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A Short History of the Wearing of Clerical Collars in the Presbyterian Tradition

Image

By Contributing Scholar, Timothy LeCroy

Introduction
There does not seem to have been any distinctive everyday dress for Christian pastors up until the 6th century or so. Clergy simply wore what was common, yet muted, modest, and tasteful, in keeping with their office. In time, however, the dress of pastors remained rather conservative, as it is wont to do, while the dress of lay people changed more rapidly. The result was that the dress of Christian pastors became distinct from the laity and thus that clothing began to be invested (no pun intended) with meaning.

Skipping ahead, due to the increasing acceptance of lay scholars in the new universities, the Fourth Lateran council (1215) mandated a distinctive dress for clergy so that they could be distinguished when about town. This attire became known as the vestis talaris or the cassock. Lay academics would wear an open front robe with a lirripium or hood. It is interesting to note that both modern day academic and clerical garb stems from the same Medieval origin.

Councils of the Roman Catholic church after the time of the Reformation stipulated that the common everyday attire for priests should be the cassock. Up until the middle of the 20th century, this was the common street clothes attire for Roman Catholic priests. The origin of the clerical collar does not stem from the attire of Roman priests. Its genesis is of Protestant origin.

The Origin of Reformed Clerical Dress
In the time of the Reformation, many of the Reformed wanted to distance themselves from what was perceived as Roman clerical attire. Thus many of the clergy took up the attire of academics in their daily dress or wore no distinctive clothing whatsoever. Yet over time the desire for the clergy to wear a distinctive uniform returned to the Reformed churches. What they began to do, beginning in the 17th century as far as I can tell, is to begin to wear a neck scarf, called a cravat, tied around the neck to resemble a yoke. Thus common dignified attire was worn by the pastor, supplementing it with this clerical cravat. This style can be seen in many of our famous Reformed divines, one of the more famous of whom being Charles Hodge.

ImageCharles Hodge pictured with clerical cravat

When Reformed pastors would enter the pulpit, they would add what is known as a “preaching tab” or “neck band” to their clerical dress. This type of dress is nearly ubiquitous among 17th and 18th century Reformed pastors. Here are a few examples:

ImageJonathan Edwards featuring clerical cravat and preaching tabs

ImageGeorge Whitfield

ImageJohn Owen – 17th century Reformed pastor

In the following picture we see more clearly the use of both the clerical cravat and the inserted preaching tabs by one Thomas Chalmers.

ImageThomas Chalmers, 19th century. Notice both the cravat and tabs clearly visible.

The reader will note that the men depicted here were of great eminence as Reformed pastors and theologians. They are all well known for their commitment to Reformed theology and biblical teaching and practice. These are not obscure men who sported clerical attire.

One might ask whether this sort of attire was universal among the Reformed. The answer is, no. Upon perusing several portraits included in the Presbyterian Encyclopedia of 1880, published by Presbyterian Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, I found that there was diversity of clerical attire chosen by Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century. Some wore clerical cravats. Some wore what looks like a modern rabat with a collarette (a black vest which closes at the top with a bit of white collar revealed all around). Others wore bow ties or neck ties. The conclusion to be drawn is that in the Presbyterian tradition, there has been diversity of clerical dress without any type enforced over the other.

Another objection that might be raised is whether or not this neck band or cravat, such as we see Charles Hodge wearing, was in any way distinctive clerical garb. Several 19thcentury sources reveal that these cravats were, in fact, considered distinctive clerical garb. The following quote is from a 19th century source called The Domestic Annals of Scotland, Volume 3:

In the austerity of feeling which reigned through the Presbyterian Church on its reestablishment there had been but little disposition to assume a clerical uniform or any peculiar pulpit vestments. It is reported that when the noble commissioner of one of the first General Assemblies was found fault with by the brethren for wearing a scarlet cloak he told them he thought it as indecent for them to appear in gray cloaks and cravats. When Mr. Calamy visited Scotland in 1709 he was surprised to find the clergy generally preaching in neckcloths and coloured cloaks. We find at the date here marginally noted that the synod of Dumfries was anxious to see a reform in these respects. The synod – so runs their record – “considering that it’s a thing very decent and suitable so it hath been the practice of ministers in this kirk formerly to wear black gowns in the pulpit and for ordinary to make use of bands do therefore by their act recommend it to all their brethren within their bounds to keep up that custome and to study gravitie in their apparel and every manner of way.”

Here we see several members of the 18th c. Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) having their hackles raised over some ostentatious clergymen wearing scarlet cloaks and cravats. Later they hold a Synod where they decide that they ought to wear black gowns and to make use of neck bands. This paragraph shows us two things: the wearing of cravats was considered to be distinctive clerical garb, and the synod of the kirk decided ultimately that modest use of neckbands was permitted. (There are many more such examples in 19th century sources which can easily be researched on Google Books. I invite the reader to see for himself.) Thus when we see all manner of 17th-19th century Reformed pastors sporting preaching tabs, neck bands, and cravats, we should interpret them to be intentionally sporting distinctive clerical garb. We should also gather that the author of these annals, one Robert Chambers, included this anecdote in his work in order to promote the modest use of bands and clerical garb in his day.

The last bit of history to cover regards the origin of the modern clerical collar. According to several sources, including one cited by the Banner of Truth website (no Romanizing group), the modern clerical collar was invented by a Presbyterian. In the mid 19th century heavily starched detachable collars were in great fashion. This can been seen up through the early part of the 20th century if one has watched any period television shows or movies. If we observe the collar worn by Charles Hodge we can see that at first these collars were not folded down as they are today, but left straight up.

ImageCharles Hodge revisited. Notice the upturned collar protruding from the top of the cravat.

Yet in the mid to late 19th century it became the fashion of the day to turn these collars down. You and I still wear a turned down collar. The origin of the modern clerical collar is simply then to turn or fold the collar down over the clerical cravat, leaving the white cloth exposed in the middle. According to the Glasgow Herald of December 6,1894, the folded down detachable clerical collar was invented by the Rev Dr Donald McLeod, a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland. According to the book Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, “the collar was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”

Yet two questions arise: how did the clerical collar then fall out of use among Presbyterians and how did it come to be so associated with Roman Catholic priests? The answer is that up until the mid 20th century the prescribed dress for all Roman Catholic priests was the cassock, a full length clerical gown. Yet during the 20th century it became custom for Roman Catholic priests to wear a black suit with a black shirt and clerical collar, which collar they appropriated from Protestant use. Owing to the large number of Roman Catholic priests in some areas, and due to the fact that some sort of everyday clerical dress was mandated for all priests at all times when outside their living quarters, the clerical collar became to be associated more with the Roman Catholic Church than with the Protestant churches. It stands to reason that once again a desire to create distance between the Reformed and Roman Catholics and the increasing desire throughout the 20th century for ministers to dress in more informal ways has led to the fact that barely any Reformed pastor wears any distinctive clerical dress these days, though plenty of examples show that our eminent forbearers desired to do so.

Sources
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 2003
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 1996
The Presbyterian Encyclopedia, Alfred Nevin, 1880
Wikipedia: Clerical Collar
Wikipedia: Bands (neck wear)
Wikipedia: Clerical Clothing
Clerical dress and insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry McCloud, 1948
Domestic Annals of Scotland, From the Revolution to the Rebellion of 1745, Robert Chambers, 1861, pp. 147-148.
Google Images
Google Books
Wikimedia Commons
Ken Collins’ Website – Vestments Glossary
Banner of Truth Website
Pastor Garrett Craw’s Blog

Dr. Timothy LeCroy is a Special Contributing Scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary and is the Pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO.

This post originally appeared on Dr. LeCroy’s blog, Vita pastoralis.

An Exhortation on the Supreme Court Decision

Guest Post by Alan Stout

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to not deny federal benefits to homosexuals that enter into a false marriage covenant. I thought I would address this issue.

In small ways and great, we have given in to false teaching and false gods. We are timid before the gods of tolerance, sensuality, entertainment and comfort. We became ensconced behind our Church walls, boldly proclaiming our outrage over sin, other people’s sin, in closed meetings of other like-minded Christians. We have proclaimed “a different path” to those already walking that direction and rejoice that prophetic ministry has found such receptive ears.

The Church of Christ bares much responsibility for the woeful state of marriage in our nation. It is not because we have not spoken out against sodomy or homosexual relationships, we have, but because we have done so while leaving out the biblical purposes of marriage, making it an idol to be added to our shrine.

In and of itself, these in-house conversations are not sinful. Going to a conference on marriage in order to build yours up is not a bad thing. The problem is this: in practice, we as the Church have undercut the very foundations we purport to love. The result of this erosion is adultery, no fault divorce, and now the Federal tearing down of marriage itself (See Antonin Scalia’s dissent as the Supreme Court over-turned the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA).

The Church owns this sin and here is where we bought it. We have so divorced marriage from the original purpose given by God that we have turned it into a covenant of shortsighted selfishness, failing to think generationally about what God has joined together. From creation one of the chief purposes of holy matrimony (marriage) has been the procreation of children. The Church has traditionally recognized this and proclaimed it during the wedding ceremony. For example the 1609 Book of Common Prayer, after which many of our American Christian weddings have been patterned, declares three reasons marriage was given to man.  Here is how wedding ceremonies in the West[1] have traditionally opened:

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the Body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

Modern Sample Call to Worship

Dear friends and family, with great affection for ___ and ___ we have gathered together to witness and bless their union in marriage. To this sacred moment they bring the fullness of their hearts as a treasure and a gift from God to share with one another. They bring the dreams which bind them together in an eternal commitment. They bring their gifts and talents, their unique personalities and spirits, which God will unite together into one being as they build their life together. We rejoice with them in thankfulness to the Lord for creating this union of hearts, built on friendship, respect and love.

Our President, Barack Obama, tweeted out immediately after the decision, “love is love.” Mr. President, the Church has been saying that for years… to our shame. May we repent, may we go forward to the garden-city, may we say with our Lord to those who marry today, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” That is a significant part of marriage and unless providentially hindered, children are mandated by God. This needs to be embraced and extolled in every marriage and in the Church.

The culture of sodomy is, in the end, death. There is no future in the sexual activity of homosexuals, their homes die with them. What a shame that the Church has bought into this same culture.

I propose that we do a few things to counter this trend:

1.     Pastors, teach and fight the anti-family trend in this war. Extol the cultural mandate, think generationally, preach from Psalm 127 and 128 and do not undercut the force of the blessing of children with stupid statements like, “some men’s quivers are smaller than others and they hold only one or two arrows (127:5).” Teach that it is a real blessing to have a table surrounded by little olive plants (128:3).

2.     Pastors again, let me urge you to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony unless the reasons for marriage are clearly articulated, we must preach the whole counsel of God in this situation.

3.     Saints of almighty God, do not neglect the clear teaching of Scripture. Embrace the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to deny this is death – in effect the same death the sodomite revels in. You too think generationally, long to see your children’s children (Psalm 128:6).

——————————————-

[1]  The Eastern Church also contains a blessing that asks that the couple “multiply” like unto Jacob and Rachael.

Alan Stout is the Associate Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, Fl.

Satanists Distance Themselves from Abortionists

My article yesterday received over 1,300 hits. Not all, but some pro-death advocates have found a new song for their generation, I argued. They may just be waiting for the others to catch up. But it was not just the evangelical pro-life movement that was angelically perplexed by the “Hail Satan” chants, according to Life News, the satanists took offense:

The tweet comes from the so-called “UK Church of Satan,” which describes itself as A community of free thinking individuals and realists. Connecting followers of the Church of Satan in the UK.”

Unfortunate to see Satan’s name used in such a diabolical manner. Another example of what ‘Satanism’ doesn’t represent. #HailSatan

— UK Church of Satan (@UKChurchofSatan) July 3, 2013

Diabolical indeed.

Worship and the Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness

By Uri Brito

This is a great day for these United States. It is a time of joy and celebration. And we hope to enjoy ourselves with one of America’s greatest inventions: hot dogs. But beyond all the fireworks, parades, and the good and healthy national festivities, we will also remember that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Sovereignty is good. It is right. And I believe there was much wisdom in that threefold pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. Undoubtedly we have not followed those principles very well in this nation. We have despised life by disposing of unborn infants, we have forgotten that God has set us free from ourselves and from the tyranny of sin, and we have also forsaken the liberty given to any nation whose God is the Lord. Therefore, we receive the just punishment we deserve, and that means the majority of our politicians and their policies. Washington has become a place of secret handshakes, unwarranted transactions, political elitism, sophist rhetoric, and cowardice. And finally, the happiness that we should certainly pursue is largely devoid of any form of Trinitarian rationale. Happiness–which is the pursuit of righteousness– without Nature’s God is temporary and unsatisfying.

We are first and foremost heavenly citizens. Our fellowship is heavenly. Our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness are not granted by this nation, but by a heavenly nation that this country has largely ignored. But this should not be the case. We are not pessimists. We know that even in the darkest moment of this country’s history, God is still on the throne, and He did not hit the pause button on his kingdom advance.

Be good citizens of this nation! Sing Psalms so loudly that the enemies will think there is an army of giants coming at them. Speak truth so firmly that Washington will be unable to shut her ears. Stand so strong that nothing will deter you from marching on. Love so convincingly that godly marriage would be honored. Obey the Lord your God; petition his mercy that God would spare us as He did Nineveh.

True patriotism rejoices when our country does right, and weeps when she chases after false gods.

Let us come together this coming Lord’s Day through the holy act of worship, and purify the Bride of Christ with confession and rejoicing, for in this manner this nation will find life, liberty, and true happiness.

Uri Brito is a dual citizen.

The New Chant: “Hail Satan”

By Uri Brito

The chant outside Texas Capitol was consistent and unmistakable: “Hail Satan.” As the peaceful pro-life advocates were singing Amazing Grace, a group of loud pro-abortion chanters added their own version (hear video).

 I am not saying that every woman who has ever committed abortion or support abortion are actively joined to some Anton Lavey gathering, or that Rachel Maddow will begin her show with a pro-Satan salutation, rather what I am saying is that this chant is an affirmation of the one who is behind these ideologies. Satan is the father of lies, and so he delights to hear his praises sung.

The Christian faith has always been a faith of life. The unbelieving heart is voluntarily against life. Policies and ideologies that delight in death are diametrically opposed to the Christian order. These loud advocates may have been trying to sabotage John Newton’s hymn, or to silence the pro-life sounds, but in reality they were revealing that which is fundamental to the way they look at the world. They were chanting from page one of their hymnals.  Out of the heart the mouth chants. We are all worshiping beings. We all worship something or someone, and that worship is most clearly demonstrated in song.

Ideas have consequences and consequences have songs. Every generation has its own soundtrack. This generation has finally found one for her ideologies.

Uri Brito is founder and contributor to Kuyperian Commentary.

DOMA & Gay “Marriage” – a Christian Evaluation

Guest Post by Ben Rossell

In the aftermath of the SCOTUS DOMA ruling, here are 7 points to help us understand why we are where we are and 7 things Christians should do about it.

1. Heterosexual couples destroyed the sanctity of marriage long before the gay rights movement hit the mainstream. “I have two dads, you know.” This is what a young boy I know recently told me. His words struck me. I knew they were true. But I’d never thought of it … like THAT before. His birth parents divorced while he was an infant [for what I believe were sound, Biblical reasons]. His mother went on to remarry a fine Christian man and so, like so many other boys around, he has “two dads”. Why should we think it so odd that this trend continue, though now with the ruthless efficiency of eliminating the mother altogether? A long time ago, our society began to deliberately streamline the process by which a man or woman can dissolve the oath they had previously made before God, church, family, community, and state to stay united until death.  And for decades, the process of oath-breaking has been made more and more convenient.  At this point in our history, “the sanctity of marriage” is nothing more than a hollow-sounding phrase; a string of words that used to mean something.

2. The Heterosexual promiscuity paved the yellowbrick road on which gay rights activists now march – the What young people really mean when they say “Don’t tell THEM what THEY can’t do in THEIR bedroom” is “Don’t tell ME what I can’t do in MY bedroom”.  This is what ‘the pill’ is all about.  What we see today is the fruiting of seeds that were planted fifty years ago and have been faithfully watered and fertilized ever since. Pulling levers and pushing buttons isn’t going to change that or stop what has been in motion for so long. But being faithful will… eventually. This is a bitter fruit, but the story is far from over.   Read more…

“Where’s my Diversity?” asks the Polygamist

By Uri Brito

Does the Supreme Court truly believe in equality? If so, why is the long tradition of polygamy being discriminated against? As Steve Deace observes:

They’re just as guilty of discrimination as those dastardly conservatives still bitterly clinging to their guns and their religion. Why no argument for polygamy, polyamory and other forms of diversity? Why are they only defending their exclusive definition of diversity?

The LGBT should be up and arms about not valuing other types of consensual relationships like polygamy. Is this the next step? Or to put the question more forcibly, “is this the inevitable next step?” Read more…

The SCOTUS Decision and the Christian Future

by Uri Brito

Christians are called to be a future-oriented people. This is easy to forget when we see clear judicial reversals of what God has judicially declared. The SCOTUS decision does not change what is, it simply re-enforces that what is is not cherished. When “what-is” is not cherished, people seek out that which is not.

The Creator established a pattern for all of history. He established condemnations attached with those who attempt to usurp that divine pattern (Rom. 1). The pattern which God has created let no man put asunder. Scalia’s dissent brilliantly summarized the undoing of this pattern:

“Some might conclude that this loaf could have used a while longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe.”

Untrained cooks are raving about this new recipe. Though overcooked, it is still the flavor of the day. This is the out-working of that very first sin. As C.S. Lewis observed:

Through pride the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every vice, it’s the complete anti-God state of mind.

And speaking of anti-God state of mind, mainline churches are celebrating today’s ruling with the same enthusiasm as the vocal LBGT community.  The InterFaith Alliance President the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating today’s Supreme Court decisions:

The enormity of today’s decisions cannot be overstated. The combined impact of these two rulings puts our nation further down the inevitable and proper path towards full marriage equality for the LGBT community. All Americans should rejoice in today’s decisions because they bring us that much closer to fulfilling the promise of our Constitution. I am hopeful that today’s decision striking down DOMA as unconstitutional and overturning the Proposition 8 case on standing will be followed by continued victories in this fight for equality. That a majority of the Court recognized in the DOMA case that this was an issue of equal protection denied is no small victory.

The IRS, on the other hand, is in panic mode. Though nationally distrusted, now it is going to have to create two tax regimes:

One system, for couples in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, will allow gays and lesbians to file their tax returns jointly, exclude them from paying taxes on their spouse’s estate and clear them to contribute together to health savings and flexible spending accounts. The other system, for couples in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, wouldn’t allow such benefits.

The law does get complicated when the equality trumpet is sounded in a minor key. Ultimately, this is not about civil rights, this is about imposing one right: the right to call evil good and good evil. And these advocates will not rest until their agenda is accepted at a national level. We all know that California has not only bitten the garden fruit, but devoured it. The serpent did not even need subtlety in his argument. However, persuading the nation, that is another story. And as long as there are ten righteous, God will not destroy us.

We are a future-oriented people. And we should always be. Jesus has not relinquished his throne to a perverted Caesar. He is still king of kings and Lord of marriage. His marriage is still to a female bride. And while Hollywood cheers on this ruling, we should be saying “bring it on!” The prophets of Baal may eat well at Jezebel’s table. They may conspire against us and the Lord’s anointed, but when they are finished God will laugh for the future is his.

Uri Brito is the founder of Kuyperian Commentary.

Founder’s Note

By Uri Brito

Kuyperian Commentary exists to provide what Abraham Kuyper referred to as the principle of antithesis. Those in his day who opposed the mixing of religion and politics were his natural ideological enemies. Kuyper is considered the father of Neo-Calvinism. His influence has shaped the minds of many of the greatest thinkers in this last century, including Herman Dooyeweerd. Others that have been influenced by Kuyper include Francis SchaefferCornelius Van TilAlvin PlantingaNicholas Wolterstorff.

We do not claim that Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty took the correct direction at every stage, nor that his political endeavors were always successful, but we do claim that his theology of antithesis is the clearest philosophical basis for rejecting political neutrality. For this reason and many others, we dedicate these articles to his name and legacy.

 

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