WEARING robes could become optional for those officiating at
some services, after the General Synod passed a motion calling for
draft legislation to relax the current rules.
After a debate on Saturday at the University of York, the Synod
passed a private member's motion by the Revd Christopher Hobbs,
from the diocese of London, which called for robing to become
optional in some circumstances.
"For holy communion there is no flexibility," Mr Hobbs said. "It
makes no difference if it is café-style in a pub, outside in a
field, in a hotel lounge or lobby. Surplice and alb is required,
with scarf or stole."
Many members of the Synod agreed, arguing that, in some
contexts, the wearing of robes was inappropriate or unhelpful for
mission. Sam Follett, the youngest member of the Synod, said that,
for Fresh Expressions, robes would often get in the way of reaching
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said that
the law was "much breached", and that a solution was required.
Other speakers, however, spoke up in favour of vesture,
suggesting that it helped congregations to know who was in Orders,
and that it aided worship. Philip McDonough, a Reader, said that it
was his robes that gave him his authority: he would vote against
any motion that might encourage "slovenly" dress.
The Revd Rowan Williams, a chaplain at the University of York,
argued that it was a misconception that robes were a barrier to
young people. She said that symbolic clothing was a familiar idea
to students, citing the formal robes required for graduation
To gasps from the chamber, Victoria Russell, from the diocese of
Oxford laity, said: "I have seen some inappropriate dress - in one
case, jogging bottoms and trainers."
As the motion was carried, the Business Committee of the Synod
will now draft legislation to amend Canon B8, on the vesture of the
minister during the time of divine service.
account of the debate
Interview with Polly
Meynell, vestment designer