Well… isn’t that special?

Courtesy of the blog Bad-Vestments.

Hat tip to ‘The Elephant’s Child’: http://elephantschild.typepad.com/the_elephants_child/


I am at a loss for words.




25 Responses

  1. My comment here is really more of a question… I’m interested to hear from your readers who place a high value on liturgical garb… what is the value of vestments? (I’m not speaking of the “at a loss for words” types shown above)

    I serve in a Lutheran body that traditionally wears no vestments and emphasizes the “priesthood of all believers”. (I have the freedom to wear them or not).

    I’ve heard (correct me if I’m wrong) that at one time simple robes were worn by clergy to cover up the distinction of better dressed clergy from that of the poor laity. The purpose was to make the clergy appear to be more similar to the people rather than set apart.

    Other places I read of an appeal to the OT ceremonial law as reason to dress up the clergy.

    Frankly, I like vestments… I wouldn’t have to think about what to wear. I wore them when I preached in my sisters ELCA church… and my brothers LCMS church and I sort of liked it. Practically speaking, however, I experience enough walls erected between myself and others by the laity just because I’m a pastor without wearing a billboard.

    Enlighten me.

  2. Patrick,

    I think there is value in vestments for the people in the pews.

    They symbolize the life of service that ought flow from the life of faith in Christ.

    I think they also help to keep us tied to the histotic Christian Church.

    I think they add to the other worldly nature of the worship of God.

    I think they can help to give credence as to the authority of the pastor by the virtue of his/her calling as an ordained minister of the Word (thereby helping to mitigate the effects of a cult of personality).

    As you are, we are free to use vestments, or not.

    I do think that they should not be used to call attention to themselves but ought be a tool to accentuate Christ.

    Just my opinions. Not too enlightening, I’m sure.

    • That’s helpful… Thanks Steve & Larry.

      I attended an ecumenical service some time ago where all the clergy were mainline and were all vested… I was the only one not wearing vestments. It was interesting listening to them discuss their choice of colors etc… it was sort of a pissing contest as to who did it right. It was another world but not one that drew me to it. I was pretty much ignored. Maybe the people in the pews were blessed.

      In my congregation, we are unashamedly Trinitarian and seek to proclaim Christ and Him crucified from beginning to end in our worship… I just happen to not wear vestments but I do have a tie with crosses on it that I wear occasionally (when I wear a tie) 😉
      Thankfully it’s not about me.

      I’m not suggesting that we “do” it right… but rather that it can be right or wrong in either tradition if the “doing” is made sacred instead of the object of our Worship… Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

  3. Here’s an answer coming from someone, me, who has been in both “high” liturgy and the jeans and tee shirt crowd not that many years ago. Does it proclaim Christ is the crucial question anyone calling themselves Christian needs to ask.

    You know one cannot help but to see these images and see an odd but opposite side of the same coin parallel. One can see such visuals in parallel in the Rick Warren/seeker friendly stuff. My wife and I were just looking over some pics of some of her old HS/college evangelical buddies who have become “ministers” and “youth ministers”. And one sees all these different dress and visuals. But they are usually “wearing torn blue jeans, sandals and guitars and drums, “baptisms” in swimming pools, etc… Both having this kind of “free style “worship””. And I use the term “worship” very loosely here.

    The sum is this: I suppose we have heresy and apostasy in the forms of “high church” like these visuals, and “low church” in the more earth neo-60s approach. E.g. the last image is a “high church” beach party, in parallel with one in which I saw immersionist “baptizing” in what amounted to a “swimming pool party”.

    Here’s the question to ask of any liturgy (even if they don’t use the term ‘liturgy’ which it is whether they do or don’t use the term): Why do you/we do __________.

    If they cannot answer it or give an answer that appeals to the affections, emotions or some other “drum up” or “pump up” of the volume – it is pagan and heathen worship no matter who or what it is mingle with that seems to say “Christian”. In opposition and condemnation to that is liturgy that proclaims Christ and Him crucified in all that it does or communicates. As pastor told us, “the church is the place within whose walls should be chalked FULL of the forgiveness of God in Christ, absolution and sacraments”. Anything else is, well, worthless pagan BS – I don’t care who does it or how wonderful the “ministers” heart appears to be.

    It could be some simple liturgical utterance as in the opening of the service which says, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. So that all who come and hear, visit have and know “this is the God we are worship, the holy Trinity”, not some general God or idea of God or implied Trinitarian affirmation – if you believe you should confess it every Sunday so that there is no doubt who you worship. To fail to confess it is to blur the lines over time. As I told my wife, “Do you ever recall how back in our Baptist days that the trinity is hardly ever mentioned outside of baptism. Sure its affirmed and not denied, but as to Sunday to Sunday worship its really never heard nor confessed. One could be in such a church and outside of the baptismal formula, never actually hear a peep of the Trinity in such. Because such are too busy with strange fire such as praise bands and other pagan emotional button pushing worship.

    So ask an evangelical, including the pastor, why they do or why do we do _______ and you’ll likely get crickets and frogs for answers rather than, “this proclaims Christ and Him crucified in this way __________”. Christian you owe to your name as Christian to investigate like a good Berean these things!


  4. Thanks, Patrick.

    “…it can be right or wrong in either tradition if the “doing” is made sacred instead of the object of our Worship… Father, Son & Holy Spirit.”


  5. I have spent my whole life in the Lutheran Church – 30+ years as a pastor – and have seen just about every type of vestment imaginable and heard a variety of rationales for same.

    I continue to wear vestments – in spite of cultural pressure to get with it – and have two primary reasons for doing so.
    First, they identify the worshiping congregation with the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Confessional Lutherans, after all, are not sectarian innovators. There are actually benefits to be derived from our Christian heritage. And, at this point in the history of the Church, vestments clearly signal the presence of a Christian culture that stand over against the ‘zeitgeist’.
    Americans may be, as a rule, historically ignorant and ritually incompetent, but that is no reason to join in.

    More importantly, vestments identify the ministry of the congregation as a continuing stewardship of the pastor and the congregation, the stewardship of the gospel, given through word and sacrament. Pastors and people come and go. It is the Word of God that remains..

    There are many other reasons that may be offered for using historic vestments, but these are two that I find compelling and convincing.

  6. Thanks Pastor Mark.

    Those are pretty good reasons.

    The examples above, however, seem to want to conform to the ‘zeitgeist’ of the age. I guess we can turn anything around and have it work towards the propping up of the self.

  7. Pastor Mark,

    “Pastors and people (and zeitgeists) come and go. It is the Word of God that remains” I agree… and vestments if regarded as ‘sacred’ may be hanging on to a former zeitgeist.

    I see no reason to call Americans ignorant or incompetent to make your point … even though it’s mainstream to do so.

    I don’t think cultural pressure to not wear vestments is any stronger than another cultural pressure to wear them. The point is, it’s cultural not sacred.

    Enjoy your vestments and the richness of meaning they have for you… just don’t flippantly characterize all who do not wear them. Churches served by non-vested clergy too can identify with “‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic church’, Confessional Lutherans, Christian heritage, a continuing stewardship of the pastor and the congregation, the stewardship of the gospel, given through word and sacrament”

    The value of vestments (which I was asking for) isn’t strengthened by demeaning the lack of them.

    I too am a life long Lutheran.

  8. Patrick, Your rather testy remarks notwithstanding, I actually said nothing at all about those who don’t wear them. You chose to read into my remarks a critique of others in the church. If there is any critique in my comments it is aimed at the culture. By the way, my comments about American cultural sensibilities were qualified by “historically” and “ritually”.

    Please do go merrily on your vestment-free way and may God bless your ministry.

    • Pastor Mark,

      Notwithstanding your merry sarcasm, you’re right… as I re-read it I did sound testy. I’m sorry.

      As I think about American cultural sensibilities and lack of historical and ritual depth, I can’t help but think of Europe and the rapid secularization there in spite of their historical and ritual depth… interesting to ponder.

      God bless your ministry… I listened to a sermon you preached that blessed my socks off.


  9. Patrick, No apology necessary. Blogosphere communication is subject to so much misinterpretation I sometimes wonder why I even bother!

    Yes, the European experience reveals some very important things to think about regarding tradition and how much water it can really hold. Their experience, of course, is quite different than ours historically but the lessons are there to learn.

    I do believe that the chronic anxiety in our society which clamors for constant reinvention does require some kind of response from a church that has learned to live for the long haul in this world. When Christ Jesus gets a hold of us He has a way of bringing us to rest so we can be at peace and really begin to live. I like to think that our traditions, when they are in the service of Christ and His Word, can help us to share that peace.

    Thanks for your comments.

  10. I just had to point out that every one of these pictures of bad vestments involves female clergy. Could there be a connection between the two?

  11. Women do seem to be more ‘fashion’ oriented.

  12. Steve,

    Permit me to express a few random thoughts and questions about the church and culture prompted by the interaction on this and the earlier post about the wedding processional.

    I don’t want to sound dogmatic, argumentative or like I have an ax to grind with historic worship forms. I really do enjoy and have an appreciation for it. I grew up with it.

    The tension, as I see it, is between the idea of (a) the church “holding the line” regarding historic forms and preserving the symbolism that was once meaningful to an earlier culture and the idea of (b) the church “adapting to” the culture in which it lives.

    By adapting, I do NOT mean changing the message, but rather putting it in a context that is more understandable and at least not offensive to the existing culture. The people in this culture, after all, are our mission field. (I know there is an offense to the Gospel… I’m talking about form not substance)

    The church is alive… it grows and changes and evolves… it is like a body with many parts and functions. The message of the church is a rock “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. It is upon this rock that the living church is built.

    Missionaries go into an African tribe and learn the language and culture to discover ways to express the Gospel message to the tribe in understandable ways. Worship that follows in a new Christian community doesn’t necessarily look “western” but is real worship nevertheless.

    After a day to think about Pastor Mark’s statement… “And, at this point in the history of the Church, vestments clearly signal the presence of a Christian culture that stand over against the ‘zeitgeist’.”… I have some questions…

    Aren’t many of the historic traditions a product of the zeitgeist of Constantine?
    Couldn’t the first and second century church have had a similar reaction to and against the adaptation to culture that occurred when Constantine made Christianity mainstream?
    Have we attempted to sanctify third or fourth or sixteenth century forms?
    Couldn’t similar criticisms of adapting the church to culture be leveled against Luther?
    Is it right or ‘evangelical’ to think of Christian culture standing “against” the zeitgeist?

    I’m not offering any conclusions here, but just throwing out some thoughts while I have them.

    In reply to jeofurry’s question, bad taste in vestments knows no gender. I doubt that there is a connection.


  13. I think that vestments are completely personal and congregational preference.

    Personally, they make me uncomfortable. It also seems in my experience of attending churches where the pastor wears a vestment, he often times leads the entire service. He is front and center for the majority of the service and to top it off is wearing a different outfit from everyone else. This just seems to me to not point to Jesus from the point of view of the first-time-to-church attendee, but draws attention to the pastor.

    Growing up a Lutheran, I know that vestments are in no way an explaination of the heart of the man beneath it.

    It’s a non-essential.

    Being a pastor has got to one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

    Those rainbow vestments aren’t for me though.

    Fun topic though, especially for Lutherans!

  14. I think that the traditional, liturgical, form of Christian worship has served the Church well through many periods and many zeitgeists. It has proven it’s worth.

    Today, we are in a culture that does not value what the church has to say. Their way (what feels good, what is comfortable) is, and should be the norm, no matter if we are at the ballgame…or in church.

    Do we let that way of thinking drive the church?

    What is comfortable, what feels good, is the problem because it keeps us revolving around the self, and affirms (in essence) what the culture is saying about the church, that it is irrelevant, and boring, and a downer.

    No doubt the Word of God is powerful and is able to work in all environments. I just believe that ‘the self’ ought be reigned in (when it comes to worshiping the Lord) otherwise it will take over.

    We can get them in and maybe keep them in, but why are they there? Is it harder to create a sense of humility there?

    I’m a layman who does not have the education that you or Pastor Mark has. I more or less am going by what I am learning from you guys, and from what I observe, in my own walk of faith, and what I see is going on in the American Christian landscape.

    I’m sure there are pros and cons, as in everything, and it is a great comfort to know that the Lord will always take care of His Church, no matter how much we try and mess it up (all sides).

  15. I do think the ‘female’ part of the equation has something to do with it.

    They (women) are just built differently. They operate much more on emotion and feeling than do men. (of course I am generalizing – there are always exceptions, both ways).

    I think this a big problem with many female pastors and men who have bought into the feminization of the church and of society.

    An over emphasis on feelings, emotions, and a desire to avoid pain and have everyone ‘be happy’, has watered down the law to such an extent that the whole thing is just a big do-gooder project and social club for the religiously inclined.

    Again, I am generalizing. But if we can’t generalize then we can’t really discuss anything of importance. 😀

    • I have followed this post from the beginning and have found many comments on both sides to be thought-provoking and helpful.

      However, theoldadam’s (admitted) generalization about the emotional makeup of women is just too much to let go without responding.

      Please tell me you don’t believe a female is incapable of presenting the Law and Gospel without it being watered-down by emotion–(beyond just an occasional exception).

      P.S. It may be of interest that I personally do not see that the Scriptures allow for a female to be the main teaching Elder/Pastor of a local congregation.

      P. S. S. It may also be of interest to note that I am married to Patrick – but please don’t hold that ‘against’ me 🙂

  16. Steve,

    You’re a theologically savvy layman… I value your voice and that of your pastor.


  17. Patrick,

    That is a real compliment coming from you.

    I think you are a great pastor, and a bulldog for Christ.

    Thank you, my friend!

    – Steve

  18. Pat,
    My comments about the vestments being a female thing was partly in jest, but I agree with Steve that there is a deeper difference. It is another one of those constant shocks to modern science to discover that gender differences are real. Some of the issues that are cropping up in our churches are undoubtedly created by this issue in the clergy and the feminization of the church and culture that Steve mentioned.

    • jeofurry,

      Yes I understood your comments to be partly in jest… as was my reply. I’ve gotten myself in enough hot water in a couple recent posts, so I didn’t want to jump into the gender issue too. Thanks for your comments.


  19. Hello Karla!

    Welcome to the discussion.

    Women are capable of presenting law and gospel. I know a couple of really good women pastors who are terrific theologians.

    But, they seem to be among the exceptions.

    St. Paul says that women shouldn’t be teaching men.

    Maybe it (the Bible) says something about men in those passages, also. Maybe part of the problem is that men will not listen to a woman the way they would listen to a man.

    (most) Women are made up differntly, all the way around. In colleges and universities they teach that the sexes are the same. What a lie from the devil that is. You can give a little boy a doll, and he will make a toy gun out of it.

    So, while the jury is still out on women pastors, my conclusion is that they have not been (overall) a good development for the church as a whole.

    And you know what my conclusions are worth, don’t you? 😀

    Thanks a lot, Karla!

    – Steve

    PS- Not only will we not hold it against you being Patrick’s wife, but we say you’ve got a leg up on us. Pat is awesome!

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