Vestiarian Controversy

The dispute in the English Church over clerical dress which began about 1550 and reached its peak in 1566. The controversy was in two parts. The first, principally involving John Hooper,* who had returned from exile in Switzerland, took place in 1550-51 in the reign of Edward VI.* Hooper refused to be consecrated bishop of Gloucester if he had to wear the surplice and rochet as required by the Prayer Book of 1549. Eventually he compromised, but only after a literary debate with N. Ridley* had begun, the advice of Jan à Lasco,* Martin Bucer,* and Peter Martyr* had been sought, and the Privy Council had acted. The second part came early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I,* who restored vestments in her royal chapel in 1549. In 1560 the bishops required their clergy to wear a cope during Holy Communion and a surplice in other services. The “hotter” Protestants in Parliament and Convocation protested about this compulsion. The authorities, however, pressed on and in 1566 Archbishop M. Parker* issued his Advertisements which made certain vestments compulsory. Then followed a determined attempt, especially in London, to enforce conformity, and as a result some Puritan ministers were deprived of their livings.

A literary warfare broke out with many tracts (e.g., A brief discourse against the outwarde apparell and Ministring Garments of the Popish Church) attacking the compulsory use of vestments. For Parker the use of vestments belonged to those things termed adiaphora, but for the men who opposed him their use was a relic of popery. Though many Puritan ministers acquiesced, the opposition to vestments never left Puritanism, and it was very evident among the Elizabethan Separatists and later among the sects of the Puritan Revolution.

See J.H. Primus, The Vestments Controversy (1960).