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

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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.

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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).

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[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.

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.

Down South: Southern Baptists convene amid declining overall numbers

By Thomas Kidd

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held its annual meeting in Houston in June, and although the assembly did not witness any of the spectacular controversies that have marked previous SBC meetings, it nevertheless confronted some hotly debated topics.

The meeting’s most anticipated issue concerned the SBC and the Boy Scouts. Some had predicted that the SBC would endorse a full-fledged boycott of the Scouts for the group’s recent decision to admit openly gay boys as members. But the actual resolution stopped short of a boycott, expressing “opposition to and disappointment in the decision” and calling for the removal of Boy Scouts executive leaders who supported the change.

SBC representatives (called “messengers”) also passed a resolution exhorting member congregations about their “legal and moral responsibility to report any child abuse to authorities.” Its sponsor, Peter Lumpkins, crafted the statement in response to a lawsuit alleging abuse cover-ups by leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), including its founder, C.J. Mahaney. A judge dismissed the case against SGM pastors in May, citing statute of limitation requirements. Mahaney stepped down as president of SGM in April. Prominent Baptist leaders Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church expressed their individual support for Mahaney in a public statement in May. Read more…

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…

Chesterton on Courage

Chesterton2

by Marc Hays

G. K. Chesterton thrived on the unexpected turn: that twist in the story that set all that seemed normal on its head, thus showing that true north may sometimes be upside down because we were facing south to begin with, but didn’t know it.  It comes as no surprise then, that Christianity’s paradoxes would bring him comfort and reassurance, rather than instilling angst and doubt. The following passage is from his book, Orthodoxy, Chapter VI, entitled “The Paradoxes of Christianity.”

“Granted that we all have to keep a balance, the real question comes in with the question of how that balance can be kept. That was the problem which Paganism tried to solve: that was the problem which I think Christianity has solved and solved in a strange way.

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. Read more…

Gospel Explosion in the World

By Uri Brito

It appears that God always delights in bringing good news to his children. In whatever season, in whatever phase of human history, God is always actively changing, transforming, re-creating the world by His word. And good news is here. Since the Ascension of our blessed Lord God has taken the few and the humble and transformed them into a multitude. This is the trajectory of the kingdom.

C.Peter Wagner reports that the five gospel hot spots in the world are China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria. “Starting with China,” observes Wagner,  the largest nation in the world reports “the greatest national harvest of souls ever recorded in history, beginning in 1976. Although figures differ, I personally am comfortable agreeing with those who claim that 10 percent of the population is Christian, which would mean that there are around 140 million Christians in that country.” The numbers are staggering. The fields are being harvested.

KC contributor, Thomas Kidd, pointed me to a Christianity Today article detailing how despite persecution, the Iranian church marches on. Claiming 0.5% of Christians, the church has not given in to the political dark forces. Melissa Stefan observes:

Yet, there are two bright lights for Christians in the otherwise-dark Iranian context: Elam Ministries reported in its Summer 2013 magazine that 246 Iranian Christians were baptized on April 17—”probably the largest baptism service on record in the Iranian church since the fourth century.” In addition, Iran’s underground house churches—where freedom to attend Persian-language worship services is more likely to be found—do appear to be growing.

The Gospel presses on. After darkness, light.

Uri Brito is the Senior Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, Fl.

10 Bread Symbols In the Bible You Should Know

By Steve Macias

A post about bread? You butter believe it. No bun intended. It’s a Manna-festo. 😉

Bread

Both the Old and New Testaments include lots of references to bread: Jesus was born in the “house of bread” – Bethlehem, bread is central to the ritual Jesus himself prescribes to the church, and even takes a clause in the Lord’s prayer. We “knead” to be familiar with the Bible’s use of bread. (Last pun, I promise.) Symbolism is important because it shapes how we understand God.

“The universe and everything in it symbolizes God. That is, the universe and everything in it points to God. This means that the Christian view of the world is and can only be fundamentally symbolic. The world does not exist for its own sake, but as a revelation of God.” [2]

Read more…

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