Ecclesiastical Habit

Notes on liturgical vesture, just to get it out of me. I’m sure it’s already obvious that I think it fitting for clerics to wear robes.

William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury (1828).

William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury (1828).

Bishop: cassock, rochet, chimere, tippet and cope.

In keeping with the dignity of his office, the bishop may wear a rochet and chimere rather than a surplice and academic hood; outside of these he may wear a cope. I have, at least for now, retreated from advocating the use of the chasuble, since it’s probably better to keep consonance between the ritual and the ornaments in Divine Service, that both may stand consistently against sacerdotalism.

Old-school vestments and 1821 prayer book. © Christ Church, Lincoln, RI.

Old-school vestments and 1821 prayer book. © Christ Church, Lincoln, RI.

Presbyter: cassock, surplice, academic hood and tippet.

The presbyter wears a tippet to signify his authority to preach (which authority is denied to women in 1 Ti 2.12), and an academic hood to show that he has the academic training to be able to teach the pure doctrine of the Church. He wears the surplice to mark the historical continuity of the Church and symbolize the purity and holiness of our forgiving God, which are offered through preaching and the sacraments. Despite past protests against the disuse of the Geneva gown in preaching, I support the consistent use of the surplice: preaching in an academic gown rather than a surplice seems unduly fussy, and the academic hood already serves its function well enough.

Deacon: cassock, surplice.

It seems irrelevant for a deacon to wear an academic hood and tippet unless he happens to be preaching at the particular service in which he wears these. Seriously: if you’re doing the ministry of a deacon, which is ministry to the marginalized inside and outside the church, no one should ordinarily care if you have any academic degrees.

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