Do You Wear the Cloth?

Quick question to the Blogosphere’s Reverends!!!

How many of you don the collar?

If you do or do not, why or why not?

I have often considered wearing a collar after my ordination and I would like to hear some reasoned arguments as to either why you wear one or why the wearing of the collar is not for you. Do you have a “Doctrine of the Collar” or is it just a matter of personal preference?

Now I will certainly wear a “Geneva Gown”, mostly because I am not interested in Aunt Millie questioning my poor tie choices every week. I realize I am a poor dresser so eschewing ostentatious suits for a black robe is a certainty for me. But seriously, I do believe it is important for the pastor to show some semblance of not only reverence and seriousness but also a recognition for the office that he holds. For more information I commend a paper written by Chris Larimer on the use Vestments.


16 thoughts on “Do You Wear the Cloth?

  1. I’m sorta shocked at the moment since I’ve never been in a church with the pastor wearing the collar and thought that was a Catholic thing…

  2. Most Presbyterian pastors in Scotland wear the collar. It’s basically a uniform, and it has all the pluses and negatives of any uniform. I think it is a good thing generally, though.

    I’ve got one, and I wear it for weddings and funerals now, mostly. Along with the Geneva gown. I also wear it for hospital calls when I’m on chaplain rotation and I’m visiting people I don’t know. I filled in for a military chaplain at a change of command ceremony at Ft. Meade and wore it then, as well.

    When I was in Cincinnati trying to plant a church, I wore it often. Cinci is heavily Catholic, and it creates an immediate rapport. I used to go and hang out at Starbucks and work on my laptop. You’d be surprised the conversations you can get into, especially if they notice the wedding ring.

    Plus it has two other benefits:
    1. No cop will ever give you a speeding ticket. That’s huge when you drive a BMW.

    2. Nobody gives you any static when you need to complain about service, or ask for special attention. For instance, while I was living in Cinci, I bought 4 new tires for my truck. I asked them to drop the spare, wire brush the rust off the rim so it would hold air, and put the best old tire on it. They didn’t do that. 2 days later I hit something in the street and shredded one of my new tires. I tried to put the spare on but it was flat. I put on the collar, went back to the store and told the manager what happened. Not only did they fix my spare, they gave me a new tire free of charge. There is amazing power in a black shirt and a little piece of white plastic.

    I don’t wear it now, in Sturgis, except for the above mentioned times. Mostly that’s because this place is way laid back. People wear their “good jeans and cowboy hat” to church. It just seems more out of place and more of a barrier than a help.

  3. I think Jeff Myers is a New Perspective/Federal Vision guy, though. If so, that will inevitably color some of what he says, so take all with a grain of salt. There is more than a whiff of Rome about that crowd.

  4. Thanks for the info on Myers. I’ll try to find a different source for this discussion. Also I was curious as to the general feeling in the PCA about Genve gowns and collars in general.

  5. If I may be so bold, you can read my recommendations here. I wrote these while I interned at the Office of Theology and Worship. There appear to be a couple of typos, which indicates that they used a working version rather than the polished one I submitted at the end of my time there.

    As an ordained deacon, I have worn the collar when I preached and when I made hospital visits to folks I didn’t know. I also preach in cassock, gown, bands, and hood. However, I anticipate presiding at the table in alb & stole OR cassock, surplice, and stole (hood worn during preaching…stole put on for service of the table). I’m a bit bells-n-smells, though. If I get booted, I may go catting around the Reformed Episcopal Church. I’m not a Covenantor.

  6. In general, the collar is not worn. Those that do wear it tend to have sympathies with the Federal Vision/NPP. That’s not a hard and fast rule, just an observation.

    The old guys, especially in the South, wear the gown quite frequently (like you see Kennedy doing.) The element in the PCA that is less critical about embracing the church growth movement and mainstream evangelicalism doesn’t do so, generally.

  7. Brian,

    No, I don’t. I’m familiar with the brand of Presbyterianism that does, but I don’t hold to that position. I think that presbyterialism is in great accord with what you see in the Scriptures. However, we should be careful to listen to ancient testimony that was actually concerned with these structures from the first two centuries. An episcopate, if held by God’s man, can weather the storms of postmodern flightiness in ways that our system is obviously doing very poorly.

    What is the name of that position that deems only one polity as correct?

  8. Chris: the name is narrow minded. I cheerfully accept that moniker for myself, btw.

    Used to, but not anymore except for “special” occasions. It’s darn hot, for one thing.
    Funny story: I had a little girl in a past congregation who was adopted from India. Her name was Jasimine and I absolutely adored her. She must have been about 3. She walked in the door of the church on some special occasion when I was wearing the robe. She saw me, let out this great gasp and said, “MOMMY! IT’S JESUS!”

    Be not ignorant of the power of these things for both good and ill.


  9. Chris,

    We should have a non-adversarial polity discussion, btw. (or maybe mildly adversarial. I’m not sure I could ever be non-adversarial. Too much of Luther in me.) I think it would be profitable for the watchers.

    For the record, I think presbyterianism is the most biblical, but there is more scriptural warrant for episcopacy than for congregationalism. In an emergency, I could cheerfully submit to a bishop, provided he didn’t want to reordain me because of some apostolic succession nonsense.


  10. However I must hasten to add that in Covenanting times I would have been staunchly against a bishop for two reasons:

    1. The King had promised to leave the Presbyterians be in exchange for Scottish support of his ascension to the throne. That promise was broken.

    2. The new prayer book he attempted to introduce had a bit of popery about it that I wouldn’t have liked.

    3. Anyone who slaughters Christians in the name of political power deserves to be stood up to.

    The Covenanting times will be the subject of my PhD if I ever get to do it.


  11. I heard that collars are actually a relatively recent innovation–maybe in the last two hundred years. They derive from battlefield situations, to distinguish chaplains from fighting forces. Geneva gowns were the scholarly robes of their day, and thus emphasize the teaching office.

    I don’t feel that either is really necessary. I would be cautious of wearing it for the “benefits” that Brian mentions. If you are a jerk, drive poorly, or don’t tip well, that will also show. To me, it seems like a nod towards Christendom. And it clearly has a “clerical” feel to it. I have noticed collars are trendy with the young evangelicals; I don’t really know why. That said, I’ve worn one when I lived abroad and that was the practice.

    Chris, I couldn’t find your recommendations. Can you re-post them?

  12. Brian,

    I’d love to argue with you. As a good Irishman, I’m always looking for a good fight. (“Pardon me, sirs. Is this a private fight, or can any hardchaw join in?”) However, we appear to be in agreement on the issue of governance arising jure divino or jure humano.

    John, my article used to be found on the PCUSA’s Theology and Worship FAQ website. It appears to have been taken down so that people will be routed to James Ayers’ take as published in PT. I’m making it available once again on my blog here.

  13. Ben, I saw the bactrack on PB to here. I have worn the collar in the past for many of the reasons listed here and on the PB, but also because the Session asked me to. (We were in a heavily RC area0.) I put together a brief summary of arguments for its use once. I will put it up on R&!. I appreciation your fine blog.

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