THE Synod has asked for draft legislation to amend the canon on
the vesture of the minister during divine service, by carrying a
private member's motion from the Revd Christopher
Mr Hobbs told Synod members to think about the pastoral and
mission situation in 2014, and not just that of their own context,
but of all people in the Church.
"For many of us, robes are essential to our Church of England,
but for holy communion there is no flexibility," he said. "It makes
no difference if it is café-style in a pub, outside in a field, in
a hotel lounge or lobby. Surplice or alb is required, with scarf or
He argued that being willing to adapt and change was connected
to church growth, and that new worshippers in Fresh Expressions
should not be forced to fit into old ways of doing things.
"Sometimes they help the mission of the church; in some contexts
they may hinder the mission of the church. Local decisions,
properly discussed by the PCC and minuted, then sent to the bishop
for approval, might be a way forward."
Sam Follett (St Albans) worked for five months
in a Fresh Expression in New South Wales in an area of "great
social deprivation". It was the "most wonderful experience of
church he had ever had", even though, to "an 18-year-oldC of E boy
it seemed total chaos".
He said that he had "nowhere else seen young people engaged so
much in a sermon, or click that Jesus had done so much for
He said that many of the Fresh Expressions in England "may not
look like what we are used to", but emphasised that it was
"inappropriate" to ask them to meet the requirements of Canon
The Revd Dr Mark Chapman (Oxford) spoke of the
clergy who had been deprived of their living during Queen Elizabeth
I's reign for refusing to wear the surplice.
"In the late 1560s, Archbishop [Matthew] Parker could . . .
instruct the Bishop of London to get his clergy to toe the line,"
he said. "But I think it is totally impossible to imagine that
Archbishop Welby would do the same today.
Supporting the motion, he said that "a canon that cannot be
enforced is a bad canon indeed."
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas
Holtam, said: "On the day of my ordination I realised that
ordination was not about me. . . Robes are one way of emphasising
The Revd Dr Rowan Williams (York) said that she
was surprised with the results of a consultation she had carried
out among the young people at the University of York, where she was
chaplain. "They said that they are used to dressing in a ritualised
way for graduation and job interviews, and asked why we would not
want the same thing to happen in church."
George Newton (Guildford), supporting the
motion, said that he had observed that, in newly planted
congregations, those where the clergy didn't robe had grown more
than those where the clergy robed.
The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael
Perham, said that he subscribed to "the view that liturgy is a
drama, and those who lead it play a role enhanced by what they
wear." The argument he could not ignore was the missional one: some
argued that "robes get in the way. I respect their view and am
content, with certain safeguards, that they dispense with robes
because of their mission context." He asked the Synod to support a
"modest" change in the law, so that, while maintaining robes as the
norm, it enabled clergy and bishops to dispense with them on
Philip McDonough (St Albans)spoke as a licensed
Reader. Putting on his robes before service was part of his
preparation. He would vote against any "slovenly" relaxation.
Heather Pritchard (Church of England Youth
Council)made the point that young people had a huge variety of
views on this topic. A vote in favour of the motion would reflect
the "true diversity of practice".
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) emphasised that the
Church must be "consistent about what we are doing". He was in
favour of the motion, because, "if something is a barrier, it
should not stand in the way of mission."
The Revd Neil Patterson (Hereford)had chosen to
wear a bright-yellow shirt "as a demonstration of the risks of
allowing clergy to express their personality freely". But his
amendment - that "the vesture of ministers when exercising their
ministry in leading divine service shall clearly identify them as
such" - reflected the fact that "we do care about the principle of
The Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs (Chester) expressed
concern that the attempt to introduce a greater level of detail was
"likely to increase litigiousness thereafter".
Mr Paterson's amendment was voted on and lost.
Brother Thomas Quin OSB
(Religious Communities), introducing his amendment, said that he
did not dismiss Mr Hobbs's concerns, but wanted to offer a
solution. "The problem is that Canon B8 sets down rigid regulations
and inhibits mission and pastoral engagement in a variety of
situations," he said. He argued that his amendment would offer
safeguards for those who were uneasy about the change.
The Archdeacon of Chesterfield, the Ven.
Christine Wilson (Derby), said that she supported the amendment,
because there needed to be consultation before long-standing parish
traditions were changed by a priest.
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), said that this was a canon that
was "much breached", and therefore did require a solution.
Canon Simon Taylor (Derby) said that he opposed
this amendment with a "heavy heart", as it asked the right
questions, but not all of them. He said that, whatever the rules on
vesture were, they could not be left up to the whim of individual
priest, but he acknowledged that there would be different rules for
different times and different places.
Prebendary Stephen Lynas (Bath & Wells)
said that he wanted to confess - at one parish he did not wear
robes on a Sunday, as it was not the parish's tradition to do so.
"Should I tell the bishop on a Monday that I broke Canon B8? Pass
this motion with this amendment to make it clear where we are
The amendment was lost.
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) moved an amendment to
the motion which would have provided a right of appeal for lay
people concerning vesture for the occasional offices, which would
"parallel the kind of provision that currently exists in relation
to the forms of service to be used in respect of occasional
"If you're getting married or arranging a family funeral and
want the vicar to use the Book of Common Prayer and he insists on
using Common Worship, or even, unbelievably, the reverse,
then you have the right of appeal to the diocesan bishop."
She hoped that such things would never happen, and that the
clergy "wouldn't be so insensitive to let things get that far", but
she wanted to provide a right of appeal.
Mr Hobbs resisted the amendment as "too specific".
Victoria Russell (Oxford) said that she would
be more inclined to support the main motion if the amendment were
carried. To gasps from Synod members, she said: "I have seen some
inappropriate dress - in one case, jogging bottoms and
The Revd Paul Benfield
(Blackburn) resisted the amendment. "It is too specific at this
stage in the process."
The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt
Revd Nick Baines, was worried that the appeal to a bishop would
"happen at the last minute". He said: "I don't want to be going
into one service and receive a phone call asking me to adjudicate
about what is going on in another service 50 miles away."
The amendment was lost and the debate continued on the main
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, gave the
final speech in the debate. He cautioned against the view that the
only growing churches were those without robes, and mentioned the
eight-per-cent rise in cathedral congregations.
The current canonical requirements applied to holy communion and
to morning and evening prayer on Sundays, he said. "They do not
apply to less formal forms of worship, including the forms that
would be possible in the context of a Service of the Word."
Having cut up his clerical collar in protest at Robert Mugabe's
regime in Zimbabwe, he emphasised that a clerical collar was not
part of the canonical requirements.
The motion was carried:
That this Synod call on the Business Committee to introduce
draft legislation to amend the law relating to the vesture of
ministers so that, without altering the principles set out in
paragraphs 1 and 2 of Canon B8, the wearing of the forms of vesture
referred to in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of that Canon becomes optional
rather than mandatory.