The Bafta-winning BBC2 show, which concluded its third series this week, chronicles the life of vicar the Rev Adam Smallbone, played by Tom Hollander.
The programme focuses on his work in a struggling city-centre parish, as he and his wife try to balance parenthood and the demands of a dwindling but demanding congregation, crumbling church and unsympathetic hierarchy.
Yesterday the Rev David Robertson, Free Church minister in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, castigated its light-hearted portrayal of the religious life and worshippers, saying that the whole show was “without God, without Christ and without the Holy Spirit”.
He claimed the show depicted a “spiritual club for the dysfunctional, the hypocritical and the eccentric” with a “pathetic and useless” priest who was more of a “spiritual social worker, fundraiser and mini-CEO”.
Since its 2011 debut, Rev has proved a commercial and critical hit. In its first year, it won the South Bank Award for best comedy, and best sitcom at the television Baftas. It has been sold to 140 countries.
But Mr Robertson claimed the show was a “pale caricature of the reality of the church”.
He said: “We are not pathetic victims, huddling together whilst the storms of ‘progressive’ secularism consign us to the dustbin of history.
“The BBC might like a pathetic, wimpy vicar who swears like a trooper and has the same values as the dominant elites and mobs of our culture. But I prefer a vicar of Christ.”
Last night the BBC and Big Talk Productions, the company behind Rev, declined to respond to Mr Robertson’s comments.
The Free Kirk is not the only religious body to question the portrayal of the Church in Rev.
The leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby, challenged the TV image, saying that while it was “great entertainment” it “doesn’t truly tell the whole story”.
The Evangelical Alliance, an umbrella body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians, has also voiced concerns.
Kieran Turner from the Evangelical Alliance Scotland said: “Whilst it is always interesting to see portrayals of the Church on TV, unfortunately Rev slips into an easy caricature of cultural Christianity: a dying, white, middle-class church, which is far from the reality of many growing churches in the UK.
“The most recent statistics have told us that the evangelical church is a far cry from this picture, with churches growing across the UK, often working in the most deprived areas, providing services such as foodbanks and debt advice, and a Church that is increasingly multi-cultural with the enormous growth of black and ethnic minority churches in the UK.”
The Alliance is currently running a poll on its website asking the question: “Hit BBC comedy Rev has just finished its third series. But is it damaging to the image of the Church?”
The results show an even split between those who think it has had a negative impact and those who believe it has not.