I really valued that.”

Gray remembers Jenks striking committees to begin conversations around human sexuality and to address environmental causes. “While a lot of bishops were very uncomfortable with that conversation” about environmental protection, Gray says, “he was not. He pushed it.”

Jenks resigned from his position as bishop in 2003 at age 65.

In his retirement sermon, printed in the September 2003 edition of the Diocesan Post, Jenks said that he had been “greatly blessed” in his time as bishop. “I give thanks to God for the lay people of our parishes and for the outstanding clergy who serve with them,” he said.

In 2011, Jenks was granted an honorary doctorate of divinity from the Vancouver School of Theology. Archdeacon Ronald Harrison, who presented the degree, praised the bishop’s “well-developed passion for justice” and “deeply spiritual perspective on environmental and peace issues,” the Diocesan Post reported at the time. The paper also quoted his successor, Bishop James Cowan, as saying that “Bishop Barry was known as someone who did not hesitate to ‘open the can of worms’ when gospel values required us to engage with them.’”

Gray remembers Jenks making a congregational visit as bishop. “He was an extremely good bishop. Some bishops put on a real show and dress up. He dressed like a priest, and he just fit right in. He was a quiet man in many ways.”

Ordained deacon in 1964 and priest in 1965, Jenks served in two parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster before moving to the Diocese of British Columbia in 1970. He was the diocese’s director of programs and executive assistant to the bishop, and served as parish priest in several Vancouver Island churches.

In the late 1980s, Jenks lived in South America, serving as director of Christian education for the Diocese of Guyana. He was a member of an election observer team in Guyana that was part of a larger group sponsored by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center in Atlanta, in 1992.

Jenks leaves behind his wife, Barbara, and son, Timothy.

Editor’s Note: A correction has been made to the last sentence. Daughter Susan predeceased Bishop Barry Jenks. Also, the date of his death has been corrected to July 11, not July 12.


  • Joelle Kidd

    Joelle Kidd was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2017 to 2021.

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