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Is it proper to introduce a clergyman as Reverend Johnson or is it more proper to refer to him as the Reverend Mr. Johnson ... or the Reverend Dr. Johnson, as the case may be? "This is Reverend John Johnson" or "This is the Reverend Mr. John Johnson"?

When speaking to a clergyman in conversation, does one address him as Reverend Johnson or as Mr. Johnson or as Dr. Johnson (as the case may be)?

Can "Reverend" be more than a descriptive adjective, describing an ordained clergyperson?

  • Having known many priests and ministers, I generally call them by their first names in social situations. You probably need to provide more context for your question, as it is it's kind of vague. – barbecue Dec 13 '17 at 22:00
  • Yes. It can be any of those. – Drew Dec 13 '17 at 22:27
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There's no one correct answer to this question, because usage differs among faiths and sects. Reverend is usually a courtesy title for Protestant Christian ministers or pastors. It's not an official rank, it's an adjective indicating respect for the position. It's similar to saying "The Honorable Judge Forcythe" or "Your honor" in court. The judge does not have a title of "The Honorable" the title is probably Judge. The adjective is there to indicate respect, not to identify a specific job.

While it's often used as a title, it comes from use as an adjective meaning meaning worthy of respect or reverence

Some sects actually consider it inappropriate or offensive to use the title Reverend for a person, as they consider it a title reserved for God.

In Catholicism, it is usually used along with an actual title. For example, The Very Reverend Bishop Furley. Bishop is the title, Very Reverend is a way to indicate this bishop is particularly worthy of respect. A Catholic priest could be called Reverend, but could also be called Father.

You may also see "Right Reverend" used in the Episcopal and Anglican churches for bishops, and "Most Reverend" for archbishops.

A pastor is a role, a position or "job" if you wish. You could call Mr. Smith "Pastor Smith" the same way you would say "Farmer Brown" or "Doctor Jones".

A member of the clergy could be a pastor, a priest, a minister, a deacon, some other title. A deacon can be Catholicy clergy under a priest, but could also be a lay position in a Protestant church.

Generally speaking, if someone is referred to as "Reverend Smith" you can assume they are a member of the clergy, probably Protestant, but you can't be sure of their exact position or title.

As a result of this, reverend has become a noun in some cases. "Mr. Smith is the reverend at our church." This is technically not correct in most cases, though it's possible some sects could use it as an official title.

So to answer the question, it depends on the faith of the person you are introducing. There is no one correct answer to this question, you need to deal with this on a case-by-case basis.

I would start by asking the pastor what their preference is.

If that's not practical, try to use whatever title the church in question is known to use. Reverend is the adjective, pastor or minister is more the title.

"Please let me introduce Reverend Samuels, the minister of my church." For a more formal introduction, if Samuels has a doctorate, you could say "The reverend Dr. Smith of Holy Something Church".

If you're talking to a Catholic priest, usually you call him Father.

  • So ... "Reverend" seems to basically be an adjective rather than a form of address and one wouldn't address a Protestant Christian minister as "Reverend Johnson" any more than one would say "Tall Johnson" or "Dead Johnson" but one could describe him as the Reverend Dr. Johnson and address him as Dr. Johnson (or Mr. Johnson)? I assume that this style applies to both the pastor of the church and to other ordained ministers, be they the pastor or not. Is "Pastor" also an adjective ... would it be proper to address the pastor as Pastor Johnson ... and is Reverend assumed in the case of a pastor? – Bill Walton Dec 13 '17 at 21:07
  • While it is an adjective, as I mentioned above through common usage is it sometimes used as a title. My father was an Episcopal minister, and his congregation very often called him "Reverend Mercer." If he were a Catholic priest, then calling him Reverend would be weird. Adding more to answer... – barbecue Dec 13 '17 at 21:45
  • The use of "reverend" is basically an indication of respect, it's not comparable to "tall" or "dead". If you say "The reverend Smith" you are saying Smith is some sort of Christian clergy, probably Protestant. As I mentioned at the beginning of this answer, there is no one correct answer. If you want specific advice for a specific case, you'll need to provide more details. – barbecue Dec 13 '17 at 21:59
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In traditional British usage, your clergyman would be addressed as 'Mr. (or Dr.) Johnson' in ordinary conversation, with 'Reverend' only being used when naming him formally (e.g. on the notice board outside the church; St. Peter's. Vicar, Rev. John Johnson.). 'The Reverend Mr. Johnson' is very old-fashioned.

In recent decades there seems to be an increasing tendency in the media and elsewhere to use 'Reverend Johnson', which I had always understood to be the American usage.

  • Thanks barbeque and Drew and @Kate Bunting. Because "common" usage seems to be taking over our spoken language, I posted this set of questions to learn the "rules" but there seems to be no rule (at least in association with Protestant ministers). Being old-fashioned, I think I'll stay with the old-fashioned usage and just grit my teeth when someone uses this uncertain part of speech in a "common" manner. To be "a Reverend" at any church doesn't cut it with me nor can this adjective be a valid title or even a generic honorific. – Bill Walton Dec 14 '17 at 17:44

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