We were set to interview candidates from a pool of clergy and find a new hire for a local church. Word came down from on high. "Men wear ties and women appropriate business attire. "We want these candidates to take us seriously so let's dress as professionals." True enough, we are "professional clergy." In calling a colleague on the phone I had to go through the receptionist and 2 secretaries to talk with my friend, the senior pastor. I have been derided for wearing a nice silk shirt to a funeral, "Why are you not wearing a tie.... Don't you have any respect?" I sat before a bishop who lectured male clergy about making sure their socks came all the way up their calves so, in sitting down with legs crossed, no skin would show. In many traditions, pastors are expected to have, at the minimum, a master's degree. It is true for doctors and lawyers so why not clergy? Aren't we one of the three professions and don't we want to be taken seriously? Douglas Fitch said years ago, "The church went wrong when we insisted on professional clergy rather than servant ministers." Doug nailed it! We have been so hung up about"looking professional" and "acting professional" that we have lost our capacity to be servant ministers. Jesus says we are to serve the least, last and the lost. Can't we do that in slacks and a golf shirt, or does it require a tie and business suit? (or for women clergy, heels and a power suit?) I have clergy friend who wears a coat and tie every time he walks out the door. I wondered out loud, "how can he do that?" Another friend said, "he's not wearing a coat and tie. I have known that guy for years. That is a tatoo!"
As for me and my house, I continue to wear a pull over shirt with my suit on Sunday morning. I will not choke myself with a tie in the 100 degree summers of Arizona, and I will leave the doctoral robe in the closet when I lead worship. Servant ministers are real, relational, and relevant. Professional clergy are distant, aloof, and inaccessible. In the church for tomorrow, we are looking for servant ministers. We don't need any more professional clergy.