My grandfather was a Methodist minister in Tralee many years ago. One day he was walking, in his clerical collar, in the town with my dad and his two brothers. Two women approached them and one greeted my grandfather saying, 'hello father.' He overheard the second woman reprimand the woman who had greeted my grandfather; 'that's no father; sure doesn't he have three children of his own!'
Four years ago I was taking part in a wedding at Ballinahinch Methodist. During the week we had a rehearsal where David Turtle and I decided that we would not wear robes. On the day of the wedding Harold Good (the minister who had overseen the IRA's decommissioning) arrived into the vestry, with his little case for his robes. Harold was disappointed with our decision and tried to persuade us of the merits of clerical garb. David tried to lighten the atmosphere by suggesting that robes should be 'decommisioned'. I surely annoyed Harold by offering him a deal: 'if you tell us where the guns are we will wear our robes.'
I was never a fan of the title and dress associated with being a Methodist minister. However, it is not only those in the 'four main denominations' that are guilt of clericalism. Friends go to a pentecostal church where the pastors insist on being called 'Pastor'.
Writing in the Baptist magazine John Samuel gives some thoughts before leaving Dublin to take a job in London. He warns against clericalism:
We must respect one another (Rom. 13:7) and pastors deserve respect. But Jesus was against using titles within his kingdom. 'Do not call anyone on earth "Father" ... nor are you to be called "Teacher" ... (Matthew 23:9,10). I am a pastor, and honoured to be so. But it seems to me that to accept 'Pastor' as a title rather than a job description is sliding down the slippery slope towards clericalism, with pastors a class apart, somehow closer to God than the rest of us. Let us follow the command of our Lord Jesus and avoid clericalism and clerical titles. Don't call me Pastor John Samuel. I am John Samuel, pastor of ...