Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To Vest or Not to Vest, That is the Anglican Question

Several British newspapers are noting that the General Synod of the Church of England has voted that their clergy do not need to wear liturgical vestments during church services, in view of how society has become more and more informal. This blog, by an Anglican living in Rome, reminds us that the Church of England has rejected vestments in the past, using the mitre worn by bishops as an example:

In the first place, I would like to begin with a little historical background, the mitre is of Roman and Pontifical origin, it derives from a non-liturgical papal tiara knowns as the camelaucum - it was worn as early as the eight century, as shown in the Liber Pontificalis, the biography of the Popes. Around the 10th century it started to be worn at important processions and services by Bishops and during the later Middle Ages its use became more or less defined as we know it today with the mitre being used for dramatic moments during the Mass, during the Te Deum or originally even at particular times during Advent and Lent, Good Friday or Candlemass liturgies, etc. The use of mitres was adopted quite soon in the English Church as well, by the 12th century it was widespread throughout the country, we do know of very fine examples of embroidered English mitres from the 12th to 16th centuries. By the time of the Reformation, especially under Edward VI mitres fell out of use and it was not until the 19th century, in the wake of the ritualist revival it was once again adopted, notably thanks to Bishop Edward King of Lincoln. Although the history of the Church in England goes back to Saint Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century, its Reformation only goes back 500 years and the mitre was only unpopular for about 300 years and its use has again been part of the Anglican tradition for about 200 years.

Please read the rest there. This blog, from an Evangelical Anglican view point, reminds readers of the Vestments Controversy during Elizabeth I's reign:

With the ascension of the new queen, many Marian exiles hoped for further reform upon their return to England and for the final removal of vestments from mandatory church use. The new queen, however, sought unity with her first Parliament in 1559 and did not want to encourage nonconformity. Under her Act of Uniformity, backed by the Act of Supremacy, the 1552 Prayer Book was to be the model for ecclesiastical use but with an even more conservative stance on vestments that went back to the second year of Edward VI's reign. The alb, cope, and chasuble were all to be brought back into use, while the exiles had abandoned even the surplice. The queen assumed direct control over these rules and all ceremonies or rites. There was a great deal of diversity of opinion. Some agreed with the queen in practice but encouraged preaching against vestments. Others were in favor of vestments altogether. And even others, like Miles Coverdale, were anti-vestment altogether.

The debate continued among the more conformist clergy and the nonconformist clergy. In 1563 an appeal was made to ecclesiastical commissioners to exempt the petitioners from wearing vestments. It was approved by all the commissioners except for Archbishop Matthew Parker. Parker then went on, in 1566, to draw a line in the sand against the nonconformity. This brought about a general protest and established one of the thorns in the sides of the soon to be non-conformists and Puritans.

Please read the rest there.

I presume that Low Church and Broad Church congregations would welcome more casual dress by their clergy, but that the Higher the ritual in other congregations, the more formal the liturgical dress. Perhaps this Synodal decision will be another step for some High Church Anglicans in their journey to coming Home to Rome through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham?

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