The Rev’d Kate Bottley is the vicar on Gogglebox, and probably one of the most recognisable of all Anglican clergy in the country. It’s usually a good thing to have vicars who are well known: they can become the embodiment of the Church’s core soul-saving mission. Or, of course, they can become meaningless fragments of distraction; insuperable hurdles to truth-telling and revival.
Kate Bottley apparently hates it when she finds herself in agreement with Tories.
The Tory in this instance was Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, but that really doesn’t matter. The topic under discussion (starts 36:30) was Putin, Russia and the bombing of the more moderate anti-ISIS Islamists in Syria. But that really doesn’t matter either, because the Rev’d Kate Bottley doesn’t like Tories. She appears not to like Tories more than she doesn’t like Vladimir Putin, or Russia (or is it Russians?). Here’s the exchange:
Philip Hammond MP: “Whatever you call it, whatever the justification, whatever the language, over the last weeks, Russia has been bombing the moderate opposition positions in the name of fighting terrorism, whatever, it doesn’t matter.”
Rev’d Kate Bottley: “Has Phil Hammond actually grown a pair?.. I hate it when I agree with a Tory.”
‘Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you‘ (1Cor 6:17). She didn’t quite put it like that, but she might as well have done. Can there any good thing come out of
Nazareth Toryism? Or is it that she is greatly convicted in her spirit by the intrinsic searing truth of conservatism, and it is that which causes her to hate that she finds herself agreeing with the mediator?
She wasn’t wearing her dog collar this week, but she doesn’t need to: the whole country knows (and so do Channel 4 editors and producers) that she is a Church of England vicar and a minister of the Word. And she is very well liked and respected: there is no hint of moral or doctrinal delinquency, but national admiration for her personal spirituality and great teaching capacity. She is a manifestly gifted, active communicator who is dedicated to serving her parish.
But ministry isn’t simply service, for that is the whole of Christian life. Her task as a vicar is distinctively liturgical, catechetical and pastoral, principally for the needs of the whole Christian community, including Tories. As an ordained priest, she is both servant and shepherd among the people to whom she has been sent, and that includes Tories. Her task is to proclaim the Word of the Lord and to watch for signs of God’s new creation, including in Tories. Her vocation is to teach, admonish, feed and provide for her flock, which includes Tories.
The majority of England is instinctively conservative: it appears to be a natural disposition; an affinity with the natural order; part of the psyche of essential Englishness. The Rev’d Kate Bottley is by no means obliged to approve of that: indeed, she is free to repudiate its consoling power and turn her religious fervour to more meaningful transcendent bonds. But you’d think there might be some sensitivity to the political-philosophical implications for mission praxis. Why should those Tories who attend her church bother to listen to her tell the story of God’s love, if all the time she is pinching her nose at their spiritual halitosis? Why should all those Tories who watch Gogglebox even consider walking with her in the way of Christ, hoping to be nurtured and encouraged in their faith? Why should they gather round the Lord’s Table if their vicar deems them to be unworthy or unable to resist the evil philosophies of men?
Speaking to the General Synod last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury committed the Church of England to one of the biggest evangelism projects ever undertaken. “This is our duty, our privilege and our joy. There is nothing like it,” he proclaimed. And he reminded us: “All Christians are witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes to us precisely for this task. And as witnesses of Jesus we then become witnesses to Jesus, relaying what we have experienced and what we have known to others.”
Presumably, that includes Tories?