The Reverend

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Portrait of the Reverend Richard Brown by John Hesselius
The Reverend styles

The Reverend is a style of address[1] most often placed before 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.[2] 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 in medieval Europe. It is the gerundive of the verb revereri (to respect; to revere) which may be taken as a gerundive or a passive periphrastic, therefore meaning [one who is] to be revered/must be respected. The Reverend is therefore equivalent to The Honourable or The Venerable.

It is paired with a modifier or noun for some offices in some religious traditions: e.g., Anglican archbishops and most Roman Catholic bishops are usually styled The Most Reverend (reverendissimus); other Anglican bishops and some Roman Catholic 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 is still considered incorrect to drop the definite article, the, before Reverend. In practice, however, the is often not used in both written and spoken English. When the style is used within a sentence, the is correctly in lower-case.[3] The usual abbreviations for Reverend are Rev., Revd and Rev'd.

The Reverend is traditionally used as an adjectival form with first names (or initials) and surname (e.g. The Reverend John Smith or The Reverend J.F. Smith); The Reverend Father Smith or The Reverend Mr Smith are correct though now old-fashioned uses. Use of the prefix with the surname alone (The Reverend Smith) is considered a solecism in traditional usage: it would be as irregular as calling the person in question "The Well-Respected Smith". In some countries, especially Britain, Anglican clergy are acceptably addressed by the title of their office, such as Vicar, Rector, or Archdeacon.

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 has traditionally been considered grammatically incorrect on the basis that it is equivalent to referring to a judge as being an honorable or an adult man as being a mister.[4][5]

Although it is not a formally correct use of the term,[6] Reverend is sometimes used alone, without a name, as a reference to a member of the clergy and treated as a normal English noun requiring a definite or indefinite article (e.g. We spoke to the reverend yesterday.). It is never correct, though, to form the plural Reverends. Some dictionaries,[7] however, do place the noun rather than the adjective as the word's principal form, owing to an increasing use of the word as a noun among people with no religious background or knowledge of traditional styles of ecclesiastical address. When several clergy are referred to, they are often styled individually (e.g. The Reverend John Smith and the Reverend Henry Brown); but in a list of clergy, The Revv is sometimes put before the list of names, especially in the Roman Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[8]

In some churches, especially Protestant churches in the United States, ordained ministers are often addressed as Pastor (as in Pastor John or Pastor Smith). Pastor, however, is considered more correct in some churches when the minister in question is the head of a church or congregation.[citation needed]

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, and Old Catholic priests, and for many priests of the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

Some female Anglican or Old Catholic priests use the style The Reverend Mother and are addressed as Mother.


The Reverend may be modified to reflect ecclesiastical standing and rank. Modifications vary across religious traditions and countries. Some common examples are:

Anglican (including Episcopalian)

Roman Catholic

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  • Religious sisters may be styled as Reverend Sister (in writing), though this is more common in Italy than in, for example, the United States. They may be addressed as Sister (in writing or in speaking).
  • Deacons are addressed as
    • The Reverend Deacon (in writing), or Father Deacon (in writing or speaking), or simply Deacon (in speaking), if ordained permanently to the diaconate.
      • The Reverend Mister (in writing) may be used for seminiarians who are ordained temporarily to the diaconate, before being ordained presbyters; Deacon (in speaking); Never Father Deacon.
  • Priests, whether in diocesan, mendicant, or monastic orders: The Reverend or The Reverend Father (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.[12]
  • Bishops and archbishops: The Most Reverend.
    • In some countries of the Commonwealth, such as the United Kingdom (but not in Northern Ireland), only archbishops are styled The Most Reverend (and addressed as "Your Grace") and other bishops are styled The Right Reverend.
  • Cardinals are styled as His Eminence
  • Patriarchs as His Beatitude
  • Pope as His Holiness

None of the clergy are usually addressed in speech as Reverend or The Reverend alone. Generally, Father is acceptable for all three orders of clergy, though in some countries this is customary for priests only. Deacons may be addressed as Deacon, honorary prelates as Monsignor; bishops and archbishops as Your Excellency (or Your Grace in Commonwealth countries), or, in informal settings, as Bishop, Archbishop, etc.


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  • 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 may be 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.


In some countries, including the United States, the title Pastor (such as Pastor Smith in more formal address or Pastor John in less formal) is often used in many Protestant traditions rather than The Reverend or Reverend. The United Methodist Church in the United States often addresses its ministers as Reverend (e.g., Reverend Smith). The Reverend, however, is still used in more formal or official written communication.

African American National Baptists usually refer to their pastors as The Reverend.

Among Southern Baptists in the United States, The Reverend is formally written but the pastor is sometimes orally addressed as Brother (Brother Smith), as New Testament writers describe Christians as being brothers and sisters in Christ, or simply as "Pastor".


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  • Deacons: Commonly styled Deacon and their last name (such as Deacon Smith)
  • Elders: Commonly styled Elder and their last name (such as Elder Smith)
  • Pastors: The Reverend is usually written, but the person is commonly orally addressed as Pastor Smith or "Pastor John"; the latter frequently used by members of their congregation.
  • Priests:[lower-alpha 1] The formal style for a priest is either The Reverend or The Very Reverend, but for male priests the title Father and the person's last name are frequently used (such as Father Smith).
  • Bishops are styled as The Right Reverend.
    • In America the style The Reverend Bishop or simply Bishop and the person's last name are more frequently used.
  • Archbishops are styled as The Most Reverend.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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. The Reverend, however, is used in more formal or in written communication. 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 address 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 remain elders who are simply appointed to the ministry of a bishop.[citation needed]

In British Methodism, ordained ministers can be either presbyters (ministers of word and sacrament) or deacons (ministers of witness and service). Presbyters are addressed as The Revd (with given name and surname) or as Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms with surname alone.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Church ministers are styled The Reverend. The moderators of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada, when ordained clergy, are styled The Right Reverend during their year of service and The Very Reverend afterwards. 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. In Presbyterian courts where elders hold equal status with ministers it is correct to refer to ministers by their title (Mr, Mrs, Dr, Prof etc.). Traditionally in Scotland ministers are referred to in their communities in this way and this is an entirely correct form of address.

Restoration Movement

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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 ordained ministers.[13][14]

Latter Day Saints Movement

Community of Christ

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Internally, members of the priesthood do not use The Reverend as a style, but are generally known as "brother" or "sister" or by their specific priesthood office ("deacon", "teacher" or "priest" are often appended after the person's name, instead of, for example, "Deacon John Adams" or "Deacon Adams", and generally only in written form; in contrast, elders, bishops, evangelists, apostles, etc. are often, for example, known as "Bishop John Smith" or "Bishop Smith"). Any member of the priesthood who presides over a congregation can, and often is, known as "pastor" or (if an elder), "presiding elder". Such use might only be in reference to occupying that position ("she is the pastor") as opposed to being used as a style ("Pastor Jane"). Priesthood members presiding over multiple congregations or various church councils are often termed "president". Externally, in ecumenical settings, The Reverend is sometimes used.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The Reverend is not used, but the term "Elder" is often used (for men who hold priesthood offices of elder or high priest) regardless of seniority. In written usage, usually only general authorities of the church (who have church-wide responsibility or outside a single locale) are addressed as Elder in writing, regardless of their specific title. When including the title, it is appended after the name, such as Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles.

In formal spoken usage, the same would be appropriate. After the first usage, whether spoken or written, it is appropriate to use only Elder {surname} (i.e. Elder Perry). Although those holding the offices of elder and high priest in their local congregations technically hold the office of "elder" within the church, they are not addressed as such in writing or in speech. The men are simply addressed as "brother" and women are addressed as "sister".

There are several exceptions:

All three members of the First Presidency are addressed as President. The president of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles (when not concurrently in the First Presidency) or the acting president of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles (when the president by seniority is concurrently serving in the First Presidency) is addressed as President.

All members of the Quoroms of the Seventy are addressed as Elder, with specific titles used as per above.

All three members of the Stake Presidency are addressed as President {surname}. Stakes are roughly comparable to a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

Presidents of stake and ward (similar to a Roman Catholic parish) auxiliary presidencies - both men and women - (i.e. relief society, young men, young women, etc.) may be addressed as President {Surname}, although for these auxiliary groups, Brother or Sister is usually appropriate in person to person communication.

Bishops of their ward are addressed as Bishop {surname}.

Branch presidents, mission presidents, and temple presidents are also addressed as President.

Male missionaries are addressed as "Elder" as well, though female missionaries are addressed as "Sister".

Certain special positions have their own styles, such as Patriarchs (Patriarch {surname}), the Presiding Bishop of the Church (Bishop {surname}), etc.

All other members of the church, regardless of specific title, may be addressed as Brother or Sister {surname} and in writing no prefix title is necessary.[15]


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Virtually all Japanese Buddhist traditions, especially Jodo Shinshu, which have carried over to the West style priests as the Reverend rather than the Venerable, the religious style often used by Chinese and Tibetan Buddhists. This was a practice borrowed from Christianity and has been in use since the early 20th century.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Most Jewish ministers of religion have the title Rabbi, which denotes that they have received rabbinical ordination (semicha). They are addressed as Rabbi or Rabbi Surname. 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 have authority to perform functions such as witnessing marriages. In this case they often use the style The Reverend; more usually, however, a cantor is called Cantor or Cantor Surname.

Some small communities without a rabbi will be led by a knowledgeable person who is styled as "Reverend". This is most often formally bestowed on the individual and is a requirement in some countries, which require a formally recognised religious leader to perform formal communal functions such as weddings and funerals.

Oxford University

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University is formally styled The Reverend the Vice-Chancellor even if not a member of the clergy.


  1. In most European Lutheran churches (as well as some in America) most clergy are called priests rather than the American tradition of pastors.


  1. "How to address the clergy", Crockford's Clerical Directory website.
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  6. "Reverend, The" in the glossary of the Episcopal Church's website.
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  8. "Ecclesiastical and other information", The Catholic Herald, 6 June 1947.
  9. "How to address the clergy", Crockford's Clerical Directory website.
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External links

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