Bishops should throw away their mitres

Why do Church of England bishops wear mitres? In our age of visual media, there is a tendency to reach for visual symbolism; it seems sometimes that those on television they don’t think they are actually talking to a bishop unless the person is wearing a purple cassock. But there are many reasons for saying goodbye to mitres once and for all.

The most obvious one is that mitres are singularly unflattering. I did once meet bishop on whom the mitre didn’t look completely stupid—but it was a long time ago, and said bishop has long retired. On most people they just look daft—ill-fitting, unflattering and awkward.

The second reason is rather important, and oddly is something that many people are not aware of (including, it seems, not a few bishops): wearing mitres is not particularly Anglican. The practice more or less ceased at the Reformation, and only crept back into use through the influence of the Oxford Movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Colin Buchanan, former Bishop of Woolwich, comments:

Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln 1885–1910, was the first English bishop generally reckoned to have worn a mitre. I suspect that Winnington-Ingram (Bp of London 1901–1939) and Lang (Stepney before 1909, then York till 1928, then Cantuar 1928-1942) really popularized the mitre—Lang was the first Canterbury to do so. No mitres were worn at George V’s coronation in 1911 (though there were questions about whether they should be wearing them), and bishops did wear mitres at George VI’s in 1937. It sits with (a) Roman theories of authority, (b) pomp, (c) self-inflation, and (d) the second generation factor—that folk think they are following a deeply entrenched tradition. It is not an admirable habit…

A number of bishops, including Maurice Wood, have made it clear from the start they would never wear one. I am ready to go a little way with those who really want me to (while telling them I think it is stupid). But they have to ask me—I never just reckon to wear one. And in liturgy I only wear it coming in and going out—it has no liturgical purpose.

So we need to note that the general wearing of mitres by bishops is a practice less than one hundred years old, and until quite recently it was far from universal.


The reasons for this lie in the origins of the use of a mitre. The biblical derivation comes from the headgear of the high priest who was to wear a ‘turban’ (mitznefet) which distinguished him from the other priests.

The turban worn by the High Priest was much larger than the head coverings of the priests and was wound so that it formed a broad, flat-topped turban, resembling the blossom of a flower. The head covering of the priests was different, being wound so that it formed a cone-shaped turban, called a migbahat.

This is set out in God’s instructions to Moses in Ex 28:

Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. (Ex 28.3–4)

Alongside this, in the Orthodox Church the mitre is a symbol of power and authority, (perhaps originating with the inscribed plate attached to the turban which appears to be like a crown, Ex 39.30) and (like the papal tiara) is modelled on crowns from the Byzantine Empire.

(In all this, there are two wonderful ironies. The first is that, according to the Talmud [B. Zevachim 88b] the high priest’s turban is to remind him of the presumption and sin of the people.

The other is that the camouflaged ‘clown hat’ of the modern Israeli army is also called a miznefet after the turban of the high priest; it, too, has a function related to power and authority—but it, too, looks extremely silly.)


It is now becoming clear why bishops in the Church of England dropped the wearing of mitres from the Reformation onwards. A piece of attire which communicates absolute authority and sacerdotal priestly ministry has no place within Anglican understandings of ministry. I recently posted a picture of myself in suit and tie, and a friend commented ‘I see you are disguising yourself as a lay person’. I was doing no such thing; the Church of England’s theology of ordination does not remove the ordained from the laos, the people of God, but sets them apart in terms of training and supporting them to minister. They have authority to teach, but it is an authority within the people, as primus inter pares, first amongst equals. I can never appeal to the authority of my teaching simply by dint of being ordained, by appeal to my office; I can only appeal to its correspondence with Scripture and the apostolic inheritance. Being ordained priest or presbyter, does not end one’s ministry as a deacon, and being ordained bishop or overseer does not end one’s ministry as either deacon or presbyter. By the same token, being ordained into any of these three historic orders does not remove the ordained from being part of the people of God. This understanding is captured rather nicely by the saying of St Augustine in his sermon on the anniversary of his ordination:

“Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you.  For you I am a bishop; with you, after all, I am a Christian.  The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation.  Finally, as if in the open sea, I am being tossed about by the stormy activity involved in that one; but as I recall by whose blood I have been redeemed, I enter a safe harbor in the tranquil recollection of this one; and thus while toiling away at my own proper office, I take my rest in the marvelous benefit conferred on all of us in common.

The modern revival of wearing of mitres by Church of England bishops signals in powerful terms the opposite, that they are a group set apart. The bishop who ordained me believed that mitres were vital, because their flame-shaped outline symbolised the bishop as the dispenser of the Holy Spirit at confirmations and ordinations, something the liturgy actually contradicts: at no point does the bishop pronounce ‘I ordain you’, since the language is all about what God (and not the bishop) is doing and of course it is God who bestows the Spirit.

Two years ago, Edward Dowler wrote in the Church Times about the symbolic importance of the vesture of ministers in response to comments by Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden. Dowler makes the observation:

Distinctive clothing for the clergy, or indeed anyone else, is never just decoration, dependent on a particular individual’s or community’s aesthetic taste. Like the clothing of our parent religion from which it is in part derived, the distinctive clothing that the Church has handed down to her ministers comes freighted with theological significance.

In this he is absolutely right—but his defence of current practice ignores the historical discontinuity in practice with previous centuries, and fails to ask whether the symbolism currently communicated is the right symbolism. The more power we recognise in vesture, the more important it is that we wear the right things for the right reasons. Mitres do not just sit uncomfortably on the heads of our bishops; they sit awkwardly with the Church of England’s reformed catholic understanding of ministry, rooted as it is in the patterns of the New rather than the Old Testament. The symbolism of the high priest belongs either to Jesus alone, or to the whole people of God; we no longer have the sacerdotal priestly caste that existed in the Old Testament.


There is one final and serious objection to the wearing of mitres. I noted how important these things can be in our visual media age—and we need to reflect on what such clear visual signals communicate. To most, and I would suggest especially the young, the sight of bishops in mitres puts them in another world. It is world of the past, a world of nostalgia, a world of deference—and mostly a world which is quite disconnected from present experience and values. It confirms for many the impression of a church irrelevant to modern questions, contained in its own bubble of self reference. And in its hierarchical understanding of authority, it is a culture of which contemporary society is becoming less and less tolerant, possibly for good reason. In her damning report on the handling of the evidence relating to Peter Ball’s abuse of children, Dame Moira Gibb highlights the problems in the culture of the Church:

We were struck during this review by a manifest culture of deference both to authority figures in the Church, particularly bishops, and to individuals with distinctive religious reputations—or both. This deference had two negative consequences. Firstly, it discouraged people from “speaking truth to power.” Then, on the few occasions where people did speak out and were rebuffed by a bishop—the summit of the hierarchy—there was nowhere else to go.

Nothing symbolises the ‘culture of deference’ like the wearing of mitres. It is time for them to go. (First published in 2017.)


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286 thoughts on “Bishops should throw away their mitres”

  1. I don’t hold any particular candle for the wearing of mitres – I tend to accept that they are not particularly Anglican – but one thing you say I do disagree with: “…we need to reflect on what such clear visual signals communicate. To most, and I would suggest especially the young, the sight of bishops in mitres puts them in another world…” I think there’s a lot wrong with what you say there, on many levels, but the most important is that if anything could convince me that wearing mitres was theologically defensible, it would be the idea that the symbolism of them enables people to enter in to another world. One of the legacies of our Anglican inheritance, bound together with Protestantism generally, is that it leads to disenchantment (and atheism). Our souls need theatre, drama, and to make of our religion something entirely rational is to desiccate it beyond repair. We need to re-awaken our people to a sense of wonder, not send them back into a rational sleep once again.

    Reply
        • But the symbolism, if you probe hard enough, is that of the hierarchical authority of the bishop, who alone rules and who alone dispenses the Spirit.

          Does that really appeal to anyone…?

          Reply
          • I think that particular argument is a kind of etymological fallacy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ‘like’ mitres either and nor do I favour puffing up hierarchy (quite the reverse). The question though, is what kind of meaning is seen in them synchronically, ie how does someone ‘read’ them who doesn’t know their ‘etymology’ (their historical development and prior-generational connotations)? I think answering that question might take some research.

          • I think I would agree with you—were it not for the fact that all the most explicit rationals from those most attached to mitres do indeed make this connection.

            If ordained ministers are priests, then bishops are high priests, and it is fitting that they should be thus attired. This is not dead genetics.

      • For many of those 300 years the Church of England was in a very sorry state with much episcopal neglect. Consider the 18th Century when bishops may not have worn mitres and were happier in wigs and lawn sleeves and behaved like princelings rather than pastors.
        Edward king was one of those in the 19th century who breathed new life into the Church.

        Reply
          • The crucial information here, of course, is to remember that Edward King was tried in an archiepiscopal court after the Church Association (think forerunner of hot Prot/Con Evo ‘Church Society’) put a churchwarden in Cleethorpes up to raising a complaint against King for doing things like having candles on the altar. It was, once again, an example of anti catholic prejudice.

            Excellent little book about Edward King called ‘Search for a Saint’ by John Newton. Also worth recalling that Rowan Williams, when Archbishop in 2010 went to Lincoln to commemorate the 100th anniversary of King’s death. In addition to citing King’s contributions to pastoral theology and reinvention of episcopal practices, in an interview with the local church paper Williams called the former prosecution an ’embarrassment to the church and the state.’

      • When I was young, C of E bishops wore gaiters. Is it not a question of swopping one sartorial eccentricity for another.

        Reply
      • Sam – ‘we need to re-awaken people with a sense of wonder’
        Amen – but does the pageant do that?

        That theo-theatre worked, maybe, at the turn of the C20th in inner city churches where the poor, starved of light n colour n texture, escaped the grime and greyness of it all for an hour. But today they have Netflix or a whole world at the swipe of a screen.

        But how exactly does that often stale sweaty high church frippery impart a sense of divine? And what exactly are people to make from the symbols you see as so meaningful? The statistics suggest people are not crowding the doors to witness the mystery performed by Newman’s accolytes, not keen to catch a sense or sniff of something divine. I rather suspect the outsider who witnesses such a pageant far from being ‘lost in wonder’ is ‘at a loss wondering’ what on earth is this?!

        What they want is not old fashioned symbols which have no basis in C1st christianity or C21st life – they want truth, authenticity, answers. If we consider the exponentially take up of Alpha since lockdown and indeed the Instagram Rev’s pod casts, we get a sense of where people are finding the Church offering meaning. Real questions wanting real answers – not smoke and mantles.

        Reply
        • I want authenticity. And smoke and mantles. And sung Propers. And incense and vestments.
          Some people want the numinous and transcedent, and mystery. This helps them worship God. They do not want men in lounge suits, or jeans and blue shirts, singing repetitive choruses to the accompaniment of guitars and drum kits.

          Reply
          • In the end what matters is not what we want, but what best brings people to faith in Christ. If we aren’t gonna be Biblical and stick to NT church norms, and Protestant (which CofE is constitutionally) let’s at least be missional.

            I’m happy to dress up is it draws those outside church towards Jesus
            just dont see any evidence it does – but show me if I’m wrong

          • Worship is offered to our God, it is ‘service’ of Him. As someone has said, it is a performance with an audience of One (or perhaps Three). Therefore, my wants are not that important. The prophets were given some important things to say about the acceptability of the worship of the people of Israel.

          • Simon

            If we were going to be biblical, there wouldn’t be any churches, and the Eucharist would be part of a normal meal, with the host presiding, either at home or in the open air. I can see the attraction…..

          • But a lot do, and the (pre-pandemic) statistics suggest that they are successful in attracting particularly (but not exclusively) young people to worshipping, and understanding God. As a retired Anglican minister, I say that is significant, and probably more so than wearing certain forms of dress – and swinging a thurible, which I find distinctly unhelpful and distracting, incidentally.

          • Penelope – you are right – and the whole priestcraft developed is a long way from the house-to-house eucharistic meal of the Apostles. I do think in all seriousness we can ask the question why/how & whether it should have developed to what it now is

            If the apostles attended our Anglican Churches, whether a high mass or low church communion – would they recognise and indeed be comfortable with anything we do?

          • Simon

            I don’t know if they would recognise a Eucharist, but then churches evolve.

            Interestingly, the churches which have the oldest liturgies also have the most elaborate – the Orthodox churches.

          • Interestingly, the churches which have the oldest liturgies also have the most elaborate – the Orthodox churches

            Hardly surprising — liturgies tend to become more elaborate over time, so obviously the older one is, the more elaborate it will have become.

            You might as well say, ‘Interestingly, the older children are also the taller ones.’

          • S

            The point is that the liturgy hasn’t changed since the worship of the early church. The oldest liturgies are the most elaborate.

          • The point is that the liturgy hasn’t changed since the worship of the early church.

            That sounds highly implausible. Is there any good evidence for that claim? Any first-hand descriptions of the liturgy dating from, say, the early second century?

          • The Didache and the Didaskalia

            Those are from the early second century? And the liturgy they describe is identical to the one currently in use in the Eastern orthodox churches?

          • Yes. The Ethiopian Orthodox church. There are some very ancient liturgies in use in the Syrian Churches. In Aramaic.

          • Yes. The Ethiopian Orthodox church.

            Well, I’m not an expert, but this random web page says:

            ‘The starting-point of the history of the Ethiopian rite must, in any case, coincide with the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia. The evangelization of Ethiopia, in its true, strict sense, began about the middle of the 4th century.’

            https://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/church/divineliturgydoc.html

            So not the early church at all but not even starting until the 4th century (unless you think the web page is wrong?)

            There are some very ancient liturgies in use in the Syrian Churches. In Aramaic

            Please be more specific. If the liturgy in question is, say, from the eighth century, then that could count as ‘very ancient’ but also would have had plenty of time for elaborations to accrete. We’re looking for ones fomr the period of the early church, ie, the second century, preferably the early part.

          • I don’t know. I’m not an expert. Read a church historian, like MacCulloch.

            Why would you make the claim if you don’t know whether it’s true or not? Did you think no one would check?

          • Goodness! You make all kinds of claims without ever checking or providing evidence. The Roman Catholic mass is ‘superstitious nonsense’ for one. Nothing factual provided. No evidence provided. Simply a vehement opinion.

          • Adjective: showing strong feeling; forceful, passionate, or intense.

            That’s what I think it means.

            Describing what 50% Or more of the worlds Christians do as ‘superstitious nonsense’ fits, I think..

          • Adjective: showing strong feeling; forceful, passionate, or intense.

            That’s what I think it means.

            Oh, well done.

            Describing what 50% Or more of the worlds Christians do as ‘superstitious nonsense’ fits, I think..

            Not if it wasn’t done with strong feeling, forcefully, passionately, or intensely. Which it wasn’t.

            I think what 100% of the world’s atheists believe is nonsense as well, as presumably do you. Does that make the both of us vehement anti-atheists?

          • It depends how it is expressed – obviously.

            ‘Superstitious nonsense’ used by one christian of another’s sacred practice in the context of a history is, I think, passionate and forceful.

          • It depends how it is expressed – obviously.

            Indeed. Specifically it depends on whether it is expressed with vehemence. That would indeed make it vehement. The clue is, as they say, in the name.

            ‘Superstitious nonsense’ used by one christian of another’s sacred practice in the context of a history is, I think, passionate and forceful.

            Not at all. If I really wanted to be passionate and forceful you would certainly know about it.

          • S

            I was remembering MacCulloch writing about the ancient Syrian Orthodox liturgy. In lockdown I don’t have my books with me, so I can’t check, I’m afraid.
            Other Orthodox liturgies may be from the 4thC onwards, but early doesn’t always mean primitive and later elaborate. Biblical scholarship has shown us that.
            And accretions are not always bad!

          • I was remembering MacCulloch writing about the ancient Syrian Orthodox liturgy. In lockdown I don’t have my books with me, so I can’t check, I’m afraid.

            That’s a pity.

            Other Orthodox liturgies may be from the 4thC onwards, but early doesn’t always mean primitive and later elaborate. Biblical scholarship has shown us that.

            No, but the older something is the more likely it is to have been elaborated. Just look at, say, cathedrals: the longer they’ve been around the more bits and pieces tend to have been added to them. Or, indeed, constitutions.

            I was just responding to your point that the older liturgies are more elaborate by saying that even if that were true, it’s no more than one might expect given the natural process of accretion. There’s no deeper meaning behind it than that.

            And accretions are not always bad!

            No one said they were. Nor that they were always good. Each must be judged on its merits.

          • “Just look at, say, cathedrals: the longer they’ve been around the more bits and pieces tend to have been added to them.“

            Quite the reverse in this country. The reformation stripped vast amounts of colour and statues and bits and pieces from our cathedrals. Due of course to the vehement anti catholic attitudes of Cromwell et al.

          • Due of course to the vehement anti catholic attitudes of Cromwell et al

            Now they were passionate. A kind of passion that is sadly lacking in these anaemic days.

          • S: I do not think that anyone could describe what has gone on during our lifetime in Northern Ireland as anaemic, and that situation has been vehemently anti Catholic. Do you applaud the stance of the Orange Order?

          • I do not think that anyone could describe what has gone on during our lifetime in Northern Ireland as anaemic, and that situation has been vehemently anti Catholic. Do you applaud the stance of the Orange Order?

            I see you have precisely zero understanding of the situation in Northern Ireland.

          • S

            Cathedrals were once polychromatic wonders. Still are in France. Just visit Albi. Now, in the UK, the pre-Reformation cathedrals are stripped, mostly, of their glory. Some, like Exeter, still retain some glorious colour and exuberance.
            Both Cromwells had finer points. But they were both vandals.

          • So people are not confused. The Didaskalia is readily available (due to the wonders of the internet). It can be easily consulted. Its 26 chapters are about many things (widows, conduct of Bishops, alms, raising of orphans, teaching crafts to children, church organization, proper conduct). Lots of quotations from scripture, especially OT. Liturgy it isn’t. A Rite it isn’t.

            This is pretty standard stuff. If you are looking for paranesis, exhortation, and strict teaching, you will find it. Peace.

        • The Didache and the Didaskalia — unfortunately, neither are liturgies. Not remotely, not elaborately, not anciently…if that is a word. Selah.

          Reply
          • The Didascalia has liturgical elements. There was a Grove booklet about it called “The liturgical portions of the Didascalia” – by Michael Vasey (I think).

      • A visit to the museums of Bruges puts mitres in their context, a world that is long gone and one that I am glad to leave in that past.

        Reply
  2. Goodness! you will be objecting to incense next! Convocation robes for bishops – the preferred protestant option – look especially stupid I think. I’d ban all of those. Nothing else quite gives off the message of superiority and the requirement for deference than convocation robes. So why not argue against those as well? I don’t think I’ve seen stained glass windows depicting bishops in convocation robes (but do correct me if I’ve missed them) but I’ve seen no end of stained glass windows depicting bishops in mitres and other liturgical vestments.

    I recall Pete Broadbent coming to preside at a eucharist in the church where I was Vicar not long after he was ordained a bishop. He wore a cassock alb and stole – no mitre, and wanted to model simplicity. It was a lot more simple than what was usually worn by those presiding and it confused the congregation no end. They told me they thought a bishop was coming. Visuals do communicate and I agree with Sam about the need for theatre and drama.

    Reply
    • ‘They thought a bishop was coming’. So a bishop is not someone who preaches the word, or upholds doctrine, or cares for and disciplines the sheep—it is someone who dresses up.

      I think you might have hit the nail on the head there!

      Reply
    • I loathe Convocation robes. But then I would, wouldn’t I?
      I remember a story of a princess turning up at a school (Diana?) and all the children being disappointed because she was wearing jeans.
      I also once saw a video of a bishop wearing a lounge suit to confirm people. Which is an abomination.

      Reply
      • Quite! 🙂 When I was a bishop’s chaplain, I would often be asked ‘what should I wear?’ (for such and such a visit). We used to disagree about convocation robes (which I hated and he loved) and I’d frequently say that there was absolutely no point in wearing convocation robes for a school visit. The only choice was cope and mitre.

        I take Ian’s point that bishops needs to have authority in what they say and teach etc (which is why I had most respect for John Robinson and Robert Runcie), but I’m old fashioned enough to still think that first impressions count. I wouldn’t turn up on a first date wearing shorts and t shirt. Or for an interview wearing unpolished shoes. We need *some* standards to be kept up surely?

        Reply
        • ” to still think…”

          oops…not so old fashioned as to have split an infinitive. Sincere apologies that I can’t edit that out! Social death!

          Reply
          • Worse than a split infinitive I’d say……
            I have even seen….wait for it…trainers! (there was a smoothie bar at the back of church then too…it inspired Rev. I think!)

    • you will be objecting to incense next!

      You mean people don’t?

      Convocation robes for bishops – the preferred protestant option – look especially stupid I think

      I think you’ll find that there isn’t a ‘preferred protestant option’ as actual Protestant churches don’t have bishops.

      Reply
        • Perhaps at some point it will dawn on you that one can be proudly, robustly, enthusiastically Protestant–as were the English Reformers– and be critical of Catholic abuses. That does not make one a closet catholic. It did not then and it does not now. Citing Stephen Neill for your cause? How very odd. You’d benefit from E Duffy…

          Reply
          • Christopher: I am especially proud to be a member of an ecumenical community. We robustly believe that insights come from a variety of traditions.

            What you describe as enthusiastically and robustly Protestant at the Reformation was a great deal of hatred. How could one be proud of destroying art and culture, not to mention the hatred of people?

          • We robustly believe that insights come from a variety of traditions.

            Isn’t the sole point of gathering insights to sift through them and thereby discover the truth that you might not have got to had you not looked so widely? A noble aim.

            But once you have determined which insights are true and which are false, isn’t it your duty to strongly reject the false ones while promoting the true ones?

            If you don’t do that, what’s the point of you? You’re just like someone off Britain’s Biggest Hoarders, sitting in your vast pile of all those insights, some true, most false, bafflingly proud of the squalor you’ve created.

          • Ok – so what about something like ‘the communion of Saints’. Is that ‘true’ or ‘false’ and how do you know?
            And if you judge it to be ‘true’, how do you know how to interpret what it means?

          • Ok – so what about something like ‘the communion of Saints’. Is that ‘true’ or ‘false’

            Yes, it is either true or false. Just like any other proposition.

            and how do you know?

            How do you know which it is? By using our God-given rational faculties to work out which.

            And if you judge it to be ‘true’, how do you know how to interpret what it means?

            Same answer, by using our God-given rational faculties to work out what it means.

          • You said it was a proposition. And that you could work it out using reason. So have a go

            I did, and I’m sure I could, but I suspect it would take a lot of effort and time and I have other things to do.

      • Not that it matters much, but lots of protestant churches have bishops.

        And if the Church of England isn’t Protestant, why has that been its formal name historically?

        Reply
        • Simply because of the vehement anti Catholic feeling engendered in some quarters at the English Reformation. Which also explains why some of the Articles are cast in the way that they are.

          Reply
          • Nonsense. That is a reply of a 5th former. “We got vehement and decided to call ourselves Protestant.”

            Tell it to Henry 8th, Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, and on the list goes on.

            “But now we are not vehement but foolish and call ourselves Catholic as our church disappears from view, wearing our special clothes as she goes.”

          • Seriously? Vehemence? I am afraid this is an evasion of historical facts.

            You’ll have to sell that to Henry the 8th, Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker and the list is too long…

            “Now we are not vehement so we’ll call ourselves Catholic, thank you, as the CofE disappears from view.”

            No wonder the confusion in thinking is so manifestly rampant. Facetiousness is what remains.

          • Christopher, you are not seriously saying that the 39 articles don’t express anti Catholic sentiment? which version are you reading?! You haven’t heard of Cromwell??

          • You are again on one of your red herrings.

            The Church of England is a Protestant entity. The appeal latterly to big C Catholic is an affectation of disciples of Newman who did not, like him, leave. The Church of England’s Protestant roots were enthusiastically and proudly embraced, for their own sake. This was to be the way forward. All the Protestant entities would unite and create their own (Latin!) Bible and so be the True Church. Cranmer assigned himself Matthew and enlisted the prolix Bucer to produce Ephesians. It was all jolly good and enthusiastic fun, and high-serious to boot.

            On the topic of mitres, I don’t see why you can’t be free to place one on your own head, Napoleon like (smiley face insert). This is the nice part of being a selective ‘catholic.’ You can pretty much do what you want with symbols, vesture, and the like. Everyone gets a prize!

            Be well my friend.

          • Christopher: I think you are committing transference here. No red herring. You asked a question: “And if the Church of England isn’t Protestant, why has that been its formal name historically?”

            I responded with an answer which you clearly didn’t really understand. Or chose not to. Read back over the thread again and maybe it will be clearer second time around.

            I am well thanks! and also with you.

          • For a full understanding of how things swung from Catholic to Protestant and back several times, including Cranmer taking and then denying a wife, I suggest Stephen Neill’s excellent book ‘Anglicanism’. Bettered only I think by the work of Diarmaid MacCulloch. Both might help Christopher.

        • And if the Church of England isn’t Protestant, why has that been its formal name historically?

          Because it was intended to be properly Protestant; but it backslid quite quickly, and expelled all the real Protestants.

          Reply
        • Martin Luther was a sort of proto-Protestant; he started the ball rolling, but it took Zwingli et al to follow it through properly.

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    • The window in the Wycliffe Hall chapel has, I seem to recall, a representation of a bishop (Tucker of Uganda I think) dressed correctly in (black) convocation robes. Far more modestly dignified than cope and mitre.

      Reply
      • Ian – the East end window at St Aldates has Bishop Hannington, martyred in Uganda, preaching the gospel in black convocation robes.

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          • Oh I’m certain he is Simon. That wasn’t at all what I was saying.
            In summary: I think discussion and debate about vestments (including mitres) is pretty pointless and, as some have said, like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s just about tradition – and we are well aware that there are several different strands of tradition in the C of E. I was simply making the point that convocation robes are just as ‘loaded’ as mitres. Every bit as loaded.
            And the fact that the only windows that people have suggested in which convocation robes (and ‘modest’ black at that!) feature are in places which are very much ‘party’ places. They aren’t your average parish church or cathedral window. I’ve seen hundreds – probably thousands – of those in my time, and only ever seen bishops depicted in cope and mitre.

          • Interesting – we do have Jesus and St Philip & St Paul sumptuously displayed – with Halos not mitres.

            My fave windows are Chagall’s

    • I agree with you on convocation robes.
      I also think that what +Pete did was a good idea. It’s the kind of thing that some disturbing clerical saint might have done to protest the veniality of the church (nb I’m not saying that’s what’s happening in this case). Now that would be theatre and drama! Especially if it confused the congregation enough to get them to ask what a bishop actually is.
      Alas, I fear the comments would not have been about the intersection of culture and theology but rather merely about taste in the enactment of liturgy. Given that the Bishop is meant to have the final say in liturgies in which they are presiding, you might have had him insist that *everyone* involved simplified to a similar degree…

      Reply
  3. My main objection to mitres is that they make bishops look (a) ostentatious and (b) plain silly and, like much else from the Oxford / Romantic movements, are a throwback to an imagined medieval past. Just what the C of E needs to improve its image in the 21st century!

    I can, however, just about tolerate mitres if teamed with a cope. What I really dislike is the wearing of mitres over chasubles, which is clearly Roman usage. I think it was Rowan Williams who started this unfortunate trend at consecrations and Justin Welby has uncritically continued it.

    With regard to Andrew Godsell’s comment on convocation robes I do recognise that that this is a matter of personal preference but I take the diametrically opposite view! It seems to me that they are seemly, traditionally Anglican and being only slightly removed from clergy choir dress don’t visually elevate the bishop to a higher plane. Also, they are far less likely to be lampooned; when did you last see a comedy bishop not wearing a mitre?

    With regard to stained glass I refer Andrew to St Oswald’s Church Malpas in Cheshire. Here there is a window showing the consecration of local rector Reginald Heber as bishop of Calcutta. All three consecrators and the new bishop are vested in black chimeres. A mitre and a crosier are pictured in the corner as no more than theatrical props….

    Reply
    • Almost all previous-to-1975 photos of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (PECUSA) are the same. This had nothing to do with anti-Catholicism. It was regarded as the historical, formal, distinctively anglican dress.

      Reply
  4. I’ve just recalled an essay set to us as final year theology undergraduates 40 years ago:
    Protestantism suffers from the lack of non verbal elements in worship: discuss.

    There was lots to discuss 40 years ago as I recall! sounds like there still is.

    Reply
      • You mean the Nine O Clock Service?
        Charismatic movement was not just a Protestant thing of course. So I’m not sure that really answers the question. And it brought horrors of its own – like appalling music for one thing, which for those of us for whom the aural is more important that the visual, is a serious offence to acceptable worship.

        Reply
          • I was being facetious (no change there!) and I’ve been round the block too many times to get out more now. Silence and plainsong does it for me best I’m afraid. Charismatic stuff is part of what some sorts of personality needs – and I don’t.

          • “Silence and plainsong does it for me best I’m afraid. Charismatic stuff is part of what some sorts of personality needs”

            Worship is what God deserves not what does it for us best

            I cant’ recall any silence or medieval plainsong being the order of the day in the worship of the Temple or early Church community – and it seems the Divine personality likes exuberant praise, clapping, dancing, and those who disdained such got in trouble – remember Michal !?

          • No – not really flags – and songs dont have to be ‘jaunty’ – they can and should be solemn and lamenting and expressive of the whole panoply of human emotion. But I do think contemporary is good, God is still gifting musicians and calling forth “new songs” and certainly didn’t and doesnt only inspire music in ancient Gregorian chant or medieval plainsong or even C18th hymnody for that matter. I don’t speak like Chaucer and I dont want to sing along to the melodies he did either. The importance vernacular goes beyond Bible translation

          • “I cant’ recall any silence or medieval plainsong being the order of the day in the worship of the Temple or early Church community”
            There are silences mentioned and implied in worship in scripture. Plainsong may well have developed from Hebrew chanted music. I think it would be quite difficult also to discover fully what went on in ‘worship’ in the early Church community -there is (anticipatory pardon asked) quite a lot of argument from silence there. And it’s hard to think that if it happened that it would have been disallowed. Heck; I’ve even experienced spontaneous awed silences in charismatic worship …
            But I do also agree with the comment about personality type. And we know from psychological research that this interacts with culture quite a lot. Every so often in helping people to become disciples of Christ, I find some who temperamentally (whether innate or cultured) find the charismatic approach too alienating, I’m glad then that there are other kinds of ‘style’ to point them to. -And, of course, it goes the other way too. My own experience encompasses both; I don’t see it as either/or. I think God can be honoured in both if the heart is right.

  5. Snore. How boring Andrew.
    Isn’t confusion a party piece, a golly jape of a game?
    Non of the apparel carries any weight or significance to me except in a negative divide, in a “social distancing” way.
    Sounds very Conservative Party pomp to me and we can’t be having that can we, from the Bishops. After all it is no longer the conservative party at prayer, is it?
    Perhaps they should model our great High Priest Jesus, with a circle of thorns, in flogged rags.

    Reply
  6. Miters are efforts to display a flame of fire, re: Pentecost. I agree they look silly and I agree they are of recent vintage (also in TEC, in my memory, most Bishops did not wear them, and now all do!) but the link to Israeli army and turbans of the OT strikes me as a confusion in an otherwise serious piece.

    Reply
    • Thanks Chris. I don’t think that mitres really have any connection with the flames of Pentecost; that is a post-hoc rationalisation. And if they are, that is even more worrying, suggesting that the bishop has the power to dispense the Spirit!

      The link to the Israeli Army is a sideline, I agree…but explicitly has the same connection with the OT.

      The link to turbans of the High Priest is actually central: that is precisely the historic rationale for mitres having been introduced in the eleventh century or thereabouts. It is what the orthodox believe, and it springs from a completely different understanding of ministry.

      Reply
      • I confess I have never heard this. I am no fan of mitres. But the entire idea was based upon a flame-like-hat. Which is why they do not look like turbans.

        What I do find increasingly odd is the appeal of anglicans here and in the CofE to being Catholic. As much as I grew up with the idea, I suspect Newman was correct. Just look at the utter disarray of the CofE, now with likely fewer worshipers of Sunday than the church which does call itself Catholic, without toggling between lower c and upper C. I think the word now means something like, ‘I am not identifying as evangelical’ but in fact, it is a word without any common point of reference.

        And furthermore, in my experience it is really only anglicans who get worked up about vestments, incense and so on. Most Catholics I know could care less.

        Reply
        • “Most Catholics I know could care less.”
          I assume you mean could not care less Christopher. The reason they could not care less is that they don’t need to. They simply know that Priests and Bishops wear certain clothes and that’s that. And it ain’t Convocation Robes or Choir dress or lounge suits. It’s eucharistic vestments.

          Reply
          • And they also know that Protestant Anglicans liking to call themselves Catholic is a silly idea. Reflexively, as well as formally. Clergy in the CofE are not Priests and Bishops, so far as they are concerned, so they can wear space suits, lounge suits, swim suits, or birthday suits, so far as they are concerned.

          • I’m afraid that just isn’t the case Christopher. Roman Catholics I have worked with over 32 years of ordination are entirely clear that there is a fundamental unity which history has simply obscured. I’ve been welcomed into schools and churches as a priest and referred to as Fr Andrew. I’ve spent five years as a Bishop’s Chaplain where the bishop has been welcomed at many joint RC/Anglican occasions as a bishop. I don’t recognise your description at all.

          • Have a look at (even the very generous) Yves Congar’s account of Anglicanism. Or the ARCIC documents of recent years. Of course people are friendly inside the happy Isle. I am Pere in our local French context. But formally I am also an Anglican minister. No one is fooled about that.

            To a Roman Catholic, you are a Protestant.

          • Andrew
            Catholic courtesy to you is not recognising your orders, priesthood or your bishop’s episcopacy. They would not receive communion from you or recognise it as such.

          • Thank you, Simon.

            Have a look at (even the very generous) Yves Congar’s account of Anglicanism. Or the ARCIC documents of recent years. Of course people are friendly inside the happy Isle. I am Pere in our local French context. But formally I am also an Anglican minister. No one is fooled about that.

            To a Roman Catholic, you are a Protestant.

          • Oh officially Simon of course. But unofficially it’s quite different. There’s a welcome and recognition that goes way beyond the official line. Rather like Catholics officially don’t use artificial means of birth control, but in about 90% of cases they ignore the official line.

          • Out of interest Christoper, do they welcome you to take communion in France? I am well aware of Anglican clergy who are known to be so, but still welcome to receive.

        • Mr AG–I can send you to my new book, Convergences: Canon and Catholicity (2020) for an answer to your question (with a very fine endorsement from Rowan Williams). The French Catholic context is a very rich one.

          Reply
          • Which question is that Christopher? You are welcome to send me your book. Thank you! And please do call me Andrew – this is a Christian endeavour and we are Christians so Christian names are appropriate.

          • Ah. My question to you Christopher was a more practical one. Do you take communion in your RC Church in France?

          • And you will find the “practical” answer in my book…

            We can all doff our mitres in thanksgiving that blog conversations have not displaced actual book writing. Some topics deserve sustained attention. We lived in the rectory of a Catholic parish and I taught at the Jesuit seminary in Paris. The parish Priest was a close friend and he died during this time. It was a very rich experience, full of ups and downs.

            As I said, Enjoy!

          • Christopher: if you can’t actually answer a very straightforward question then it suggests you have something to hide. I will assume, therefore, that you do take communion but do not wish to say so publicly – whatever your book may or may not say. (and I very much doubt it addresses my question).

          • Christopher: As I thought – you are unable to answer a straight question, except with making personal sniping.

  7. As David Pawson used to love to point out , the bishop mitres as an image of the flame is entirely wrong as the text in Acts 2 suggests the fire of the Spirit has a huge flame burning downwards, dividing into branches , touching each person . Perhaps bishops should wear their mitres upside down !

    Also if my memory is correct the former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway urged all bishops at the 1998 Lambeth conference to throw there mitres into the thames as a protest against dressing like Medieval autocrat. I think he did throw his in ?

    Reply
  8. shouldnt oughter coulder mitre..

    Mitres are a distraction. That’s why we can argue about drama and tradition and authenticity until the cows come home. The underlying issue is that of authority. The first Anglican bishops didn’t wear mitres for 300 years because the authority belonged to the Word. And they didn’t need to defend it. What the shift represents is that the ability to open a Bible and explain what it means is now routed through the authority of the bishops under letter and license.

    But if the mitres were doffed in perpetua then how would the angel of authority next manifest itself? It is there because we defer to it and because as a laity we assent to it and collude with it. Why truth needs to be accredited and centralised is an issue, a way bigger theme than mitres. We have never had as well an educated a population. We have never had such access to scripture and biblical scholarship. So why is it that we need our permissions centralised? The one thing I will say in favour of mitres is that it flags where the power lies. And it was not ever thus

    Reply
  9. An episcopal priest in North America once told me that the only charisms operating today are those dispensed by a bishop to a priest in the laying on of hands during ordination

    It was no surprise at all to find that in his church he did absolutely everything. Everyone else was merely a recipient of the ministry of the spiritually-endowed individual

    As a baptist my antennae are probably too sensitive to things I find suspect about episcopacy. I know its not Anglican theology – and I know some very good bishops too – but its not the only time I’ve heard the dreadful teaching that it is the bishop who dispenses the Holy Spirit

    Reply
  10. Jesus promised you will be clothed with power from on high, not – you will be clothed with pantomime kit borrowed from a production of Aladdin.

    Can you imagine the Apostle Paul or Peter or John wearing such? Exactly

    They are a vain, pompous; they deflect from Christ; they make much of the Bishop in the eyes of people impressed by frippery. Along with episcopal rings & purple shirts (borrowed symbols of ancient Roman Empire magistrate’s office) they are distinctly unbiblical, missiologically unhelpful, and culturally anachronistic.

    They must go

    Reply
    • Simon I may be a little out of date but my impression was that New Wine leaders (the men) have always been actually clothed at Crew.

      Reply
      • Reasonably out of date, (including on gender)David…especially in the North…though even Northerners find it hard to resist anything (including Crew) at a good price in T K Maxx!!

        Reply
        • David – actually Boden is quite popular too – Truth is Crew dont make kit in my size – I’ve tried several times at Crew shop Swindon outlet centre – embarrassing

          Reply
        • The priest should be anonymous, representative, a steward of God’s mysteries. Not a ‘bloke’ in smart casuals.

          Reply
          • Actually wearing smart casuals like everyone else is rather anonymous

            Wearing absurd medieval clothing with braided silk n gold vestments does not make you anonymous, it makes you stand out like a clown

            I am priest and a bloke – by God’s grace called to proudly stewards God’s mystery which has now been revealed (Col1:26) – and not to use smoke and mantles to make what is disclosed in Christ more mysterious again

            Have you ever read Von Harnack’s thesis that as the Church lost its charismatic and spiritual power, it’s clergy sought to bolster their position by making themselves seem more ‘special’ through priestcraft copied from mystery religion cults in post apostolic era. Its just a theory – but it seems to fit

          • A priest is never anonymous and no amount of clothing will achieve that. I am suspicious of this particular rationalisation. Given that the priest’s calling is to know the sheep …
            Also, there are some who wear all the ‘right rig’ and whose body language and demeanour do not fit ‘steward of God’s mysteries’, and there are some who, wearing smart casuals, convey a real sense of awe and godly connection. That we may prefer certain kinds of attire is probably more about us.

          • And again, we need to note that for the earliest centuries there was no distinctive clerical dress—and there appears absolutely zero expectation of it in the New Testament.

  11. The National Church North of the border has had a different take on vestments with black being the visual that the minister was to be covered, it was the Word that was important with the entry of the Bible to the lectern preceding the minister.in he University
    However that has been turned on its head now in that robes, vestments of any ilk, make the person stand out. I had this reinforced every year when as a University Chaplain I marched down the aisle at Graduation time in company with all the high and mighty of Academia displaying as peacocks how much above everyone else we were.

    Reply
    • Historically the intention robing in worship is to express quite the opposite. The person leading worship is vested precisely to draw attention away from themselves and towards the greater glory and beauty of Christ who clothes us in the garments of salvation. The temptation to be self promoting can and does happen whatever you are wearing.

      Reply
      • David

        I think vestments both remind us of the Kingdom and, as you say, clothe the priest in anonymity. S/he can stand in the person of Christ better wearing a cope or a chasuble than dressed in a lounge suit or jeans. Indeed, I would rather the priest faced East to lead (self effacingly) the congregation in the worship of God, than face the congregation. But I suppose I will be alone on that here!

        Reply
      • David ‘The person leading worship is vested precisely to draw attention away from themselves and towards the greater glory and beauty of Christ who clothes us in the garments of salvation.’ Well we can agree that things like mitres do the exact opposite. So there is another reason for ditching them!

        Reply
  12. I am puzzled that one of the most repeated concerns expressed by Ian and others here is that a mitre looks ‘silly’. So what? Since when has avoiding looking silly been the driver for Christian behaviour and worship? (But if so perhaps the mitre and other (silly) robes have an important role in keeping clergy humble? – and for what it is worth I think Ian would argue against any worship robes – not just mitres).

    I recall the story of a free church preacher declaring ‘we don’t need fancy robes to praise God – we worship the Lord “in the beauty of holiness”’. He was clearly unaware that Ps 96.9 is more literally rendered ‘worship the Lord in holy clothing/attire/sacred grandeur’. In other words – get dressed up in something special to come into God’s presence.

    So I agree with Sam’s pushback. There is something actually quite rationalist about some of these arguments against ritual robing. Human beings mediate and express meaning through symbolic words and actions. The symbols still work – even when some mock them.

    Reply
    • I don’t have a problem looking silly.

      I have a problem with looking silly by wearing something that is alien to a long period of the Anglican tradition, which was abolished by the Reformers because of its theological association, which is defended as a sign of the hierarchical rule of the bishops over the church, and is taken as a symbol of their unique power to dispense the Spirit.

      If we want to look silly, let’s wave Holy Spirit flags against demons. At least they have a more coherent theology behind them!

      Reply
      • I might try the Holy Spirit flag deliverance thing – sounds cool
        I wont ever get to try the Mitre (as a Bishop once told me)

        Reply
      • Unique power to dispense the Spirit?
        Is that Holy Spirit? Spirit of the Age, more like, though it’s hardly a unique facility in the CoE notwithstanding their strenuous, (leading the way while hanging on to the fancy dress, coat tails of
        Plural Progressivism) hands – on efforts and proclamations.
        Don’t we just ache for something to hold on to, something of permanence, albeit outward appearance, a triumph of style and form over substance, to pass on while at the same time decry theological timeless truth of the Good News reality of Jesus Christ, to dishonour his name.

        Reply
    • He was clearly unaware that Ps 96.9 is more literally rendered ‘worship the Lord in holy clothing/attire/sacred grandeur’.

      Hmm. I don’t see quite how to read that. Even if you read ‘ha.da.rah’ as ‘attire’, it is ‘attire of holiness’ (the noun qo.desh and not the adjective ). I.e. ‘dressed in holiness’ and not ‘dressed in holy attire’. It is a similar sentiment to Colossians 3.12. This then ties in with the second half of the verse as the appropriate response to YHWH is to tremble. If we are not clothed, we should not dare to approach the living God.

      The LXX seems to have the first half of the verse as “Worship the Lord in his holy courtyard”.

      Reply
      • Thanks David
        I am not a Hebrew scholar but was working from my small stock of Hebrew commentaries – esp the wonderful Robert Alter (‘sacred grandeur’). I struggle with the assumption that the language of attire and grandeur is ‘only’ metaphorical (and forgive if that is not what you are saying).

        Reply
        • David R,
          As you are aware, David, Alter is not a Christian.
          Yes, that is not a reason of itself to discount what he says, but even the Psalms are to be understood through the lens of the NT and Holiness of God and us, which has almost nothing to do with material clothing, such as being dressed in the robes of righteousness.
          It’s not outward appearance of whitewashed tombs that Jesus praises.
          O Yes, we might scrub up well.

          Reply
          • Geoff. There is no shortage of Christian translations that follow Alter on this one. And in the OT as in the NT the outward must be an expression of the heart. Whitewashed tombs? Mixing metaphors here. It is surely not hypocrisy to seek to honour God (in part) by what we wear in his presence. Don’t you do that? This is something the aggressive informality of our age needs reminding of. And I think this informality drives some of this debate actually.

          • David R,
            Agreed that it is a mixing of metaphors.
            But you really are not dealing with the question of Holiness and the beauty and unapproachable splendour and glory of God and of what or who comprises Christian holiness, which is far from what we or others may wear as outer garments, in formality or informality, both of which may or may not be distractions, as we are all spiritual beggars, in filthy rags.
            Formality or informality in worship may be a contributing factor in this debate, symbolising exclusivity/inclusivity, but I’ve visited this site long enough to see that the points raised by Ian Paul are of a deeper theology, between form and substance, symbol and the underlying reality of symbol, such as bread and wine as the execution New Covenant of Christ and all that it enfolds.
            I find it significant that you and Penelope and Andrew enter this debate in support of formality and clothing, of handed – down outward tradition which speaks of arms-length exclusivism, self/class protectionism, as it were.
            Have a hug!
            Geoff

          • No Geoff. I enter the debate in despair that such anti-Catholic feeling is still around. I had assumed it died out with my parents generation in this country. This debate is not about mitres and vestments. It’s been about how Protestants are much holier. I find it very disturbing indeed.

          • Geoff. Do I understand you turn up to church in filthy rags then? Are we not saved, forgiven and clothed in the beauty and grace of Christ? The chorus ‘King of Kings, majesty’ has come to mind during this thread and I cannot get it out of my brain. ‘In royal robes I don’t deserve, I live to serve your majesty’. Yes I know that is a metaphor. But it is precisely because of the holiness of God that this subject concerns me. And your take down of robing and what you call ‘formality’ is a rather a caricature. I simply do not believe, for example, that you do not choose what you wear to honour particular express the context – weddings, funerals, parties. How much more then for the worship in the awesome holiness and beauty of God? Can you understand that the casual informality in low church worship traditions (which I know can be an expression of childlike trust in the loving presence of God) can also look and sound just that – casual and disrespectful – to those who believe that coming into the presence of God’s majesty needs a bit more thought and respect? Thanks for the hug (at a safe distance of course)

          • An Interesting trajectory of discussion here –
            From Bishop’s Mitres, to Priestly vestments to Sunday Best.
            I understand and respect the argument of David’s here – I certainly dont think it a Protestant/Catholic issue whatsoever. I think it reflects theology, spirituality and culture, and even personality.

            I grew up in the tradition of Sunday best as a strict Baptist – as a small boy I wore shirt n bow tie to church – growing into my pre-teens in a suit, shirt n tie. My mum n sisters in long dresses n bonnets. It was made clear that if we were going to meet the Queen we wouldn’t go casual – and we were going to meet God. The generations of Exlusive Brethren influence in my family took this to another level – length of hair, length of dress, whether a lace bow was token/covering enough for the angels etc

            Of course that led to a real strain in my thinking. And how was I supposed to meet God, talk to him, relate to him, walk with him daily, if it wasnt sunday, I wasn’t wearing the right clothes and in the right place.

            For me, the Sunday best theology resulted in a real sense of spiritual schizophrenia – a dualism was inculcated in me that was undermining a meeting with God, anytime anyplace. It created a spirituality and a theology that kept God in a sunday box, sunday best, out of my life.

            I found freedom when coming to an adult faith, in charismatic context, where clothes worn on sunday weren’t a value judgment about spirituality or an obstacle or aid to worship (except for those judging others by what they wear).

            So I now personally feel far more comfortable in a context where clothing is not a pre-requisite for right worship. However, I have noticed in a variety of Pentecostal contexts where I have preached that there is a sense of “celebration” in the dressing up for church. It is Sunday best – but it’s more than that – its ‘Party’ clothes. I can get that.

            I think when it comes to God & kit, we should not be prescriptive – we should be free to be ourselves – but respectfully accommodate to the context we find ourselves in.

          • Simon

            I find that really interesting. Brought up an RC, I never went to church hatless or with bare arms. I was once taken to Mass straight from a party and no one had brought shoes for me to change into, so I had to hide my gold shoes under the kneeler, in case someone saw them. I was also told off by a priest for wearing a trouser suit.
            Now my heart rejoices when I see children running up and down aisles in flashing trainers. But I don’t see vestments as formal or dressing up, more as a cloak of invisibility, albeit a very splendid invisibility

          • David R and Andrew G,
            I’m struggling with this thread or rather the cascading order of the comments, as I no longer receive an email to show someone has replied to a comment I made.
            And I don’t know in what order this will or may appear.
            David,
            It is marvellous that the song comes to mind. It represents the nub of what I’ve sought to drive at. It is theocentric, but not only that, it is of awe inducing, almost unbelievable, dressing of royal robes I don’t deserve. That follows on the reality of deep Christian theology. It is but heart and mind conflation that induces a response, a prostration (physical -undignified?- and or heart and mind affective cognisance?).
            Is that more or less likely, is it affected by what we or Bishops wear (as that is what stimulated the post and comments.)
            When I had occasion to preach, generally I’d wear the type of clothing the congregants wore so as not to draw attention away from the sermon.
            But and this may be pertinent to the discussion, I wore suit as a solicitor in Court, something of a dress code, (and this was the main point) having been trained not to draw attention to clothing as it would distract, draw attention of the Court away from words used in advocacy, away from the address to dress.
            Andrew,
            Thank you. I hadn’t realised this was or is largely about anti-Catholic feeling or how much protestants were holier.
            I was too young to understand, but the strong Catholicism of my Aunt caused a split in the differing the upbringing of my three cousins with an insistence on baptism, confirmation and schooling and separation from protestants. My uncle was probably regarded as a protestant, but in reality was an atheist.
            But today we’e returned from a walk with a friend, (where we saw a Kingfisher – stunning! even Solomon in all his glory, wasn’t dressed like that, if I can misquote scripture to make a point ) who has again has been raised in a devoted Catholic family, but who is lapsed, having been married to a good friend who went to a Christian Brothers school, after they were denied a wedding ceremony, as my friend had been previously divorced.
            I’d ask rhetorically, what kind of Catholicism is there a strong anti-Catholic feeling? Is it Catholics who would joyfully say and believe the Apostle Creed?
            Is it the Catholicism, theology of Pope Benedict XVI, who, in my recollection, spoke in public about Jesus far more than the then AboC and who could write this,
            “We now understand that Jesus himself is “heaven” in the deepest and truest sense of the word – he in whom and through whom God’s will is done” And this:
            “Being with Jesus and being sent by him seem at first sight mutually exclusive, but they clearly belong together”

            And this (apologies for shouting capitals, but I haven’t the facility for italics or bold):
            “IF PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE THE WORD OF SCRIPTURE, THEN THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE SOMEONE COMING FROM THE NEXT WORLD EITHER. THE HIGHEST TRUTHS CANNOT BE FORCED INTO TYPE OF EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE THAT ONLY APPLIES TO MATERIAL REALITY.”

            AND THIS FROM THE POPE:
            “AND THE ANTI-CHRIST, WITH AN AIR OF SCHOLARLY EXCELLENCE, TELLS US THAT ANY EXEGESIS THAT READS THE BIBLE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF FAITH IN THE LIVING GOD, IN ORDER TO LISTEN TO WHAT GOD HAS TO SAY, IS FUNDAMENTALISM; HE WANTS TO CONVINCE US THAT ONLY HIS KIND OF EXEGESIS, THE SUPPOSEDLY PURELY SCIENTIFIC KIND, IN WHICH GOD SAYS NOTHING AND HAS NOTHING TO SAY, IS ABLE TO KEEP ABREAST OF THE TIMES.”

            Last from the Pope:
            “JESUS TEACHING IS NOT THE PRODUCT OF HUMAN LEARNING, OF WHATEVER KIND. IT ORIGINATES FROM THE IMMEDIATE CONTACT WITH THE FATHER, FROM “FACE- TO -FACE” DIALOGUE – FROM THE VISION OF THE ONE WHO REST CLOSE TO THE FATHER’S HEART. IT IS THE SON’S WORD.”

            Andrew, is that the Catholicism you subscribe to?
            Is it the Catholicism that rejects SSM? Abortion?

            Last: “The life of Brain.” What a wonderful Freudian slip, for all those who worship the brain or rather idolise the intellect.

            Yours in Christ Jesus,
            Geoff

          • Penelope – thanks – love the gold shoes story – shine on

            How intriguing that your Catholic dress code resembled my Strict Baptist one? And indeed ironic – given they were predicated on the same theology.

            Here’s my question this afto – how much do you think we misunderstand each other and argue from our own experience, making assumptions and projections, unconsciously but selectively biased in our Biblical interpretation & theologizing?

          • Simon

            Thanks. Yes, shame and strict propriety were a large part of my religious upbringing. But there were wonderful things too. Like Corpus Christie processions at my convent School. White dresses and veils for the girls and boys who had just made their first Communion walking backwards in front of the Blessed Sacrament strewing rose petals. You would have hated it 🙂
            So, in answer to your question I think I do make assumptions unconsciously and selectively. Of course, some of my arguments for vestments and religious tat are theological and biblical – the beauty of holiness, as noted above. But some are just personal taste. I find myself nearer to God in these liturgical settings (childhood influences?) and love Hildegarde of Bingen more than worship songs. So, perhaps I’d be more comfortable in church with Chaucer!?
            Also I don’t have a problem with liturgy and doctrine evolving. We cannot do everything as it was done in NT times. Though holding everything in common would be a good start.

          • Ah no Geoff. I’m taking about the kind of anti Catholic sentiment that rears its head most tragically in Northern Ireland or considers that the mass is superstitious nonsense, or that confession puts Priests in the place of God. It has been evident here and I find it disturbing.

          • that the mass is superstitious nonsense, or that confession puts Priests in the place of God

            But the mass is superstitious nonsense, and confession does put ‘priests’ in the place of God.

          • And there it is – vehement anti Catholic (large C, implying Roman but for the avoidance of doubt, yes Roman) sentiment.

          • vehement anti Catholic (large C, implying Roman but for the avoidance of doubt, yes Roman) sentiment.

            Not vehement at all. ‘Vehement’ implies passionate, forceful, intense, irrational, unreasoning, perhaps even angry, rage-filled.

            I am none of these things; just coldly and calmly stating facts.

          • Oh no – you are stating your opinion. Nothing factual. If you want to claim fact you must provide evidence.

          • Oh no – you are stating your opinion. Nothing factual. If you want to claim fact you must provide evidence.

            Ah, so you admit there’s nothing vehement about it?

            I am stating my opinion about a fact. Same as if I say ‘Jesus was the son of God’ I am stating my opinion about a fact. Or if I say ‘John F Kennedy was shot frm the grassy knoll’ I am stating my opinion about a fact. My opinion can be right or wrong; but if, having considered all the evidence, it is the one I am convinced is true, then of course I will state it as fact. You would do the same if you were to claim it is a fact that the mass isn’t superstitious nonsense (would you make that claim?).

            The mass either is superstitious nonsense or it isn’t; that is a fact. What conclusion one reaches on that issue is dependent on how one judges the evidence (exactly the same as the conclusion one reaches on whether Jesus was the son of God), and you shouldn’t dismiss a conclusion honestly reached as being motivated by anything ‘vehement’.

          • There was everything vehement about what Cromwell and his men did. So yes, there was vehemence.

            A fact is something that is proven. When it comes to the question of the mass being ‘superstitious nonsense’ you aren’t stating your opinion about a fact. You are stating your prejudice. Unless you would like to offer evidence that will establish your opinion as a fact.

          • There was everything vehement about what Cromwell and his men did. So yes, there was vehemence.

            Yes but you claimed I was vehement. Are you now willing to retract that?

            A fact is something that is proven.

            No, a fact is something that is, regardless of whether is it proven or not. It was a fact that the Earth went around the sun long before technology had advanced to the point where there were measuring instruments capable of proving that, wasn’t it?

            Some people stated their opinion that the Earth went around the sun before it was proven. So it is clearly possible to state one’s opinion about a fact that has not been proven; and indeed to be correct.

            When it comes to the question of the mass being ‘superstitious nonsense’ you aren’t stating your opinion about a fact.

            It is a fact that the mass is either superstitious nonsense or not, just as it is a fact whether the planets orbit the sun or vice versa. So when I state my opinion on the matter I am stating my opinion about a fact just as much as someone who stated their opinion on heliocentrism was stating their opinion about a fact.

            You are stating your prejudice. Unless you would like to offer evidence that will establish your opinion as a fact.

            Do you have any evidence for your opinion that it’s not superstitious nonsense, that will establish that opinion as a proven fact?

          • I don’t think it’s a fact. I think it’s an article of faith. Quite different.
            And yes, I think your anti Catholic stance is vehement.

          • I don’t think it’s a fact. I think it’s an article of faith. Quite different.

            Well, you’re wrong. An ‘X is Y’ proposition (ie, not a metaphor, which this isn’t) is a claim about a fact. ‘The earth orbits the sun’ is a claim about a fact; it is either true that the Earth orbits the sun or it is not. ‘Jesus is the son of God’ is a claim about a fact: it is either true that Jesus is the son of God or it is false. ‘The mass is superstitious nonsense’ is a claim about a fact; either the mass is superstitious nonsense or it isn’t. These three are all claims about facts of exactly the same type. And prior to, say, 1600, all were equally unprovable.

            (if you prefer we could narrow down the ways in which the mass is superstitious nonsense; I hope it’s clear that ‘when the bell rings the bread and wine are really transformed in essence into the body and blood of Christ’ is a claim about a fact.)

            And yes, I think your anti Catholic stance is vehement.

            OED, ‘vehement’:
            ‘ Of a thought, emotion, etc.: extremely strong, intense, or deep; fervent, ardent, passionate’

            Could you point to where I have been fervent, ardent or passionate? Or where I have expressed emotions extremely strong, intense or deep?

            I merely pointed out a fact in the same way I would point out any other fact.

          • “Could you point to where I have been fervent, ardent or passionate? Or where I have expressed emotions extremely strong, intense or deep?”

            Yep. for example when you commented about the C of E having priests you did so in this way:

            “I am a Church of England Priest – we are a Protestant denomination

            Priest?

            Priest?

            PRIEST?!?!”

            (which you put in bold!).

            Go and look it up.

  13. Ian, I agree that mitres have ‘no connection with the flames of Pentecost’, because ‘that explanation is a post-hoc rationalisation’. However, you don’t say how or where they did originate, which was not in the R.C. Church. According to Rev. Alexander Hislop (an Anglican), their origin lies in the ancient Middle East, with the headdresses worn by priests of the fish god Dagon. The two halves of the mitre depict the head of a fish with its mouth partly open, sitting on the priest’s head, with its body going down his back and its tail by his feet. Eventually, this was reduced to the headdress only. The point is, mitres are utterly pagan!
    (See The Two Babylons, Rev. Alexander Hislop, S. W. Partridge & Co. London. First published 1916; 3rd edition 1926, p.215ff)

    Reply
  14. I agree, mitres are silly, but then I’m an Anabaptist so I think most vestments are silly. You are out of date, however, on the See of London: Sarah Mullaly is Bishop of London and has been for some time.

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  15. Colin Buchanan refers to the wearing of mitres at the coronation of George VI. This was actually a source of some controversy at the time and for some of the reasons given in this post. As noted, Lang was of an antiquarian bent, and was keen to revive the use of the mitre on certain seemly public occasions, although he more usually wore a Canterbury cap, even in procession and having been raised in a Church of Scotland family, was anxious not to rock the protestant boat. The compromise brokered by Lang with the earl marshal (the 16th duke of Norfolk) and the first commissioner of works (the supervisory minister, then the 7th earl Stanhope), was that only the primates would wear mitres, and only in procession; the bishops of Durham (Henson) and Bath & Wells (Willson) would wear copes only, as would the dean and chapter, and the other bishops would be vested in chimeres and doctoral hoods. Therefore, mitres were not worn at any other point, and nor by any other bishop. That compromise was retained in 1953, and the only point at which any mitre can be seen from the footage of Elizabeth II’s coronation is a very brief shot of Garbett being preceded by his cross in procession at the end of the service.

    Although mitres were not worn after the accession of Elizabeth I until the late nineteenth century, they were periodically borne before certain bishops (who were scrupulous not to wear them), they remained on the heraldic achievements of bishops, and miniature mitres were placed on their coffins (as was discovered when the vault containing the remains of five archbishops was opened during the 2017 restoration of the Garden Museum, the erstwhile St Mary’s Lambeth).

    I make no comment on them otherwise, save to mention that it seems the accoutrements and formal powers of bishops have tended to wax in inverse proportion to their relative authority within the Church and their importance in society at large.

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  16. Have a look at (even the very generous) Yves Congar’s account of Anglicanism. Or the ARCIC documents of recent years. Of course people are friendly inside the happy Isle. I am Pere in our local French context. But formally I am also an Anglican minister. No one is fooled about that.

    To a Roman Catholic, you are a Protestant.

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  17. If the bishops are going to get rid of something they wear, I suggest they start with the pink dresses. I never understood that one either!

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  18. Penelope – Actually wearing smart casuals like everyone else is rather anonymous

    Wearing absurd medieval clothing with braided silk n gold vestments does not make you anonymous, it makes you stand out like a clown

    I am priest and a bloke – by God’s grace called to proudly stewards God’s mystery which has now been revealed (Col1:26) – and not to use smoke and mantles to make what is disclosed in Christ more mysterious again

    Have you ever read Von Harnack’s thesis that as the Church lost its charismatic and spiritual power, it’s clergy sought to bolster their position by making themselves seem more ‘special’ through priestcraft copied from mystery religion cults in post apostolic era. Its just a theory – but it seems to fit

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    • Hi Simon. You write as if you have little or no experience of Anglo Catholic tradition of worship and ministry at its most faithful, profoundly worshipful and missional, though I find that hard to believe. Well I do and I value this tradition greatly and have learned much from it – which does not mean discussions about robes, traditions and theology are not important too. (This blog is the latest recycling of familiar themes). But you speak of them in the most dismissive terms – clown, priestcraft, cults …. This is actually rather offensive and gives the impression that you (and others here) think only informal low church evangelical way is the ‘right one’.
      I also find it a strange idea that the idea that ministry and leadership is to be anonymous ‘like everyone else’? But I very much doubt you are – whatever you choose wear.

      Reply
      • David

        Well, we’re having a debate, we take sides – I find Andrew’s & Penelope’s rather mocking disdain for things charismatic & evangelical offensive but we get along. Are you wanting to stop me having an opinion held strongly? Am I not allowed to be a Protestant despite being ordained into a Protestant church?

        I am a Church of England Priest – we are a Protestant denomination – the High Church is a Victorian accretion – much of what is being practised I dont think Anglican, certainly not Protestant and struggling to be Biblical. I think Bishops in Mitres do look like silly – dont you? I mean, really? As we know, the mitre had no part in episcopal wear in the CofE until the early C20th.

        As for priestcraft – that is exactly what is being promoted by vestments n incense – and the theology behind them. It makes much of the priest who alone can perform what Penelope calls “mysteries”.

        As for ‘cult’ – I merely posited Von Harnack, as a scholar of an earlier generation, who makes an important point worth considering about the origins of priestcraft in the post apostolic era.

        Yes, I have experience of and friends who are High – Pusey & Walsingham chaplains – they are good and godly and humble. The current principal of Pusey is one of the finest men in character and mind that I’ve ever met in 3 decades of ministry.

        But I remain a committed evangelical in theology

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        • Hi Simon,
          I am questioning your tone not your convictions. Of course I am not stopping you have strong opinions. I admire that. Of course you are allowed to a Protestant. But I am puzzled you can speak respectfully of your anglo catholic friends and their faith – because there is no respect for their tradition or theology here at all. I hear some teasing here on all sides but you continue to roundly demolish a tradition that is not your own – but historically part of a which I think is more accurately called a ‘Reformed and Catholic’ church into which you too were ordained. Having lectured for some years on the Anglican tradition I would question your reading of history here too. I presume you do not talk to the principal of Pusey about his tradition in the terms you do here. ‘Priestcraft’ continues to be offensive – not least as a description of my own vocation to be honest. Simon your evangelical commitment is not in doubt and I respect it. But I honestly find your language for the anglo-catholic tradition derogatory.

          Reply
          • Quote – “But I honestly find your language for the anglo-catholic tradition derogatory.”

            David, I’m sorry my tone isn’t what you like – it isn’t actually what you presume – but I’m debating important theology here, respectfully and robustly.

            Priestcraft is an understood term and one used by High Churchmen. It is a synonym for sacerdotalism – the sort of thing Penelope champions above.

            I think Mitres are a thin end of a wedgie.

            I find Harnack compelling. I’ll always contend for the faith as once delivered, rather than subsequently modified. Show me the NT Apostolic Church was High and I’m all in.

          • Ps – David, I have observed over many years that in robust exchanges you always seek to find, if not a via media, at least a rapprochement. I think you genuinely are a peacemaker and a gentleman. But you seem to tense whenever things get heated. And if I may say, always try to take a moral high ground and shut down the person generally with whom you disagree. Penelope and Andrew above are tenacious & sharp & brilliant and can smite hip and thigh. But you never ask them to modify tone.

            People need to be able to disagree, robustly. It’s only in so doing that we express ourselves, and indeed understand the other. I have changed my mind on matters after vehemently taking one side – but in the heat of discussion I have seen the argument of the other and been convinced.

            You should try being an evangelical today and seeing the sort of derogatory language n slur we face when questioning those who seek to move the ancient boundary stones.

          • Simon
            Sorry, if you find me smiting. I never mean to be. A tad ironic or scathing occasionally, I know. But I have sometimes been smote on here. And David and Andrew have occasionally called out the smithers, for which I am grateful.

          • Penelope

            It was meant as a compliment – if we hold something dear and sincere then we should fight for it – I admire you even when Im on the end of being smote hip n thigh (Judg15:8).

            I wouldn’t ever want to see you toned down

          • Thanks Simon

            On a subject such as this I do try to say ‘this is my preference’ rather than ‘this is correct’, though there are some extreme anti thurifers on here!!

          • Greetings Simon
            Firstly let me clearly affirm again my respect for the commitment and rigour of your faith – even where we have significant differences. Thank you again for the challenge you are to me.
            Some folk here will understand if I have particular reasons for not wanting to around publicly telling bishops they look silly! (if you don’t know why, ask a friend).
            But actually I have no interest in the discussion at all and find some of the objections to mitres rather silly in fact. As I said earlier in the thread this topic needs to sit in a more profound discussion about symbol, ritual, drama and the sacred meaning of things – something still needed in the Evangelical tradition. Until it does these discussions are trivial pursuits.
            As to my challenging to you. Thank you for affirming my concern for peace making – but that can never excludes challenge. I have never read Andrew or Penelope dismiss the evangelical traditions and its convictions in the tone you have recently adopted toward the Catholic Anglican tradition here. In general (as Ian is aware) I think they put up with a lot of hostility on this site but respond both with thoughtful challenge, teasing and some mischief at times.
            If you would be happy to send your recent posts to your respected A-C friends and the principal of Pusey and would be confident they would recognise it as a respectful and informed critique of their tradition – well fine.
            Meanwhile I affirm again you are my brother in Christ. In that spirit I did suggest meeting up a while ago but perhaps it was just not convenient?

          • Thanks Ian
            yes, I know of whom you allude, close to you, who knows all about Mitres – she was an outstanding student when I was at Trinity.

            I have actually had robust conversations with my Anglo catholic friends – indeed, I once spent a few hours heatedly replaying the Reformation with a Catholic monk friend, later an Abbot, that the coffee bar owner asked if we could do a re-run at a special cheese n wine evening he would host for us.

            Our friendly respectful but fierce exchanges were played out at his rooms in his Catholic college where he was doing his DPhil on several occasions as I stepped into the persona of Karl Barth and he pretended to be St Thomas and grace and works was the order of the day.

            I think you are a tad oversensitive to what I say but I will endeavour to tone down some of my rough edges.

          • yep – that’s me – not a term for everyone but I’m Ok with it – what would you prefer?

            I was actually and legally and semantically ordained as a priest in the church of England a long time ago. That’s what I was called to, tested for, trained for, appointed to and ordained to

            I don’t mind if you call me a minister, presbyter, pastor, shepherd, church leader, or prize idiot – but Priest is what the papers say

            How do I understand that role? Primarily I seek to exercise priestly ministry of bringing people to God through the gospel Romans 15:16

          • yep – that’s me – not a term for everyone but I’m Ok with it – what would you prefer?

            Practically anything?

            It was just the close proximity of ‘we are a Protestant denomination’ to the claim to be a ‘priest’ when the whole misbegotten idea of ‘Christian priests’ (other than Jesus, of course, who is the only priest we have or need) was one of the main Roman errors that Protestantism was supposed to set straight that made me boggle.

          • The Church of England has always had the three historic orders of Bishop, priest and Deacon ‘S’. No debate to be had about that. It’s never not been the case in the C of E.

          • The Church of England has always had the three historic orders of Bishop, priest and Deacon ‘S’. No debate to be had about that. It’s never not been the case in the C of E.

            And as I think we agreed above, the Church of England never managed to get rid of all the Roman errors (and then, in stages, backslid into the ones it had managed to escape) and is so never managed to become properly Protestant.

          • S
            I think that there is some confusion and conflation between Priesthood of all believers and Priests. Priesthood of all believers which is a NT term and a key Reformation theme is a collective noun. It never meant and does not mean that every individual is a Priest. In the OT there were specially ordained priests and yet the whole nation was a priesthood.
            But not everyone was a priest. Similarly in the church today.
            Whilst Jesus is our Great High priest, and whilst we all can access the father through him directly and unmediated – God still appoints particular individuals to oversee, shepherd, teach etc That is a unique vocation. The CofE calls such priests. Some see it in sacerdotal terms – I see it in gospel terms – of which word and sacrament mediate gospel.
            Romans15v16 is key for my own self understanding where Paul speaks of his priestly role –

          • God still appoints particular individuals to oversee, shepherd, teach etc That is a unique vocation. The CofE calls such priests

            Well, it shouldn’t, that’s the point. There are plenty of other words for teachers, pastors, and elders (there, that’s three) that don’t have the baggage and misleading connotations of ‘priest’.

          • Yep S – there we agree. The Church of England is a Reformed Church, not Protestant.
            You simply acted surprised that the C of E has Priests – even thought it has never NOT had Priests.

          • You simply acted surprised that the C of E has Priests – even thought it has never NOT had Priests.

            Sigh. As I wrote above:

            ‘It was just the close proximity of ‘we are a Protestant denomination’ to the claim to be a ‘priest’ when the whole misbegotten idea of ‘Christian priests’ (other than Jesus, of course, who is the only priest we have or need) was one of the main Roman errors that Protestantism was supposed to set straight that made me boggle.’

          • S: it’s been that way for well over 400 years. The C of E has *always* had Bishops, priests and Deacons, and no amount of sighing or saying ‘it shouldn’t’ by you or anyone else is ever going to change it!

          • S: it’s been that way for well over 400 years. The C of E has *always* had Bishops, priests and Deacons, and no amount of sighing or saying ‘it shouldn’t’ by you or anyone else is ever going to change it!

            I suspect people said much the same in 1500, but with a bigger number, and what happened? A longstanding error is no less an error, and we shouldn’t give up hope of it being corrected eventually.

          • Penelope – I see what ya did there – and yes
            as long as those sacred ‘mysteries’ are understood as manifest in Christ and freely accessible through the gospel ministry of Word and Sacrament 😉

          • Penelope

            I dont know – but I’m sure you are right

            I have a new book out shortly ( ;)) in which I write about the ‘cup that is a mystery that makes sense of everything’. I like what the saintly Anglo-Catholic Eduard Pusey wrote, ‘Mary in her womb did hold Christ the natural body, the Priest holdeth the mystery of the body’

    • To me, priests in ‘civvies’ aren’t anonymous. They are people with personalities and idiosyncrasies, just like us. Which of course they are when we meet for coffee or drinks after the Eucharist. When they are vested, their individuality disappears behind the ‘uniform’ and this plus the beauty of the vestments (not polyester!), helps to fix the mind heart and soul on the mystery of God. Whom we still see through a glass darkly. Jesus isn’t just a bloke either.
      But that’s me, and people like me. Research shows that people are attracted by what is authentic worship, whether it is incense and robed choirs or dry ice and drum kits. The Feast of the Transfiguration.

      Reply
      • When they are vested, their individuality disappears behind the ‘uniform’ and this plus the beauty of the vestments (not polyester!), helps to fix the mind heart and soul on the mystery of God. Whom we still see through a glass darkly. Jesus isn’t just a bloke either.

        Does this — both the obsession with clothing and the analogy to Jesus — not run the risk of sailing very close to docetism? If the vestments are a costume that the ‘priest’ (Christians shouldn’t have priests, but that’s another matter) puts on to represent God, and that’s like Jesus, how do you make clear that you don’t think that Jesus was just a costume put on by God?

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        • I have no obsession with clothing. I simply prefer attending churches where, at the Eucharist, the President is vested in an invisibility cloak, albeit a very splendid one, which both conceals their personality and glorifies the living God.

          Reply
          • I simply prefer attending churches where, at the Eucharist, the President is vested in an invisibility cloak, albeit a very splendid one

            Would a plain invisibility cloak not be better? And rather more in keeping with Jesus’s lifestyle?

            Or is it the splendour that appeals to you more than the invisibility?

          • There’s plenty of splendour in the Bible

            Is that a yes, then, it is the splendour that appeals to you more than the invisibility?

          • No S

            Both appeal. But it really doesn’t matter one jot or iota. We are speaking of personal preference. I prefer visions of the Kingdom which are glorious and transcendent.

          • We are speaking of personal preference

            Oh, well, if it’s just a matter of personal preference, like whether you prefer coffee or tea, then there’s no point in talking about it: different people prefer different things and that’s all.

            It’s only worth talking about if there’s a chance of reaching truth.

          • “…different people prefer different things and that’s all.”

            Yes, some prefer to be Roman Catholic. Some prefer to be Orthodox. Some prefer to be Anglican. Some prefer to be Protestant.
            Some prefer infant baptism. Some prefer Adult Baptism. Some admit children to Holy Communion from baptism onwards. Some wait until adulthood for Holy Communion. Some make the sign of the cross over themselves. Some don’t. Some light candles as a sign of devotion and prayer. Some prefer not to light candles.

          • Yes, some prefer to be Roman Catholic. Some prefer to be Orthodox. Some prefer to be Anglican. Some prefer to be Protestant.
            Some prefer infant baptism. Some prefer Adult Baptism.

            Are you being deliberately disingenuous*? Baptism, for example, isn’t a matter of personal preference; some people claim that infant baptism is not valid. That’s not a ‘personal preference’, that’s a truth claim that all those people who were baptised as infants have not been validly baptised.

            * what am I thinking, it’s you, of course you are.

          • No more disingenuous then when you claim that the mass is superstitious nonsense. It’s offensive. And prejudiced.

          • No more disingenuous then when you claim that the mass is superstitious nonsense. It’s offensive. And prejudiced.

            The only thing that matters is, is it true?

          • S

            Worship isn’t about reaching the truth. It’s about worshipping God. We try to do it well and we do it in line with our church traditions.
            Your belief that infant baptism is invalid is both hogwash and unbiblical.

          • Worship isn’t about reaching the truth. It’s about worshipping God.

            If you don’t know the truth, then how do you know that you are worshipping God and not worshipping something other than God instead?

            Your belief that infant baptism is invalid is both hogwash and unbiblical.

            Clearly you don’t know have a clue what I believe about baptism, as I agree that infant baptism is valid and that those who claim otherwise are in error.

            But I’m glad you agree that views on baptism are not merely ‘personal preference’ but that what is important is the truth, and the truth is that infant baptisms are valid.

          • The truth is that both infant baptism AND adult baptism are valid and so both are true, by your definition.
            Once again you are confusing facts and articles of faith. But I doubt we shall ever agree on that.

          • The truth is that both infant baptism AND adult baptism are valid

            Is that your opinion about a fact?

            Once again you are confusing facts and articles of faith.

            No, I’m not. A fact is something which is the case, as any child could tell you. If anyone’s confused it’s you.

          • S
            I think you place too much emphasis on what you call facts.
            As Andrew says both infant and adult baptism are valid.
            Some believe in the Real Presence, others in a symbolic communion. Perhaps only one can be true. But I guess we won’t know until the eschaton and we don’t burn heretics nowadays.

          • As Andrew says both infant and adult baptism are valid.

            Is that a fact?

            Some believe in the Real Presence, others in a symbolic communion. Perhaps only one can be true.

            There’s no perhaps about it. They’re mutually exclusive; no more than one of them can be true. And that’s a fact.

            But I guess we won’t know until the eschaton and we don’t burn heretics nowadays.

            Neither of those things reduces our moral obligation to seek the truth one iota.

          • Not, it isn’t a fact S. It’s an article of faith.

            As where Jesus said to Thomas “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe “. That’s the root of our faith. We can’t see. Yet we believe. And this side of the great round up we won’t see. And different people believe different things.

          • Not, it isn’t a fact S. It’s an article of faith.

            Well, either it’s a fact that they are valid or it’s a fact that they aren’t.

            And different people believe different things.

            Yes. And some of them believe things that aren’t true. Either those who believe that infant baptisms are not valid, or those who believe that they are, believe something that just isn’t true.

            What is important in life is to work out which things are true, so that you can believe them, and not believe the things which are not true.

    • Note

      By ‘anonymous’ (perhaps not the best choice of word) I meant truly representative. Vested we are no longer Jew or gentile, slave or free male and female…..

      Reply
      • I am unclear as to what you mean here or the theology which lies behind it. I presume that you do not mean that all who attend divine service should be wearing vestments, thereby removing those distinctions you mention as we all stand before God in worship.

        Your use of the word ‘representative’ seems to imply that those vested are there to represent the rest in some way. That would imply that ‘ordinary’ Christians cannot approach God, only the special ‘representative’. If that is your view, then that is unacceptable. Every Christian can approach God, through ‘the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ’. We can all meet with Him in our room behind a closed door. We can all call Him ‘Abba’. For all of us, if we love Jesus we will keep his commandments and he and the Father will come and make their home with us. We all have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We all are members of a holy nation and royal priesthood. No representative needed.

        Reply
        • We can all meet God, at any time in any place. If you are an Anglican (or Catholic or Orthodox), the priest is minister of the Sacraments. And representative in that sense. In the same way that aural confession is often behind a screen, the priest becomes ‘invisible’.

          Reply
    • Simon – I do remember that your shirts at New Wine one year were far from anonymous, though perhaps not quite classing as vestments. But definitely special if not unique….. 🙂

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      • Jon – they were the only ones that would fit me 🙂
        I did once preach in California and met a guy who had the same shirt as me
        – no taste

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  19. Earlier on this thread we were told Richard Holloway challenged bishops to throw their mitres in the Thames. When invited to a conference of Evangelicals some years back he commended them for their willingness ‘to embrace bad taste for the sake of the gospel’. No tradition in the church has a monopoly on tat, silliness and cringe-inducing.
    I don’t think we will make much headway in discussions about particular – mitres, albs, ritual etc – until we have a proper discussion about why we wear clothes at all. Something far more profound than covering nakedness is going on when we choose our clothing. We are all part of this. And the tendency to mock and look oddly at what others wear is all part of the process.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this, David: “I don’t think we will make much headway in discussions about particular – mitres, albs, ritual etc – until we have a proper discussion about why we wear clothes at all. Something far more profound than covering nakedness is going on when we choose our clothing. We are all part of this. And the tendency to mock and look oddly at what others wear is all part of the process.”
      I agree that we need to do this. Semiotics, cultural studies, anthropology… all need to get a look-in at this debate. We could also do with some proper research about cultural reception. There’s a lot of supposing that our own prejudices and opinions are how the reified ‘other’ and ‘ordinary’ people perceive things.

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      • Yes, I agree that this discussion needs to be located in a wider one—though the danger here is that we never talk about the proximate because the bigger discussion is too complex.

        Whatever we think about clothing in general, part of the data in this discussion is to note:
        a. that many of the origins of episcopal dress are found in symbols of power of one kind or another;
        b. that until the 6th century no clergy wore distinctive dress;
        c. that clerical dress has often developed by accident, as clergy conform to the standards of a particular class in one era, only for secular norms to change whilst clerical ones fossilise, thus creating ‘distinctive’ (ie anachronistic) clerical dress; and
        d. that the Reformers specific dispensed with mitres and other accoutrements as part of their reformation, back to what they understood as the biblical model, of their theology of ministry.

        All these can be noted right now.

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  20. I was brought up in a Baptist church. Spent a while at Pip n Jay Bristol then Christchurch Clifton. I spent many years in a Free Charismatic Church and now back where I started in a Baptist environment. I need more symbolism and art in church that expounds Biblical language. We need more incense. More gold leaf. Watching incense rise reminds me of prayer. Coals covered in white ash remind me of the white clothes given to the martyrs under the altar. Gold reminds me of the Holy of Holies.

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    • Hi Steve
      Im a brizzle boy born n bred and have worshipped at those churches too
      not much gold n incense n coals in any Baptist church I know of???

      Reply
      • Exactly. Whitewashed sepulchre s of iconoclasm where the Word is conflated with scripture. I just think we should appreciate the unique visual expressions of Christian culture.
        A Brizzl boy was explaining spirals on churches to me once. I think you know what I mean. Took me a while though

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    • “We need more incense.”

      …. reminds me of an ordination I went to at an Anglican church of a catholic persuasion. There was so many acrid fumes a number of people had to retreat to the outside porch because it was too much for their health… Including one candidate whose wife had to lead.

      My eyes hurt, literally. I discovered the number of exiles when I went out to check on one of our family. It wasn’t a sweet smell but mere pollution. The presiding Bishop was quite aware of the disaster but wimped on willy nilly making feeble enquiry afterwards… The mitre gave him no apparent authority.

      Two huge grown men were swinging the incence regardless of the consequences for the congregation and it was degrading of worship. When a symbol becomes thought of as a necessity we’ve lost our direction entirely.

      Reply
      • Hi Ian,
        Fumigation by the fumigants. In this case mothballs were probably used instead of regular incense. A common missreading of Deut 29:20 where zealous fumigants take it upon themselves instead of leaving it to God.

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        • 1. I think you should read my complete sentence. Bit-part quoting is akin to ad hominem.
          2. The huge grown men should have more sense…which was, in cartoon style, the inverse of the picture.
          3. My meaning is entirely obvious… much more so than any argument for boiled – egg cosy hats.

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          • Why should they have more sense?
            OK incense can irritate some, especially asthmatics. But why caricature and ridicule Anglo Catholic worship?

  21. Enough red herrings above for a lifetime…

    1.It was Colin Buchanan who suggested that bishops should throw their mitres “into the sea”. It is recorded in News of Liturgy (though not indexed well enough to drag the date out).

    2. Geoff Turner as Suffragen Bishop in Chester certainly didn’t wear a mitre. Wearing one couldn’t possibly have added any “authority” to his ministry. Interestingly, Michael Baughen as the Diocesan wore whatever the parish wanted on the basis he preached as he wanted.

    3. If we’re talking historical head gear the last time I saw John the Baptist’s it was a turban…. On display in the Omayadd Mosque in Damascus. As was that of St George in South Syria… I just leave that with you…

    In my, trying to be humble, view mitres say the very opposite of the gospel values. Whatever might be assigned to is chucked away by the embarrassing choreography that I’ve seen in taking them off/putting them on. Three bishops doing it in timed unison is a sight to behold.

    More important is that they are a throwback to a different age and a modelling of “one to, serve” not one among us to serve, of superiority not of identity with the people of God.

    I’m not an entire fan of a simplistic “what would Jesus do” but in this case it’s beyond question… Bye bye mitres.

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  22. Bless you for your courage to speak out on this matter from a more biblical perspective rather than only a traditional one.

    I’m intrigued about the number of responses on this particular subject of clerical garb, when so much ‘weightier’ concerning the Gospel today are largely ignored or hardly commented on!

    Reply
      • There are reasons for that Erroll: there are some usual suspects who deny or decry the truth, who prosecute beliefs that everything is progressive interpretation, no absolutes, no objective truth except subjectivism, that the truth encompassed in the creeds, such as the Triune God and incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus are anachronisms: that liberal pluralist theology is far more inclusive, that it is a movement from timeless “is” to the osmosis of secular contemporary instant tradition of “ought” all the while robustly handed down tradition garb and outward form.
        I can’t say I’ve noticed many comments from them even on matters such as end time disputations, let alone Ian Paul’s great post s on the Anglican lectionary readings.
        There may be some acceptance of universal Christless heaven, but no hell, no, thrice Holiness of God, Fatherhood, Sonship, Spirit.
        That’s my truth! Does it correspond in whole or part to reality, to what is? It is what it “feels like” to me and can not be traduced.

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  23. PS Erroll, I did see one comment above, from one interlocutor, on the use of smoke machines or similar in the celebration of the feast of Transfiguration!
    The lectionary scripture, you’ll be aware, is the subject of Ian Paul’s next article above.
    That comment hasn’t found it’s way to the comments section there! Maybe it was a smokescreen for ridicule of scripture or worse!

    Reply
    • When I first joined the CofE 35yrs ago, symbols of clerical power were Baggy Corduroys, Brown Brogues and a Guernsey sweater…. and on Sundays Grey Flannels or Cavalry Twills, a school, college or regimental tie, and a Blue Blazer

      I liked the Brogues

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  24. I think that the mitre, properly understood isa valuable symbol. The bishop embodies the unity of the freedom of the Spirit (flame shaped top) with the authority of Scripture (bookmark shaped tails) . It is a great and very difficult vocation. I’d like to see more bishops living up to this call.

    Reply
        • Well then, Simon, I’d almost have been an atheist Christian, having a Guernsey sweater, until it was put in the wash and came out a size to fit a hamster. So much for idols of clothing!

          Reply
          • I had a blue one, green one, and burnt orange one 🙂
            The blue I wore threadbare – the others didnt shrink, but I gained too many inches and they looked – ungainly

    • At an ordination…. Having a a rubric choreography for donning mitres in synchronism (I kid you not), getting the candidates to prostrate in front of their Diocesan but reducing the authority and responsibility to preach the Gospel into a mere hand-out of Bibles calls for ground up reformation.

      Priests (and in Series 3 “also known as Presbyters”) is not a carry through of pre – reformation Roman Catholicism, nor in that wrong use, a reflection of the NT role of a church leader . “Heirus” is never used of an individual leader. Presbuteros is the word and the role. It’s not the word “priest” that’s the real issue… it’s the meaning that matters. After all the bible isn’t actually in English without translation.

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  25. Romans 15v16 – Paul describes his ministry in the language of the priest: as a minister (leitourgon) & priestly (hierourgounta) both terms associated with the cultic Temple priestly ministry.

    Reply
    • Is that the only scripture, Simon?
      Surely it has to be placed in the context of the whole of Romans and his seeking to persuade the Hebrews believers in Rome in a language that would chime to them in relation to ministry to the gentiles. I can really see that it is akin to the OT offices of priesthood in any? way as a substitute as a go-between the people and God.
      If the role of priest is to be as described in Romans 15, in application in swathes of the church it is a parody of scripture, even a denial.
      Like S I think the description of office of priesthood in Catholic and Anglican Churches is unwarranted,(and doesn’t match Romans 15) and is a misleading misappropriation as it leads to the practice by and lay perception of clergy.
      And if the office is based on Paul’s appostilic office in Roman’s 15 isn’t that appropriation of Paul’s priesthood an implied claim to apostolic succession?
      None of this is to deny or denigrate you being tried and tested and trained for a position of authority such as takes place in other denominations and independents.
      We are, all believers, a royal priesthood even in the sense of Romans 15. and those tried and tested are first among equals with authority granted, endowed, vested, which may be withdrawn by processes within church structures, systems and settings.
      Not sure St Paul was officially recognised as a priest either pre or post conversion, though, as always, I stand to be corrected.
      And what do you make of where priests fit in the 5-fold ministry/offices that was a much loved theme in Charismatic circles in the 1990s?

      Reply
  26. Thanks Geoff
    I was merely responding to S – that whilst the noun Hierus is not used, the concept of priest most definitely is in the adjective – and also that Hierus is not the only term relating to priest but leitourgos is a term used in Greek for priest and Paul uses this for his ministry. However, the nature of the priestly role in terms of evangelistic ministry is very different from the way it is understood in Anglo & Roman Catholic thought. The priesthood of all believers is a collective noun and I dont think permits us to interpret it as ‘all believers are priests’ – collectively as Church we offer worship to the Lord and to witness to him in the world.

    Good question about how the Eph4 five fold ministries and their relation to the 3fold offices. I think the Eph4 5fold relate to gifts given to build the church (and the 5 are not exclusive as there are further gift lists in Rom12, 1Cor12, 1Cor14) – and these gifts are variously evident in the three fold offices of the church elders.

    Judson Cornwall told the amusing story of when he was active in the charismatic scene in the 1970’s and everyone was being very particular about their own ‘gift’ – and designating themselves as Apostles or prophets. He was invited as a speaker to a “five fold” ministry conference and asked to say what his own gift out of the 5 was so they could put it on the advertising as his title. He told them he didn’t know. Unimpressed they told him “ask God”. So he did and God told him “you are a bumble bee who cross pollinates between church traditions”. They didn’t like his answer and cancelled his invitation to speak.

    Reply
    • I love the story of Judson Cornwall. I also strongly identify with his calling. I used to keep chickens and have called myself a ‘free range priest’ ever since, expressing, I think, a very similar vocation.

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  27. “They didn’t like his answer and cancelled his invitation to speak.”

    Perfect! the story beautifully sums up why some of us are hesitant about the tradition. Thank you simon.

    Reply
    • Yes, it does make one “sigh” – I wonder how the Lord feels? But to be fair to the tradition, that example was of a particular narrow form of Pentecostalism who made much of the five fold ministry – and every tradition has its idiosyncrasies – or indeed profoundly held doctrinal pillars: you couldn’t be a member of a Baptist church unless you were ‘adult’ baptised – or receive communion in a Catholic Church unless you are received into it as Catholic. The shared pentecostal/charismatic experience did more for ecumenism than ever the ARCIC or Ecumenical endeavours ever did. I will never forget gathering with 5000 Protestants & catholics & Anglicans & free church at Acts86 – or being part of a Catholic Charismatic conference in Madrid where thousands gathered to celebrate – the only difference I could tell from a New Wine type gathering was the Statue of Mary and the numerous ‘religious’ in their habits n wot not.

      Reply
  28. One of my favourite Eucharists was as St Paul’s Knightsbridge. The Anglican clergy and sub deacons wore wonderful gold vestments, clouds of incense, and the preacher was the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 18thC dress: black knee breeches, lacy cuffs and a sort of lace jabot on his frock coat. Great sernin too. An impressive meeting of traditions!

    Reply
    • “black knee breeches, lacy cuffs and a sort of lace jabot on his frock coat. “

      Penny you might recall that back in 1980 Paula Yates published a book called ‘ Rock stars in their underpants’. Paula was working on The Tube and Big Breakfast at the time I think. (It was photographs..I think…Making statements anyway). I didn’t actually ever see the book but Andy Warhol described it as “the greatest work of art in the last decade.” Perhaps we should suggest to some game publisher that we create a book called ‘Bishops in their underpants’ But the shots could also include a mitre of their choosing and see what kind of statement this made about them?!

      Reply
  29. The crucial information here, of course, is to remember that Edward King was tried in an archiepiscopal court after the Church Association (think forerunner of hot Prot/Con Evo ‘Church Society’) put a churchwarden in Cleethorpes up to raising a complaint against King for doing things like having candles on the altar. It was, once again, an example of anti catholic prejudice.

    Excellent little book about Edward King called ‘Search for a Saint’ by John Newton. Also worth recalling that Rowan Williams, when Archbishop in 2010 went to Lincoln to commemorate the 100th anniversary of King’s death. In addition to citing King’s contributions to pastoral theology and reinvention of episcopal practices, in an interview with the local church paper Williams called the former prosecution an ’embarrassment to the church and the state.’

    Reply

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