*** DEBUG END ***

Russell Brand interviews the Bishop of Chelmsford

28 June 2019

‘We’ve turned the cross into a sword to beat the world with’


Russell Brand performs during the “Letters Live” event at HM Prison Brixton, London, in December 2016

Russell Brand performs during the “Letters Live” event at HM Prison Brixton, London, in December 2016

A CHURCH of England that is “poorer, weaker, less strong” might be a positive development, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, has suggested.

In an interview with the comedian Russell Brand, Bishop Cottrell said that the Church had to be “very penitent about the way in which we have distorted the Christian faith over the centuries”.

“We’ve got nothing to be proud of,” he said. “Our history has been a really difficult history. . . Human beings are fallen, and just because you are part of the Church doesn’t make you immune to that. . . We’ve turned the cross of Christ, the great symbol of God’s complete sharing in what it is to be human . . . the complete outpouring of love and peace . . . into a sword to beat the world with.

“The good thing nowadays is the Church isn’t that strong, and, although, of course, I long for more people to come; so many people have never really heard the Christian faith . . . they think they know what it’s about, but they don’t. I long for that to change. But, actually, a poorer, weaker, less strong Church might be a good thing. It’ll make us a little less pompous, a little more humble, a little more determined just to get alongside people, and I think that’s a good thing.”

The conversation, broadcast as part of Mr Brand’s Under the Skin podcast, was prompted by Mr Brand’s encounter with Bishop Cottrell’s book on the work of Stanley Spencer, Christ in the Wilderness. It began with a prayer, and went on to cover the person of Jesus (“Jesus isn’t just a good bloke”), the message of the Christian faith (God saying, “Russell, I love you”), and the Reformation.

“The Church of England . . . has always had this idea, which I think is a beautiful idea, that we are the Church for everybody; we are the Church of people who don’t go to church,” Bishop Cottrell said. “We are involved in all kinds of stuff, which isn’t about trying to get more people to come to church — we would love them to come, they are very welcome — but we seek to embody and express the care of Jesus Christ for everybody.”

Mr Brand, who is studying for an MA in religion in global politics at SOAS, described himself as “a perennialist: a person that looks to see the love in various scriptures”. He recalled sensing “almost a degree of apology” while taking part in marriage preparation at a C of E church, and being struck by a quote from Isaiah at Brixton Prison (“Fear not, for I have redeemed you”).

He will speak at Greenbelt this summer (News, 29 March).

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)