The Reverend is a style most often used as a prefix to the names of Christian clergy and ministers. There are sometimes differences in the way the style is used in different countries and church traditions. "The Reverend" is correctly called a "style" but is often and in some dictionaries called a title, form of address or title of respect. The style is also sometimes used by leaders in non-Christian religions such as Judaism and Buddhism.
The term is an Anglicisation of the Latin reverendus, the style originally used in Latin documents by the Roman Catholic Church. It is the future passive participle of the verb revereri ("to respect") which may be taken as a gerundive or a passive periphrastic, therefore meaning "[one who is] to be respected/must be respected". "The Reverend" is therefore equivalent to "The Hono(u)rable" or "The Venerable".
It is paired with a modifier or noun for some offices in some religious traditions: e.g., Roman Catholic bishops are usually styled "The Most Reverend" (reverendissimus); Anglican bishops are styled "The Right Reverend"; some Reformed churches have used "The Reverend Mister" as a style for their clergy.
In traditional and formal English usage, both British and American, it was and is considered incorrect to drop the definite article, "the", before "Reverend". When the style is used within a sentence, "the" begins with a lower-case letter. Common abbreviations for "Reverend" are "Rev.", "Revd", and "Rev'd". Except in formal situations, it is common in American usage not to use "the" when "Reverend" is used as a title or form of address (i.e., before a name). When the term "reverend" is used alone without a name as a third-person reference to a member of the clergy, it is treated as a normal English noun and therefore requires either a definite or indefinite article (e.g., "We spoke to a/the reverend yesterday").
As "Reverend" is traditionally considered an adjective it is still often considered grammatically incorrect to form the plural "Reverends". Some dictionaries, however, call the word a noun, possibly because of the current widespread plural usage.  When several clergy are referred to, they are often styled individually, e.g., "The Reverend John Smith and the Reverend Hank Brown". In a list of clergy, however, "The Revv" is sometimes put before the list of names, especially in the Roman Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
"The Reverend" is traditionally used with first names (or initials) and surname, e.g., "The Reverend John Smith" or "The Reverend J.F. Smith". Use of the prefix with the surname alone ("The Reverend Smith") is considered a solecism in traditional usage (although "The Reverend Father Smith" or "The Reverend Mr Smith" are correct though somewhat old-fashioned uses). In some countries, Anglican priests are often addressed by the title of their office, such as "Vicar", "Rector" or "Archdeacon".
In some churches, especially Protestant churches in the United States, ordained ministers are often addressed as "Pastor" (as in "Pastor John" or "Pastor Smith"). Some other titles, such as Canon, may be used together with the Christian name or both names, for example, "Canon John" or "Canon John Smith". However, "Pastor" is more correct in some churches when the minister in question is the head of a church or congregation.
Male Christian priests are usually addressed as "Father" or, for example, as "Father John" or "Father Smith". However, in official correspondence, such priests are not normally referred to as "Father John", "Father Smith" or "Father John Smith", but as "The Reverend John Smith". "Father" as a title is used for Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic and many Anglican priests.
Some female Anglican or Old Catholic priests use the style "The Reverend Mother" and are addressed as "Mother".
In the 20th and 21st centuries it has been increasingly common for "reverend" to be used as a noun and for clergy to be referred to as being either "a reverend" or "the reverend" ("I talked to the reverend about the wedding service.") or to be addressed as "Reverend" or, for example, "Reverend Smith" or "the Reverend Smith". This is considered grammatically incorrect, as it is the equivalent of referring to a judge as "an honorable" or an adult man as "a mister".
"The Reverend" may be modified to reflect ecclesiastical standing and rank. Modifications vary across Christian traditions. Some examples are:
- Deacons are styled as "The Reverend", "The Reverend Deacon", or "The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss"
- Priests are usually styled as "The Reverend", "The Reverend Father/Mother" (even if not a religious) or "The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss"
- Heads of some women's religious orders are styled as "The Reverend Mother" (even if not ordained)
- Canons are often styled as "The Reverend Canon"
- Deans are usually styled as "The Very Reverend"
- Archdeacons are usually styled as "The Venerable" ("The Ven")
- Bishops are styled as "The Right Reverend"
- Archbishops and primates are styled as "The Most Reverend"
- A transitional deacon: "The Reverend Mr" (in writing)
- A permanent deacon: "Deacon" (in writing and in speaking) or "The Reverend Mr" (in writing in some Dioceses)
- Diocesan priests: "The Reverend" (in writing)
- Priests who are members of mendicant (e.g., Dominican, Franciscan) or monastic orders (e.g., Benedictine, Carthusian): "the Reverend Father" (in writing)
- Priests with various grades of jurisdiction above pastor (e.g., vicars general, judicial vicars, ecclesiastical judges, episcopal vicars, provincials of religious orders of priests, priors of monasteries, deans, vicars forane, archpriests): "The Very Reverend" (in writing)
- Abbots of monasteries: "The Right Reverend" (in writing)
- Abbesses of convents: "The Reverend Mother Superior", with their convent's name following, e.g. "The Reverend Mother Superior of the Poor Clares of Boston" in written form, while being referred to simply as "Mother Superior" in speech.
- Supernumeraries apostolic, honorary prelates, and chaplains of His Holiness: "The Reverend Monsignor" (in writing)
- Bishops and archbishops: "The Most Reverend" in the United States and Ireland. In Great Britain and some countries of the Commonwealth, bishops are styled "The Right Reverend" and archbishops are styled "The Most Reverend".
However, none of the above are usually addressed in speech as "Reverend" or "The Reverend" alone. Instead, deacons are addressed as "Deacon"; priests are addressed as "Father"; honorary prelates as "Monsignor"; bishops and archbishops as "Your Excellency" (or "My Lord" for bishops and "Your Grace" for archbishops in the United Kingdom and some other countries). The style is not used with patriarchs, cardinals or popes, as they have other styles unique to their positions.
In some countries, such as the United States, the term "Pastor" (such as "Pastor Smith" in more formal address or "Pastor John" in less formal) is often used rather than "the Reverend" or "Reverend". "The Reverend", however, is still often used in more formal or official written communication. The United Methodist Church in the United States often addresses its ministers as "Reverend" ("Reverend Smith").
Among Southern Baptists in the United States, "Reverend" is formally written but the pastor is usually orally addressed as "Mister" (such as Mister Smith) or, in more traditional instances, "Brother" (Brother Smith), as New Testament writers describe Christians as being brothers and sisters in Christ. [Mat. 12:50]
In some Methodist churches, especially in the United States, ordained and licensed ministers are usually addressed as "Reverend" or "Pastor", unless they hold a doctorate, in which case they are often addressed in formal situations as "The Reverend Doctor". In informal situations "Reverend" or simply "Pastor" is used. Also, "Brother" or "Sister" is used in some places. Use of these forms of address differs depending on the location of the church or Annual Conference.
Methodist bishops are referred to as "Bishop", not "Reverend Bishop", "Your Grace" or other forms of episcopal address that are used in other episcopal (bishop-led, connectional) churches. The reason for this is that bishops in Methodist polity are not ordained to the higher office but are simply elected and consecrated to the episcopate. They remain elders who are simply consecrated to the specific ministry of a bishop.
The moderators of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the United Church of Canada, when ordained clergy, are styled "The Right Reverend" during their year of service and "The Very Reverend" afterwards. Church ministers are styled "The Reverend". Moderators of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are styled simply "The Reverend". By tradition in the Church of Scotland, the ministers of St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, (also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh) and Paisley Abbey are styled "The Very Reverend".
Like some other groups that assert the lack of clerical titles within the church as narrated in the New Testament, congregations in the Restoration Movement, i.e., influenced by Barton Warren Stone and Alexander Campbell, often disdain use of "the Reverend" and instead use the more generalized designation "Brother". The practice is universal within the Churches of Christ and prevalent in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ but has become uncommon in the Disciples of Christ, which use "the Reverend" for ordered ministry.
- A deacon is often styled as "The Reverend Deacon" (or Hierodeacon, Archdeacon, Protodeacon, according to ecclesiastical elevation), while in spoken use the title "Father" is used (sometimes "Father Deacon").
- A married priest is "The Reverend Father"; a monastic priest is "The Reverend Hieromonk"; a protopresbyter is "The Very Reverend Father"; and an archimandrite is either "The Very Reverend Father" (Greek practice) or "The Right Reverend Father" (Russian practice). All are simply addressed as "Father".
- Abbots and abbesses are styled "The Very Reverend Abbot/Abbess" and are addressed as "Father" and "Mother", respectively.
- A bishop is referred to as "The Right Reverend Bishop" and addressed as "Your Grace" (or "Your Excellency").
- An archbishop or metropolitan, whether or not he is the head of an autocephalous or autonomous church, is styled "The Most Reverend Archbishop/Metropolitan" and addressed as "Your Eminence".
- Heads of autocephalous and autonomous churches with the title Patriarch are styled differently, according to the customs of their respective churches, usually "Beatitude" but sometimes "Holiness" and exceptionally "All-Holiness".
Most Jewish ministers of religion have the title Rabbi, which denotes that they have received rabbinical ordination (semicha), and are addressed as "Rabbi" or "Rabbi Smith". It is, however, not essential to be a rabbi to practice as a Jewish "minister of religion". In particular, few cantors (chazzanim) are rabbis, but many are empowered to perform such functions as witnessing marriages. In this case they often use the style "the Reverend"; more usually, however, a cantor is called "Cantor" or "Cantor Surname".
Notes and references
- ↑ Catholic Forms of Address
- ↑ Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, & Craig D. Atwood, Handbook of denominations in the United States (12th edition) (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), ISBN 0687057841; Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, & D. Newell Williams, eds., Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), ISBN 0-8028-3898-7.