Vicars could be free to conduct services in track suits and hoodies under new proposals by the Church of England to be seen as “relevant” in the modern world.
The Church’s House of Bishops has launched an official consultation about the possibility of relaxing canon law, which currently requires priests to wear traditional clerical robes when leading communion or special services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals.
It is the first formal step by the Church towards easing clerical vesture regulations which maintain a tradition dating back to late Roman times.
The move follows a debate in the Church’s decision-making General Synod in 2014 in which members called for the idea to be considered.
But opponents of a relaxation warned at the time that abandoning the legal requirement could leave the Church looking “slovenly”.
As a lifelong Roman Catholic, I have had many conversations over the years about various ideas to bring the clergy into the modern era, whatever that means at the time. It is part of a larger question: should a church evolve to fit present day social norms or should some things remain eternal? True, clerical attire doesn’t have anything to do with faith, but tradition is an important component in any serious religion. Faith traditions and whimsicality don’t go well together.
Some may argue that changing a tradition that dates back to Roman times isn’t exactly whimsical, but should any traditions in a serious faith tradition have a shelf life?
The Church of England is struggling right now. Perhaps the powers that be think a coat of fresh paint will help things, and it may in the short run.
But people looking for real meaning through faith are never looking at the short run, are they?