What She Said

In response to the question of whether or not a non-ordained candidate for a ministerial position should or should not wear a collar to the interview, MadgeBaby wrote,

In no other profession can one pose as a credentialed professional without requisite vetting. I’ve never understood why non-ordained clergyfolk are encouraged to wear collars or stoles or otherwise bear the mark of the ordained leadership.

I’m an MSW and one of my mentors phrased it better than anyone in the ordination process. He said, “being called MSW, and even more so being licensed or certified, means that you are trusted to abide by a code of ethics that many professions would consider onerous. You have a lot more freedom without the letters behind your name, but by choosing to take them on you burden yourself to what they stand for.” So, in his (perhaps naive) world a person who uses those credentials is prepared to diagnose and treat appropriately, keep confidentiality, take money for services in an ethical way, etc. I never remember having that conversation in such a clear way in div school or afterward. Perhaps it should happen more. Layfolk are in many ways freer to do ministry as they feel called than are the ordained, at least in my tradition. What layfolk are not free to do is the work of the ordained. Seminary is somewhat liminal, but not that liminal.

Couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Madge.

8 Replies to “What She Said”

  1. Some of our traditions have different theologies of ministry, and different expectations and requirements for a collar. In my tradition, it is considered appropriate to wear a collar and use the title Reverend with a district license, which is the step before ordination. For us, ordination comes after 3 years of full time service, often as a senior pastor. You must work within the expectations of your own tradition.

  2. There are many professions in which professionals wear the garb of the profession while interning, and are called by names similar to the professional, while still making sure everyone knows they are still interning. Doctors, teachers, nurses etc. In the Lutheran church, pastoral interns often wear collars while in the pastoral role: leading worship, visiting shut-ins, etc, while making sure that everyone knows they are still interning. It doesn’t seem stranger to me than a student nurse wearing scrubs while on a medical floor.

  3. ‘The expectations of your tradition.’ Absolutely.

    I am preaching at Keble College, Oxford on Sunday evening, and I’ll wear a cassock, surplice and academic hood, even though I’m not ordained. The tradition allows this–my authority to preach comes from the theological, academic learning implied by the vestments.

    In other situations, I might wear an alb–the authority to preach comes from the baptismal promises.

    On the other hand, I have a Baptist friend who wears a suit and tie, because that is the expectation of his tradition.

  4. I’m thinking that in some tradition (and I honestly do not remember which one) someone who is serving in a pastoral capacity may wear a clergy collar with a black stripe on it to indicate that they are less than fully ordained…

  5. That black strip is so odd looking and confusing–a huge part of CPE is learning to use one’s authority as a minister and wearing a collar shortcuts that work in my experience and in my opinion. I know I wear one when I feel like I will be challenged in my authority, and sometimes that is good and sometimes that is a total cop-out.

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