Some people are confused when they encounter a United Methodist minister wearing clericals (a shirt with a white tab in the collar), believing incorrectly that such clothing is worn only by Roman Catholic priests. This incorrect assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
As the online article below points out, the Clergy Collar was actually first worn by Scottish Presbyterians, and adopted by Anglican clergy in the mid-1800’s. The Anglican Church (called the Episcopal Church in America) is the parent denomination of the United Methodist Church:
“According to the Church of England’s Enquiry Centre (citing the Glasgow Herald of December 6, 1894), the detachable clerical collar was invented by the Rev Donald Mcleod, a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) minister in Glasgow.
By 1840, Anglican clergy developed a sense of separation between themselves and the secular world. One outward symbol of this was the adoption of distinctive clerical dress. This had started with the black coat and white necktie which had been worn for some decades. By the 1880s this had been transmuted into the clerical collar, which was worn almost constantly by the majority of clergy for the rest of the period.
The Reverend Henry McCloud stated that the collar “was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.” Invented in the Presbyterian Church, the clerical collar was adopted by other Christian denominations, including the Anglican Church, Methodist churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Baptist churches, Lutheran churches, and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1967, the Roman Catholic Church adopted the clerical collar after the cassock became less popular among priests following the Second Vatican Council.
Collars are typically worn today by clergy of other groups such as those of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions, although many Scandinavian Lutheran clergy wear the ruff instead. Also many Pentecostal and non-denominational Christian, and others wear collars. In the Roman Catholic tradition, major seminarians, after receiving admission to candidacy (and thus becoming “candidates” for ordination), are often expected or allowed to wear clerics in the seminary and/or in their dioceses.”
Today, many provisional and ordained elders, deacons, and licensed local pastors in the United Methodist Church still choose to wear the clergy collar, as a visible symbol of their commitment to serve God by bringing the light of Christ into the darkness of the world, as a continuous reminder of the call to humility and service, and as a means to make their willingness to serve easily identifiable to those in need.