Posted by: rbbadger | June 20, 2010

Forbidden from wearing a mitre

The Episcopal Church, or at least some parts of it, are quite theologically avant-garde, shall we say?  Since 2003, when the Diocese of New Hampshire chose an openly gay man to serve as their bishop and following his subsequent ordination, the Anglican Communion has been under a great deal of strain.  Entire dioceses have quit the Episcopal Church (Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy), many parishes have left, and many of the Anglican churches in Africa and Asia have pretty much condemned the actions of the Episcopal Church.  Some refuse to share communion with the Episcopal Church, at least with those dioceses who haven’t disavowed the ordination of active homosexuals.  The Anglican Communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, nearly broke apart.  Archbishop Williams is trying his best to keep everything together, but it is an impossible task. 

Things got more interesting in 2006 when the Episcopal Church chose as the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.  The Presiding Bishop sort of functions as a lead bishop in the Episcopal Church, supposedly the first among equals.  Not all member churches in the Anglican Communion, the Church of England included, recognise women as bishops.  While the Church of England may indeed soon do so, at present all of the bishops of the C of E are male.  Women have been ordained as priests and deacons since the 1990s. 

Recently, Katherine Jefferts Schori ordained a practicing lesbian as a suffragan (assistant) bishop for the Diocese of Los Angeles, something which certainly did not please Archbishop Williams, especially as he continues to struggle to hold the Anglican Communion together.  He probably has been read the riot act by bishops from Africa and Asia already.  So when Katherine Jefferts Schori came to celebrate the service of Holy Communion at the Anglican Cathedral in Southwark, that part of London south of the Thames River, she was told that on the orders of the Archbishop of Canterbury, she was not wear the mitre, the tall pointed hat worn by bishops, nor to carry the crosier, or the pastoral staff.  While many members of the Church of England would probably recognise her as a bishop, she isn’t officially recognised as one yet by Archbishop Williams.  Instead, she carried it in while walking in procession, something which looks a bit odd.  But then, it is not as odd as this ensemble she wore in Jerusalem a while back.  I suppose that thing on her head is supposed to be a mitre, but some have noted that it looks like an oven mitt.



  1. Where did this tradition come from? Jesus nor his apostles wore tall mitres. Just wondering…

  2. Basically, the vestments worn developed from the everyday clothing worn in Roman times. The mitre itself developed from headgear worn in the Roman court. The vestments, basically, came from clothing commonly worn at the time and then retained despite the change in fashions later. During the Communist oppression of Eastern Europe, Catholic bishops and priests had to make do without vestments and mitres as they celebrated Mass secretly in prison.

    In the Anglican Communion, the wearing of vestments was revived in the 19th century. It used to be considered somewhat scandalous, but now is seen everywhere.

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