Clergy Robes - Last Bastion of Anglican Identity?

A new title from evangelical Christian publisher Grove Books, Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities, asks whether Anglican ministers should be required to wear robes when leading public worship. This can be an explosive and divisive issue for Anglican congregations: some believe that clerical vesture remains one of the last outward signs of Anglican identity. Robing also leads to impassioned debate about the purpose and mission of the Church, and obedience to bishops.

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Cambridge, England (PRWEB) October 20, 2008

A new title from evangelical Christian publisher Grove Books, Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities, asks whether Anglican ministers should be required to wear robes when leading public worship.

The question of what ministers wear to lead a church service may appear at first inconsequential; however, it can be an explosive and divisive issue for Anglican congregations. There are some who believe that clerical vesture remains one of the last outward signs of Anglican identity. Robing also leads to impassioned debate about the purpose and mission of the Church, and obedience to bishops.

At a time when many in the Anglican Communion are asking searching questions about unity and what it means to be an Anglican, author Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone offers this timely consideration of the law governing robes. He questions the significance of what many consider an old-fashioned and irrelevant custom.    

The law currently makes robes obligatory for all. However, many clergy already adopt flexibility as to when and where they robe--although not always with the explicit consent of their bishop.

Clergy robes are fully compatible with lively Anglican worship, and are often a valuable aid to effective mission and church growth in a variety of cultural settings. However, the book asks whether--in some contexts--robes can be a hindrance rather than a help. Therefore should robing be optional, with decisions on dress taken locally? Should Anglican clergy have the freedom to decide what they wear, in consultation with their congregations, based on their local setting?

The House of Bishops has no agreed policy on how to interpret the law, or how to deal with clergy who ignore it. It is left to the discretion of each diocesan bishop, who has three possible courses of action: strictly to enforce the law (which would be provocative in the already more relaxed parishes); to turn a blind eye (which puts ministers in an invidious position); or to declare goodwill to those who ignore the law.

The booklet is intended to help Anglican ministers and their congregations think through the complex issues surrounding clerical dress. It explores the recent debates in the Church of England's General Synod and assesses the eight key theological reasons which have been put forward for the enforcement of robes in today's Church.

Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities is published by Grove Books Ltd, Cambridge, priced at £3.50 and available from good bookshops or by post from Grove Books.

Contact details:

  • Author for interview: Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, tel +44 1865 274589 (day-time), email andrew.atherstone@wycliffe.ox.ac.uk
  • For Grove Books: Kevin Potts, tel +44 1223 573568, email kevin@pottsmail.com

Notes for editors:

  • Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone is tutor in history & doctrine and Latimer research fellow at Wycliffe hall, Oxford. He is assistant curate at Eynsham and Cassington, near Oxford and a member of the editorial group for the Worship series at Grove Books. He is the editor of The Heart of Faith. Following Christ in the Church of England (Lutterworth Press, 2008); author of The Martyrs of Mary Tudor (DayOne Publications, 2005); Oxford: City of Saints, Scholars and Dreaming Spires (Day One Publications, 2008); Oxford's Protestant Spy: The Controversial Career of Charles Golightly (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007); a contributor to Common Worship Reconciliation and Restoration, A Commentary (Grove Books, 2006); and author of I Absolve You: Private Confession and the Church of England (Latimer House, 2005); Confessing Our Sins (Grove Books, 2004); and 'Search Me O God': The Practice of Self-Examination (Grove Books, 2003).
  • Grove Books is an evangelical Anglican publisher offering practical guides on contemporary Christian issues, published within eight series: Biblical, Worship, Evangelism, Renewal, Ethics, Youth, Pastoral and Spirituality. The books are based on biblical principles and engage with best practice.

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