CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A well-known Anglican bishop in charge of the archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to attract young people to the church says he’s ready to put on blue jeans and a T-shirt.

A procession at the start of the enthronement service of The Most Reverend Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Photo courtesy Anglican Communion News Service/The Press Association

A procession at the start of the enthronement service of the Most Rev. Justin Welby as archbishop of Canterbury inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Photo courtesy Anglican Communion News Service/The Press Association

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“There are people for whom vestments are profoundly helpful and those for whom they are a real obstacle,” said Bishop Graham Cray who heads the “Fresh Expressions” campaign.

His statement follows reports that the General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, is prepared to debate a controversial motion that would make clerical vestments optional.

In a letter to Synod members, the Rev. Christopher Hobbs, vicar of St Thomas in Oakwood, North London, wrote: “In all walks of life people are less formal. And sometimes informality is good even in a very traditional parish.”

The vicar’s letter has sparked outrage among the established church’s liberal as well as traditional leaders.

“It’s outrageous,” commented Giles Fraser, one of the Church of England’s most popular young reformers in the Daily Mail. “What will they do next? Maybe we will have Jaffa Cakes and Coca-Cola instead of bread and wine at Holy Communion. … Vestments are a very ancient part of the Church’s tradition and they bring dignity to worship.”

The controversy over whether to wear vestments at services comes as a poll commissioned by Westminster Faith Debates shows that in England nearly four in 10 people say they have “no religion.” The figure rose to nearly five in 10 among those under 30.

Ecclesiastical robes have been enshrined in laws here since 1604. The current rules date from the 1960s and they say that clergy conducting Communion must wear a surplice — a white outer garment — or a longer version called an alb, with a scarf or stole around the neck.



  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Funny how popular the Dalai Lama is among young people–and he always wears robes Buddhist holy men are identified with. According to some
    the robes denote an embrace of the spiritual world and a spurning of the evils of this world. Maybe this is what good young people of today are looking for. Maybe some are seeking a religion that is an antidote to the likes of the antics of those who feel polluted by our” twerking” culture.

  2. Deacon
    You forget the Bible and signs of the times. The truth is that it is no more fashionable to be formally identified with dogmas, as religions are today. It is particularly more so in the western cultures because of the entrenched freedom of expression.
    A situation where 50 percent of people under 30, ‘the trendy’ openly confess a lack of religion does not suggest that many will embrace preisthood to start.with. And for those caught in that web, they need to feel comfortable in the public. This to me is the issue!

  3. It is true that the young and trendy want little to do with established religion. It is also true that these self-absorbed individuals want little to do with any benign organizations that are beneficial to humanity. They are not members of anything except Facebook and Twitter. This is the reason that so many organizations such as the Freemasons, Elks, cultural organizations cannot capture the interest of these young darlings. Their aim is total self-absorption, but, perhaps, in their defense the demands of the workplace are unbearable.

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