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Why 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 have met a bishop on whom the mitre didn’t look completely daft—but it was a long time ago, and said bishop has long retired. On most people they just look daft.

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. 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 wearing of mitres by bishops is a practice less than one hundred years old, and until 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 plated 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.

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 (and currently acting Bishop of London). 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.


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.


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93 Responses to Why bishops should throw away their mitres

  1. Will Jones July 5, 2017 at 9:18 am #

    It’s funny – everyone thinks that their form of religion is what the people really want. The Oxford Movement was driven in part by a sense that the dour and plain form of the Reformed religion did not capture the hearts and imaginations of the people, especially the poor. I’d be really interested to see research into this to try to settle the matter – or is it that some people like one form, others like others?

    I’m not convinced that the church has a unique problem with deference. Abuse happens in many contexts: children’s homes, hospitals, the media, nurseries, schools. Does the church have a special problem with child abuse, and if so can it be traced to deference rather than other features of the institution e.g. the general context of trust and forgiveness in which its children’s work occurs?

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Well, that’s an interesting question. But it is striking that the issue of deference was highlighted by Moira Gibb, and deference in a religious context can be different from deference in other contexts.

    • Bernard Higgins July 5, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more. Also time to discontinue all form of dressing up for the clergy. One comment on a recent ordination photo on the web was that it was a good advert for Wippells! As a retired priest with muscular dystrophy, dressing up and wearing robes for me is a chore. I don’t believe they have any value or significance at all. I positively refuse the chasuble (or tea cosy as I call it) on health grounds. One of our local churches has no robes at all, the clergy wear ‘smart sensible clothes’ and, guess what, the church is alive and growing!

    • Chuck Wharton July 6, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

      This is yet another tempest in a teapot. 1 of my former bishops never wore one, and he was teased for being “mitre lonely.” In my view, there are far more important things to worry about, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked (without mitres..lol), and volunteering at homeless shelters.

      • Ian Paul July 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

        But why on earth does devoting 1 blog post in 746 suggest we are neglecting the hungry and poor?

      • Simon July 7, 2017 at 8:27 am #

        I don’t think this is unimportant nor a ‘tempest in a teapot’ – I read it in the context of recent cases of Episcopal abuse/cover up. Ian is pressing whether and why Bishops have too much power, receive too much deference. To mock the hat, that for many symbolises the office, is a way of challenging the inflated power and undue deference Bishops are often afforded and which some welcome. Maybe if church leaders weren’t so pompous they would be more concerned with things that mattered – like the poor, the hungry and the lost. I suggest they should look to prefer those who wash the feet and feed the hungry, but I suspect those found there might refuse the job.

        • Simon July 7, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

          It goes without saying that there are many Bishops who serve the church of Christ wonderfully and tirelessly and often thanklessly – mitred or not. Three among the best I ever met recently were Bishops of Burnley, Lancaster and Blackburn. My own sense is that the consecration of women as Bishops will inevitably lead to less of the patrician Bishop.

    • Walter G. Whimpenny July 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Nonsense, wear the mitres. Why the effort to be different from traditional terminology signs and symbols. It is like the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church. If its the position of Head Bishop, call him the Arch Bishop. When explaining the clerical positions in the Episcopal church to others, inevitably the reply to Presiding Bishop is “Oh, the Arch Bishop.” People understand this just like the meaning of mitres. Leave it alone.

      • Ian Paul July 8, 2017 at 10:18 am #

        So how come for 400 years that is *not* what they understood? and why the change?

  2. Philip Almond July 5, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    I agree. But don’t hold your breath!

    More seriously though (to put it mildly) let’s pray that Bishops will all agree about and preach about Original Sin as summarised in Article 9.

    Phil Almond

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      Have you mentioned this anywhere before, Phil?

      • Philip Almond July 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

        Ian

        Once or twice, here and there…………………….

        Phil Almond

        • Simon July 5, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

          Keep going Phil –
          all confirmed Anglicans are meant to subscribe to it
          I am one of the few and far between who does believe it – but the older I get and longer I live in this world the more it makes sense

          • Philip Almond July 5, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

            Simon
            Many thanks for your encouraging words!
            Phil Almond

  3. Stephen John MARCH July 5, 2017 at 9:23 am #

    Another reason for de-mitring might be that its origins are pagan.

    They go back to Babylonia and the culture god Oannes, who was a culture god who came out of the sea, half man and half fish and taught mankind science and letters and civilisation.

    Although this may be a corruption of the Noah story.

    Priests of this cult wore a piscine vestment of which the ‘fish-mouth’ headgear became the mitre.

    The Oannes story is particularly interesting to me as it was one of the cultural preparations of the Ninevites that enabled them to respond to Jonah’s message. You can read all about it in ‘Jonah the epistle of wild grace’ by Stephen John MARCH (available free to eReaders)

    http://c8.alamy.com/comp/FFA222/mythology-oannes-dagon-nassyrian-babylonian-god-FFA222.jpg

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      How interesting…though etymology does not determine meaning of course.

  4. Peter July 5, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    Dear Ian, thank you for a thoughtful article. The only part of your argument that really holds water is that they look silly. I, for one, tend more to the idea of keep the mitre and dispense with the bishops!
    Your argument doesn’t work in terms of history because it elicits the response: so what? It is a genetic fallacy. The internet was designed for the use US army and scientists (as was satnav). The origins of a mitre only illumine our understanding. We regularly re-purpose words and objects with few problems. St Paul seems to use ‘Lord’ in a subversive way (among others).
    When I see a priest in a suit and tie I have the hope that he (!) is wearing it in a subversive way. The suit and tie is the Anglo-Celtic symbol of male power. It is used by dictators and business men to emphasise power.
    The Bible was never designed to be held and read by everyone – it only became so because of the technological revolutions of the late middle ages and early modern period. It is an historical book full of inaccurate historical, scientific, and moral information (the occupation of the land in Joshua is a case in point). Yet I live reading and loving the Scriptures, being formed and guided by it in the Church’s life and liturgy.

  5. Edward Green July 5, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    This rather reminds me of one of those tracts complaining about the evils of Christian contemporary music because rock and roll (and by association guitars) is all about premarital sex.

    I am a sacredotalist as much as I am a charismatic. I have no desire to un Anglican those who don’t share those understandings.

    However I do agree that vestments need to be updated within the artistic and creative context of particular cultures. I just can’t work out what to replace the historic form and shape with. Wearing special clothes for worship is not essential but it is enriching. Like good worship music. For me the question has always been not – why do ministers robe, but why the congregation doesn’t.

    • Steve July 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      I’m with you on the question of why the congregation doesn’t put on robes as well.

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

      Edward, thanks for the comment. I will drop any objection to bishops wearing mitres on the day you can persuade Anglican congregations, as a matter of course, to vest.

      • Karen Watson July 5, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

        So what else was – and IS, among West Indian families to this day – “Sunday Best”?

        • David Shepherd July 6, 2017 at 10:11 pm #

          As a British-born descendant of West Indians, I can tell you what the purpose of wearing ‘Sunday Best’ was and is…and it bears no resemblance to reason for donning sacerdotal vestments!

          In fact, in his book, Season of Adventure, one of the West Indies’ most celebrated authors, George Lamming, captures the intense rivalry which is engendered by our ‘Sunday Best’ tradition:
          [slang alert: she can mean ‘her’, as in ‘she Sunday best’; play great means ‘acts superior’]

          ‘It ain’t fair,’ one girl continued, ‘I don’t call that fair competition, usin’ she Sunday best to match everybody else Wednesday rags’.

          ‘Is only why she can play great,’ the other said, ‘but wait till Sunday, I go make she look like an ordinary fish wife when I show myself next Sunday.’

          • Karen Watson July 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

            Well we started above by suggesting “sacerdotal vestments” were about power and showing off, so the difference may be merely one of gender opportunity if we accept the original proposition that it’s all about status and competition.
            But the ladies of that background I know in West London aren’t like that, nor are the Afros who also dress up gloriously – and certainly when my Mom years ago put me in a hat and white gloves for my first English Sunday School, she was doing the very opposite of trying to stick out (and failing miserably, but that was being foreign for you.) Thus demonstrating that even the white Commonwealth preserved the “decencies” long past the Old Country binning them off as old fashioned and pretentious. It’s arguable we’ve gone too far the other way now, when people barely restrain themselves from eating popcorn as they watch the service proceed and cheering and whooping is actively encouraged.
            Personally I rather value awe and the “beauty of holiness” – and knowing from the other end of a very long East Anglian church with a dubious sound system which is the person actually holding the Sacrament. Otherwise it would simply be indistinguishable from the Fete meeting afterwards at the other end or even a football panel on TV – especially as New Vic doesn’t practise “elevation” and hasn’t yet got the three new telly screens going to repeat him. The old monks who built the place knew how to deal with such practical problems in their pre-electronic age!

  6. Mike Parsons July 5, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    John V Taylor, when Bishop of Winchester never wore one, I believe. If necessary it was carried in state on a cushion in front of him!
    To add to Ian’s case, how about getting rid of Bishops signing +Bert. Sheer affectation and copying Rome.

    • Edward Green July 5, 2017 at 11:51 am #

      Good idea.

      Eddie+

  7. Bob Baker July 5, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    Colin Buchanan is right about Maurice Wood; however, I am told that in some churches they carried it on a cushion in front of him (like John Taylor above) which actually drew more attention to it so he occasionally wore it, presumably hoping not many people would realise it’s significance. Get rid!

  8. Gavin Parsons July 5, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Thomas Cranmer didn’t wear one as the first Archbishop of Canterbury. It wasnt until 1924 that the next Canterbury wore one. Overated.

    • Simon Kershaw July 5, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

      “Thomas Cranmer … first Archbishop of Canterbury” — huh?

      Mitres have been in continuous use — heraldically. They have always been used as symbols of episcopacy, and they were I believe carried at bishops’ funerals after the Reformation.

      They do tend to look rather silly — and the taller they are the exponentially sillier they look. But a rvery short mitre — say no more than 6 inches tall is both more “authentic” and perhaps not too silly. Usually the more Romanesque the bishop, the taller their mitre, though I suppose there is an element of copying and fashion too.

      • Gavin Patsons July 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

        My point is Cranmer as First Archbishop of the newly formed Church of England didnt wear a mitre as part of his evangelical reform of the church.

        • Simon Kershaw July 6, 2017 at 11:30 am #

          All Anglicans will resist the idea that Cranmer was the “first archbishop” of a “newly formed” C of E. He was the 67th Archbishop of Canterbury in a line that stretches from Augustine to Justin, the 105th. The Church of England is continuous across the Reformation.

          Nor I think is the word “evangelical” the right word to describe Cranmer’s reforms. That’s surely an anachronistic term to use.

          • Ian Paul July 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

            Simon, thanks for the correction on the issue of continuity. You are absolutely right, I think, in highlighting Cranmer’s own belief (along with other reformers) that they were not creating something new, but ‘reforming’ the Church in a way faithful to its scriptural roots. That is why Cranmer, though radical in his redefining of ordained ministry and the focus of Communion, retains the word ‘priest’ as an act of continuity whist emptying it of any sacerdotal meaning.

            But on ‘evangelical’ I think you are mistaken. Wycliffe was accused of being ‘evangelical’ 150 years earlier.

          • Gavin Patsons July 6, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

            It was Luther who used the term evangelical earlier so not anachronistic.Cranmer kept good company with the Continental Reformers

  9. Stephen Mourant July 5, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    One of my daughters when a little girl remarked that a bishop with a mitre looked like either an Egyptian Pharaoh or a cyberman from Doctor Who. I did agree.

    At one ordination some years ago to support a former member of my congregation for his ordination, the four bishops with their matching mitres looked frankly stupid – playing church “all dressed up and nowhere to go.”

    Time for a bonfire I think… !

  10. Gavin Ashenden July 5, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    I am continually saddened by the attempts to make the C of E more protestant than it should be. If you want it to be protestant than either leave it and become a baptist, or get rid of all its Catholic heritage properly. Stop ordaining people as priests and bishops, – stop using eucharistic liturgy that echoes the Mass. Just be protestant. But if you are not going to do that, at least try to understand the reformed Catholicism that Anglican was supposed to be. And in your analysis you have completely capitulated to the modernist heresy of progress – which the Biblical and historical apostolic church refutes at all times and in all places. What on earth does it matter how much a secular, shallow and hedonistic society misreads a culture it cannot apprehend. If you are going to quote Augustine, then remember too ‘catechumens out’! They don’t get to see or belong until they have been converted and taught about the Church. Bring them to Jesus and then teach them about the Mysteries of the Spirit filled Church. Don’t evacuate the Church of its language and Spirit taught symbolism.The weakness of Protestantism is that is never learnt about the mysteries of the Church. It offers the Church in terms of its lowest common denominators to a secular society on secularism’s terms. If anything, see the mitre as a refusal to bow to the idiocy of secularism and materialism.

    • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

      Right on, Gavin!

  11. cryptogram July 5, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    I forget who is was who commented on the tombs of eighteenth century prelates in York Minster “wearing in death the mitres they wouldn’t have been seen dead in when alive”. And I remember seeing an RC bishop (Rudderham of Clifton) presiding at some do, at which a chaplain crept up behind him and popped the mitre on his head as strategic moments, skull cap still in place. (“He’s a two-hats bishop”) I think Colin Buchanan probably has it about right.
    Mention of Edward King takes my fancy on a flight to Lincoln, where there is a pub called “The Wig and Mitre” showing on one side of its sign a prelate in a mitre, and on the other side in episcopal wig, which was surely as silly an adornment in church as in a court of law. Maybe some doughty low-church prelate would revive its use?

    • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      By 1811 most American bishops had dispensed with the wig. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Provoost of New York was appalled that other bishops had no wigs. His attitude was that a bishop must wear a wig. “No wig, no bishop.” So Americans compromised, discarding the episcopal wing, but specifically giving positive sanction to High Church bishops to wear miters if they wanted to.

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

      • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

        I mean “episcopal wig” not wing!

  12. Anne Lee July 5, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    You make some good points, but spoil them by your comments about Rachel Treweek, which simply simply draw attention to your own prejudices. If you want to put a picture of a bishop in a mitre, choosing a women does not add to your argument. I agree with much of what you say, but you could also point out the current trend within the evangelical community where no vestments of any sort are worn by the clergy when taking a service. ‘Uniforms’ have a function: they tell us who has the authority to perform a particular function, etc etc etc and therefore have value. The issue of ‘authority’ who has it, when, why and over whom is something the church at all levels needs to address. the mis-use of power is a very important issue within the church, as much as it is within any other organisation. If a particular symbol of power is misused, whether worn or not, then we should not use it without thinking very carefully about our motives. I feel much the same way about clergy who go around wearing cassocks or just wearing black from head to toe. Both types of dress I find extremely unattractive, though I appreciate others do not have the same feelings. But the question of power and authority is one we need to address very seriously, perhaps partly within the context of historical patriarchy in the church but also as it is played out within other organisations. Will Jones has raised some very important questions which need engaging with.

  13. Simon July 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    Some think its a symbol of the head-dress of Dagon the Fish God – seriously, have a look online google “The Dagon Mitre” 🙂 Not my view, I hasten to add…..Personally, I’m seriously along the low church spectrum, and at my church we dont even wear dog collars. That said, I don’t mind a mitre or two at the big events of ordination or confirmation – and have always warmed to the idea they symbolise Tongues of Fire – in this case for me it does not make more of the Bishop, but more of the event, the moment of ordination or confirmation. Personally, I believe the purple shirt & episcopal ring, both symbols of Roman Senatorial authority and adopted post Constantine, are far more concerning displays of power without any redeemable symbolism.

  14. Cathy July 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

    If mitres look silly then how can wearing them lead to unwarranted deference in the awestruck beholders?

    Surely the opposite must pertain.

    • Ian H July 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

      Only if all the ‘beholders’ have the same point of view, surely? In some deference, in others bemusement.

      Hence mitres do look absurd to me and touch nothing in terms of my ‘deference’. I try to respect her/him without reference to ‘silly’ hats. For others the garb clearly ups the authority and dramatic ante.

  15. Will July 5, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    You raise some interesting points. I would be interested to know what you think of the rest of the vestments and tools of the trade – so to speak.

    For examples do Clergy stop wearing dog collars because it marks them out as separate from lay people? What about croziers? Where’s the line?

  16. Anthony Smith July 5, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    Worth reading the section on “Antiquity” in the following article on the mitre. It seems that mitres were still quite a recent innovation at the time of the Reformation, only becoming widely used around 1100-50.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10404a.htm

  17. Veronica Zundel July 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Totally agree with you re mitres, but the main reason Rachel Treweek’s looks silly is that it is far too big for her. Aren’t they making them in women’s sizes yet? (yes, women’s brains are smaller, but so is a smartphone smaller than a 70s mainframe, however it can do far more….)

  18. Anthony Delaney July 5, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    You should only be allowed to wear one if your head fills it.

  19. Chris Bishop July 5, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    I always thought that mitres were some kind of radar antenna.

  20. Ian H July 5, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    Yes. I have long thought they are pompous and absurd. The more so when two or three bishops together are required to don or doff in synchronised manner. (No I’m not making that up!).

    I’m not aware that Bishop Geoff Turner (late of Stockport in the 80s or 90s) ever wore one.

    Didn’t Colin Buchanan suggest ((News of Liturgy?) that they should be thrown into the ‘see’?

    They seem to me the very opposite of Jesus the one who came among us to serve. ‘Have this mind among you, wear a mitre and look important’?

    Sell them off as tea pot covers…

  21. Harry Nicholson July 5, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    This is such a silly response, but when you talk about relevance, it may not be wise to use Greek (laos) and Latin (primus inter pares), especially when those particular words mean nothing significant in the original that isn’t present in modern English. Another thought, the “unflattering” photo you included of a woman in mitre might actually be the inspiration of a woman who is imagining where she might be treated as an actual equal among equals.

  22. P Chalkley July 5, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

    The Bishop of Leicester knitted his own – and a cope – and his wife’s clothes! Then he went over to Rome!

    • Brian July 7, 2017 at 9:28 am #

      A real knit.

  23. David Runcorn July 5, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    Ian you make your point very clearly and without any need to single out a woman in a photo and the text for particular ridicule about how she looks. There is something horribly familiar about that kind of preoccupation and pressure in our culture. Would you consider removing the personal comment on +Rachel and replacing her photo with one of a male bishop looking silly?

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

      Yes, happily. Have done so—but gone one step further and avoided singling out anyone.

  24. Daniel Hill July 5, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

    Thanks for another fascinating and stimulating article, Ian. One small point: when you say ‘the Church of England’s theology of ordination does not remove the ordained from the laos’, how can this be squared with the contrast envisaged in Canon CI.1, ‘a minister may […] by legal process voluntarily relinquish the exercise of his orders and use himself as a layman’?
    https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchlawlegis/canons/section-c.aspx

  25. Harvey Howlett, Secretary SLS July 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Last year, the late Bishop Michael Perham gave a superb paper on the Liturgical Role of the Bishop, since published in the Journal of the Society for Liturgical Study, Anaphora, Bishop Michael’s conclusion in respect of the Mitre is worth sharing here:

    “… I have to agree with Colin Buchanan that John Halliburton’s intriguing and ingenious argument that [the mitre] expresses something about the relationship of the church with civil society because it is ultimately derived from the cap worn by the highest dignitaries in Rome under the Empire, will not stand up. Nor probably will the view that it represents the tongues of flame at Pentecost. It is an extraordinary piece of headgear: if we were starting afresh we would not design anything like it. Bishops certainly do not need to keep putting it on and taking it off. Nor do they need to have several mitres to match copes and chasubles: one gold and one white is plenty. They probably do not need to put the mitre on very often, they certainly should not prop it up on the altar like a tea-cosy. They very definitely should not wear it while they are praying – including when they are confirming and ordaining. However, it is in the end a recognisable sign of office. Even in our secularised society, many people understand who wears a mitre. They know it from stained glass windows, from tombs, from historical dramas on television, from coats of arms, and from chess pieces. Though it has no historical continuity, for it has been back as Anglican episcopal regalia for not much more than 100 years, it does signify a bishop even more than the pastoral staff and certainly more than the ring. It is part of the uniform. So, although I hope there will not be a development where bishops wear it with anything other than a chasuble or a cope, I would not want to kill the mitre off. It has its place – briefly on the bishop’s head. ”

    I am delighted to be able to share Bishop Michael’s words to this blog. Although he did not in this paper agree with your conclusion, I believe that he would have welcomed the debate.

    • Ian Paul July 5, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

      Harvey, that is truly wonderful—thank you so much for sharing this.I think it makes my point that this is most obviously the creation of an age of visual media.

    • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

      “…it [the miter] has been back as Anglican episcopal regalia for not much more than 100 years.”

      Not true. Several English non-juror bishops apparently wore copes and miters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the Scottish non-jurors ostensibly did not, though they were as Catholic in their theology as their English counterparts). It seems likely that American non-jurors Talbot and Welton also wore such vestments in the 1720s on occasion (though probably semi-clandestinely; remember, non-jurors were suspect as “Jacobites” during this period. They both were eventually removed from their parishes). We know from many documented sources including eye-witness accounts that American Episcopal Bishops Seabury and Claggett frequently wore miters in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. There is some circumstantial evidence that suggests that Bishop Seabury may also have worn a “fiddle-back” chasuble from time to time.

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

  26. Mike Peatman July 6, 2017 at 8:07 am #

    I think it was Roland Walls who called mitres “snuffers”.

  27. Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    Ill informed, Evangelical (or, is it Latitudinarian?) rubbish!

    Obviously Mr. Paul has not read any of the inventories of vestments—copes and miters included—seized from cathedrals and parish churches by the Puritans during their brief theocratic dictatorship in the UK in the 1640s and 1650s. It is misleading to claim, as some Evangelical (as well as some Anglo Catholic) writers do, that prior to Pusey, Newman, Neale, et alia most Anglican parish churches and chapels were just bleak displays of Puritan-like severity. In America, it certainly was not the case. No far away Oxford dons, or groups of English Ritualist enthusiasts were required to rescue us Episcopalians from the patterns of “puritan austerity” we daily saw around us in other American denominations. Indeed, the first American Anglican bishops (the irregularly consecrated non-jurors John Talbot and Robert Welton) were both said to have worn copes and miters “in their offices” in the 1720s here. Our first “regularly consecrated” bishop (1784), Samuel Seabury, owned two miters and always wore a miter when he functioned episcopally. Dr. Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, wore a miter from his consecration in 1792 until his death in 1816.

    I recommend that Mr. Paul become more familiar with contemporary scholarship. In the past few decades a growing number of scholars both in the UK and the USA have re-visited Anglicanism’s pre-Tractarian/Ritualist past. They have brought forward new appreciations, interpretations, and understandings of that history. These scholars include: Nicholas M. Beasley, Edward L. Bond, Charles D. Cashdollar, Kenneth Fincham, Alison Findlay, Nicholas Gianopulos, Bruce Cooper Gill, Deborah Mathias Gough, Clare Haynes, George Herring, Judith Maltby, Louis. P. Nelson, Graham Parry, Brent S. Sirota, Julie Spraggon, Nicholas Tyacke, Dell Upton, Alexandra Walsham, Lauren F. Winner, and Nigel Yates.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  28. Simon July 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Dear Kurt – Rev Dr Paul is a NT and ministerial formation expert so i’m not surprised he hasn’t your passion nor wide reading of inventories of mitres and copes in cathedrals in the C17th. But even when in robust disagreement, I do think one’s tone here should be kind and not curt.

    • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

      You are no doubt right, Simon, and I apologize to Mr. Paul (and anyone else who may have been offended) for the sharpness of my comment. I lost my temper. It is so frustrating when people in some measure of authority and status in the Church repeat again and again old myths and misinformation about pre-Tractarian Anglican customs. I could scream: “Read Dr. Graham Parry, for heaven’s sake!”

      These mirror image, mutually reinforcing, myths have been promoted both by Evangelicals, and some Anglo Catholics, for over a century and it’s WAY PAST TIME they be put to rest. The new scholarship has clearly demonstrated that if seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century Anglican/Episcopal churches, chapels, clergy etc. were not as multihued and highly ornamented as they would be during the Gothic Revival era, neither were they generally of the austere plainness commonly associated with the Puritans, the Quakers, and the other non-liturgical Protestants.

      As Dr. Clare Haynes has noted, for example: “Religious pictures or sculptures were erected during the 100 years before the [1660] Restoration, and the necessity for repeated programmes of destruction suggests immediately that there were differing standards of what constituted a Reformed church. Religion in England was thus not all of the plainness of Puritanism, the fervor and political dominance of which tends to overshadow our understanding of this period.”

      It’s frustrating when these myths are repeated again and again. In America, for example, one of the central Evangelical myths says the surplice was only “rarely used” by clergy in American Episcopal churches during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Over the years this legend has been debunked by a number of historians who have established that there are actually frequent references to surplices as gifts, purchases, or items of upkeep in the vestry reports and other parish records that were compiled during the Colonial and Early National periods. Indeed, a surplice was an item in what is likely the very first set of ecclesiastical appurtenances sent in 1619 to an Anglican church in North America for which there is a written account.

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

  29. Stephen Griffiths July 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    Is there anything amongst the episcopal accoutrement that signifies a bishop’s teaching ministry?

    • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

      Yes, the cathedra (bishop’s chair) is symbolic of the teaching ministry.

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

      • Ian H July 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

        Perhaps he should carry that with him instead of a hat?

        • Kurt Hill July 6, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

          Why do you assume a bishop is necessarily a “he,” Ian? Evangelical “male headship” concerns, perhaps…?

          Kurt Hill
          Brooklyn, NY

          • Ian H July 6, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

            If it’s me… Ian H…. I was assuming nothing… You’re reading out of my comment what isn’t there. Is that anti-evangelical concerns, perhaps? … too quote someone else.

            How about a bit of warm hearted charitable reading or must every mole hill be turned into a mountain?

          • Brian July 7, 2017 at 9:33 am #

            Catholic order and continuity, Kurt.

          • Ian Paul July 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

            Kurt, it would be great if you could engage people on what they actually say, rather than making snide remarks on a projection of what you see as their supposed prejudices.

            You’ve already pushed the boundary of what I accept as reasonable comment on my website.

          • Kurt Hill July 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

            Well, Ian, being an American Episcopalian, I’m used to being surrounded by Evangelicals and their concerns. You see, things are different here. With the exception of Virginia and one or two other places, we American Anglicans have always been a minority of the population. Since the first Anglican Prayer Book services took place here over 450 years ago, we have learned that there are Evangelicals, and then there are Pietist Fundamentalists who claim to be Evangelicals (Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell come to mind). I think a convincing argument can be made, however, that early American Methodism was a High Church phenomenon. Unfortunately, a generation later, most of its adherents had absorbed the self-righteous Pietism of the surrounding Protestant culture, and became just another sect obsessed with personal “purity” issues. Within TEC, most self-confessed “Evangelicals” have historically succumbed to that ubiquitous Pietism that forms the basis for so much of American religious history (the myth of the “Pilgrim Fathers,” etc.)

            I agree with you Brian, if by “Catholic order and continuity” you mean that the cathedra, miter, shepherd’s staff etc., exemplify such order and continuity through symbolic communication. This is one reason why so many liturgical Christians find such vestments and other accoutrements valuable.

            Kurt Hill
            Brooklyn, NY

          • Simon July 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

            Kurt – “fundamentalists who claim to be evangelicals”, “self righteous pietism”, “just another sect”, “obsessed with personal purity”, “succumbed to that ubiquitous Pietism” – you just can’t help it can you!

          • Kurt Hill July 7, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

            Things are different here in America, Simon. We have plenty of fundamentalists claiming to be “Evangelicals.” My point is that these folks are more representative of Pietism and its concerns with personal holiness and “purity.” If you think I’m being ornery, you should try living for a year or two in the American “Bible Belt.”

            Kurt Hill
            Brooklyn, NY

          • Simon July 7, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

            I hear ya Kurt – I am from a Brethren Pietist background – came to living faith in evangelical charismatic CofE where I’ve ministered as a priest for over 20 years. Recently I spent a long afternoon tea with the principal of Pusey House – and then a few days later I was with Bishop Philip North – their tradition is so outside my experience and even comfort. Yet I could not deny their faith and the grace of God in their life – I loved them. I have been ornery (new word for me) for years about High Church and in just a few hours with such, my hardness of heart was softened. I have much to learn from them and maybe something to share with them too. We need eachother. We often talk over oneanother. I watched some Billy Graham videos yesterday for 60 years ago – real Bible Belt – but wonderful. In the words of that great movie the Apostle – You do it your way, I’ll do it mine, but between us we get it done” – pax

          • Philip Almond July 8, 2017 at 11:05 am #

            Simon
            I comment on your July 7 2017 11.11 pm post on this thread, repeating what I have tried to say elsewhere:
            There are 3 closely related but distinct questions: who are the Christians – known to God to be Christians?; what do the Christians believe?; what are the truths of Christianity? Because we can go astray or be astray doctrinally as well as ethically it is possible for a Christian to believe doctrines that are ruled out by the truths of Christianity and/or not believe doctrines that are essential truths of Christianity. Conversely it is possible for someone to intellectually believe all the truths of Christianity and not be a Christian. Surely the most important truths of Christianity, both for ourselves and for what we say to others, are the doctrines of salvation; speaking in very general terms: what is our position in the sight of God as we are born into the world; does that position need to be changed to have a right relationship with God; what happens to us if that position is never changed; can our position be changed; how can that change be brought about; can we be sure and how can we be sure that that change has been brought about; is there a possibility that our changed position may be lost before we die. I suggest that an important question, in terms of answers to the second and third of these three questions, is what the Principal of Pusey House, Bishop Philip North and you believe about the doctrines of salvation.

            Phil Almond

          • Simon July 8, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

            Phil – I agree with everything you say and how you put it – my commendation of them was not simply cos we had a nice cuppa – my conversations led me to think that despite externals on which we would differ, that they were brothers in Christ – and they were a lot clearer on doctrine than many in the wider evangelical world I meet – and I bet they believe article 9 🙂

          • Philip Almond July 8, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

            Simon
            Thanks for replying. Glad to hear what you posted.
            Phil

  30. Canonprh July 7, 2017 at 2:20 am #

    So much clerical vesture – at least the eucharistic vestments – derives from imperial regalia, thatone would think that it’s about time to let the empire die out. In the climate of Imperial America right now, I feel no need of wrapping myself in the garb of empire and privilege.

    Like others, I’d love to see the gathered people vest in something – the stolés described in Revelation, the robes washed in the Lamb’s blood. “I gotta robe, you gotta robe, all God’s chilluns got robes”, to cite one of my ancestors’ spirituals. “When I get to heaven, gonna put on my robe, and gonna run all over God’s heaven…” Now that’s some smart sounding, eschatological stylin’ we could alll hope for.

    I am a presbyter, not a deacon, despite my prior ordination. Presbyterate is plenty enough; I don’t need to arrogate to myself the distinct identity and office of the diaconate to make nice points about being a servant. Ministry in any office must be service. I regard my role as also an officium, an office, not something conferring some kind of ontological difference. What on earth drives someone to imagine and claim such a difference escapes me. Officium authorizes me to function freely in a defined role necessary to the life of the Body. It doesn’t need mystique. Baptismal identity is all the mystique I need, and it’s dreadfully potent stuff, hid from the world’s eyes, but not the eyes of faith. I don’t need anything wrapped around my neck to announce me, and not being vested in imperial clothes during the liturgy does nothing to change the reality of its mystery. I haven’t always felt that way, but now as a septuagenarian, I think I have come to a confidence of who and what I am in the community, and what the nature of this community with its hidden life in Christ.

    I owe so much to Edward Schillebeeckx’ two volumes, Ministry: Leadership in the Community of Jesus, and The Church with a Human Face, an expanded treatment of the first volume. Neither has anything to say about mitres or vestments, as I recall, but everything about what kind of community the Body of Christ is, and what its life is invited to be like in our own age and history… Just where are our priorities?

  31. David Runcorn July 7, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

    I have just returned from a University graduation ceremony. It was called a ‘Congregation’. The organ played beforehand. Liturgical precision and formality was observed. Processing. Maces. Medieval robes and head dress everywhere. Hierarchy. Hats doffed frequently, formal titles abound. But no one complaining about looking silly – rather, endless queuing to be in photographs. What came through was inspiring solemnity, joyful celebration at achievements and a mission call in an amazing speech from an international conflict mediator (wearing doctoral robes) who first caught her vision for the world and her work in it many years ago in a mixed race church youth club in apartheid South Africa. Finally a reminder to all that with privilege and opportunity comes a call to service for the good of all. Is this all part of the Rev Dr Paul concerns too?
    So I have come home feeling even strongly this blog is missing the point.

    • Ian H July 8, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

      David…that’s interesting though I’m not convinced. Is a one off equivalent to a ‘weekly show’? Did everyone think it not-silly or did the end-of-degree joy merely mask everything else. And the speaker (‘who first caught her vision for the world and her work in it many years ago in a mixed race church youth club in apartheid South Africa.’) clearly was enthused in a rather more humble situation. The robes were entirely unnecessary for her.

      In the wider world I just don’t come across such widespread satisfaction with the church wardrobe.

      Whatever the good things I’m unconvinced that it looks anything more than the privileged in a parade. Perhaps it’s the utter pomp that I’ve come across that prejudices me against these things…. and that might be my problem.

      • Will Jones July 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

        I really think we need some proper research into this. Otherwise everyone just projects their own views onto ‘what the people want’.

      • David Runcorn July 9, 2017 at 9:21 am #

        Hi Ian I am aware we may be both making big assumptions here.

        It was not a one off event at all – it is part of the whole historic tradition of the life of the University.
        And I actually think that the link between formal education and a vocation to work in the most needy parts of the world is highly significant, vital and, on that day, very moving. She did not ask to be there – her work was being honoured. And no, I don’t assume she wears her doctoral robes when negotiating with War Lords in Uganda

        ‘In the wider world I just don’t come across such widespread satisfaction with the church wardrobe.’ But I don’t go there to be ‘understood’ for the ways I express worship and reverence.

        ‘In royal robes I don’t deserve I live to serve your majesty’ is how the worship song puts it – but sung most often, ironically, in a church culture that is almost aggressive in its informality. But then informality too is a kind of uniform. We are never not making a statement of some sort.

        • Karen Watson July 10, 2017 at 10:43 am #

          Absolutely agree with your last comment: I get to see a few churches as a singer and there definitely is as fixed an order among the evangelicals as in any church of Rome.
          Drum kit in or near Sanctuary: check.
          Multiple TV screens (because nothing in this age has really happened until it has a screen frame around it!) – check
          Projection screen above, or otherwise more prominent than, the Lord’s table (reduced to a tiny sideshow going on underneath – as if the clergy were merely God’s roadies!)
          Equally predictable set of songbooks – check
          Arm waving – NOT optional (which denudes it of all meaning as a genuine expression of praise)
          Old blokes showing up in board shorts to prove they’re cool and “different” – check
          All of which is not necessarily wrong or to be criticised, but the idea that it’s “free” or “informal” is a hopeful myth. Anyone showing up and kneeling or bowing would elicit funny looks to say the least!

  32. David Ellis July 7, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

    Interestingly, and worryingly, the mitre pre-dates anything which has been suggested so far. It goes all the way back to the days of the Philistines. If you turn the mitre through 90 degrees and view it from the side, it resembles a fish’s head, and is the very similar to the headgear of the priests of Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines. Oh dear. It firs appeared on the heads of Roman Catholic primates, presumably arriving in Anglicanism as a left-over from the reformation.

    Should our church leaders be wearing attire which pays homage to a false god?

    • Ian Paul July 8, 2017 at 10:16 am #

      David, that theory is oft repeated, but there is no evidence of any connection. Because two things have a vague resemblance proves nothing.

    • David Runcorn July 9, 2017 at 9:11 am #

      ‘If you turn the mitre through 90 degrees and view it from the side, it resembles a fish’s head, and is the very similar to the headgear of the priests of Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines.’
      OK. But why would you David …?
      And if you turn it 90 degrees the other way?
      Well it is obviously an ancient Phoenician oven glove used by their high priests while cooking the leftovers from the Sunday sacrifices.
      Frankly I’m more worried if anyone seriously believes this.

      • David Ellis July 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

        So beware when you see a bishop cooking the dinner!

      • Karen Watson July 10, 2017 at 10:45 am #

        Wish I had a “like” button for some of these last comments! *laughing*

  33. Andrew Rose (Rev.) July 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    I hasten to say that I have not read the whole of this thread. Over 20 years ago there was a gathering of ‘mums & todds’ groups for the Oxford Diocese. The diocesan bishop appeared in full regalia and a youngster was heard to remark, “Mum, who is that clown?” I have also observed, with some disquiet, the many pictures of recent ordination services and think these images do not help a growing impression that the C of E is out of touch with everyday life.

  34. The Rev'd. Richard Bowley July 9, 2017 at 12:05 am #

    If one reads the rubrics care in the First Prayer Book of 1549 (1549 BCP), not only one would see no mitre, but also no stole. Archbishop Cramner, in dispensing with the mitre, was more or less influenced by the German Lutherans not wearing anything more than a cassock, surplice, and either chasuble or cope (depending if the minister was serving as deacon, presbyter, or (depending upon the particular State Church) superintendent or bishop; vestments that were later supplanted with the black pulpit robe of the German Reformed Churches (in the similar manner that Archbishop Cramner had Parliament, with the Second Prayer Book in 1552, ordered the clergy in the cassock, surplice (rochet and chimere for bishops), academic hood and preaching scarf).

    Except for the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (which was part of Sweden until captured by Tsarist Russia in 1809), in which they broke from the Roman Catholic Church, yet keeps an “Evangelical Catholic” identity to this day with an unbroken Apostolic Succession and the use of a revised Roman Catholic liturgy (thus their three-fold orders of the Ministry and retention of pontificals, which includes the mitre), the Lutheran State Churches in Germany, (as well as some of the “Union” Churches, and the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church, an “Old Lutheran” body that formed from the wake of the “Prussian Union”), despite re-naming their superintendents as bishops, still do not wear mitres; even if the minister serving as the State Bishop (as well as the Bishop of the German Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church) vest in a cassock and surplice (like their counterparts in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland), or wear the alb and stole (like their American and Norwegian counterparts).

    As a Church that is both Catholic and Reformed, what is stopping Anglicanism from just sticking with — for the High Church — the cassock, surplice (rochet for bishops), stole, and (for Bishops, Cathedral Deans, and those in the CoE attached to the Royal Peculiars) cope; the Low Church the cassock, surplice (rochet for bishops), academic hood (chimere for bishops), and tippet?

    As for the so-called Anglo-Catholics, whose bishops wear the mitre? Let them separate and form an Independent Anglo-Catholic body, or allow them to “swim the Tiber” and become “Anglican Use” Roman Catholics in the Personal Ordinariates, or (if they have issues with both female ordination AND Rome), become “Anglican Use” Lutherans (using the Anglican Rite of 1549) under the Swedish Mission Province.

  35. Simon July 9, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Ha – lol David – the standard Episcopal showings do look a little like Orla Kierly oven Mitts

  36. David Runcorn July 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    There was an irony in Ian’s initial (now deleted) choice of the Bishop of Gloucester to make his point about mitres. Gloucester Cathedral is one enormous building site at present. The odds are surely on both bishops wearing hard hats at the ordinations next weekend. One more for the historians?

  37. Ian H July 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

    Well done Ian Paul in the BBC interview this morning. I had no idea that bishops loosing mitres would mean that the Queen would have to give up wearing her crown…. Or so Rurh Gledhill explained/opined.

    It’s a strange juxtaposition isn’t ? In a procession behind a cross the bishop wears, what is in effect, a crown. I know some will say it’s not a crown but that’s exactly the impression given, especially if it’s linked with monarch crown-wearing. It certainly cannot be linked to servant ministry.

    ‘When we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise’…but with the flavour of ‘Make me chaste but not yet.’

  38. Bowman Walton July 10, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    “[The ordained] 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.”

    Ian, the understanding of ordination and episcopacy behind your OP on episcopal headgear is not quite clear to me. I know that you like bishops, some of your best friends are bishops, etc. But please help me to understand your position on the office itself. My doubts about it–

    (1) A bishop has the double duty of maintaining unity and discerning apostolicity; a presbyter is an authorised teacher with some delegated responsibilities for worship in a particular place. The quotation from your OP above is more or less true of a presbyter, but because it misses this ancient distinction, I do not see its relevance to bishops and mitres.

    (2) Because bishops do have that double duty, consecration is necessarily induction into a college that is co-extensive in space and time with the apostolic Church. If the college chooses to wear unfashionable hats, this is because it is not merely of this moment. If we are embarrassed by this anachronism, then we are embarrassed by the Church and the transhistorical gospel entrusted to her. The faults and virtues of individual bishops are beside the point that theirs is a collective ministry.

    (3) As you know, the canon implies an ongoing people of God reliant on present authority, but in it even Satan quotes scripture, demons recognise the Christ, etc. And centuries of interpretation of the Bible by reason alone has not produced the consensus from the text that enables ordinary pastoral authority. Indeed, some heretics, though mistaken, have been very persuasive interpreters of the Bible, and postmodernity has opened challenges to the canon itself. So on the big questions, orthodox believers have relied, knowingly or not, on the Bible interpreted through the creeds in ways that have been approved by bishops. It does not seem true to this history to play pious Bible students off against ruling bishops, as though the former owe nothing to the latter.

    (4) One could argue that a Reformed church should not have bishops at all; equally, one could argue that a church with true bishops can thrive if reformed, but not if Reformed. Whatever faults we attribute to Rome, there are Lutherans and Orthodox who have conserved the same historic episcopate without them and with real theological conviction. And for that matter, whatever faults may be seen in Anglican bishops as evangelists, Methodist and Roman bishops succeeded in evangelising much of the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific in the century before last. Today, the churches they built– one Protestant, one not– are both struggling with That Topic, but are closer to our view of it than the CoE. If there is a common theological element in all of these successes, it is belief that is as robustly participative and incorporative as the Prayerbook rites, and not so willfully suspicious of them as some of the Reformed can alas be. Why should we not believe that an ecclesiology more robust than that of most Reformed is a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause of robust churches? And if we do believe that, why worry about bishops?

    Readers puzzled to encounter a Protestant appreciation of episcopacy may be still more intrigued by Robert Jenson’s book on the theological exegesis of scripture, Canon and Creed. Episcopacy is treated here and there throughout the book, but especially in his chapter 8 and Afterword. An American Lutheran who studied with Karl Barth and long ago tutored in Oxford, Jenson is the most respected systematician from this country in the last century.

    Bowman Walton

  39. Robert Leach July 18, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I am flattered to be quoted, and pleased to be called a friend! An interesting piece raising many points I had not previously considered.

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