Stephen Cottrell’s latest interview: startling, puzzling – offensive?

Jul 6, 2020 by

by David Baker, Christian Today:

What sort of qualities ought we to expect to find in a church leader?

The New Testament has some pretty clear stipulations about who is suitable and who is unsuitable. Of course, it is unreasonable to expect perfection, since we all fall short in many ways, and as a church leader myself I am only too aware of my own sins, and so am ever thankful day after day for the grace of God. Genuinely.

Nonetheless, the latest interview with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell – published in the Sunday Times – does leave those of us who strive both to emulate and uphold Biblical teaching on leadership asking serious questions. Perhaps Stephen Cottrell might even answer them!

For example, the New Testament is pretty clear that those in leadership should be able to control their tongues better than most. In a lengthy section on speech, the letter of James declares: ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.’

Therefore it is surprising to read in the Sunday Times that Cottrell ‘peppers his talks to his clergy with phrases such as “what the bloody hell” and “who gives a toss?”.’ A peculiarly British term (apparently), ‘bloody hell’ is described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘offensive’, while Collins Idioms Dictionary explains (if we didn’t know) that ‘giving a toss’ is a ‘rude, slang word’ relating to a sex act. Why use these words when there are more than 170,000 other ones in English to choose from? Cottrell needs to read Ephesians 4v29. This is no trivial thing.

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