The Reverend

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Profile of John Wesley, a major religious leader of the 18th century. He is styled The Revd., an abbreviation of "The Reverend". John Wesley. Stipple engraving by R. Hancock, 1790, after J. Wellcome V0006246EL.jpg
Profile of John Wesley, a major religious leader of the 18th century. He is styled The Revᵈ., an abbreviation of "The Reverend".

The Reverend is an honorific style given before the names of certain 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 sometimes referred to as a title, form of address, or title of respect. [1] The style is also sometimes used by leaders in other religions such as Judaism and Buddhism. [2]


The term is an anglicisation of the Latin reverendus, the style originally used in Latin documents in medieval Europe. It is the gerundive or future passive participle of the verb revereri ("to respect; to revere"), 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: Lutheran archbishops, Anglican archbishops, and most Catholic bishops are usually styled The Most Reverend [3] (reverendissimus); other Lutheran bishops, Anglican bishops, and Catholic bishops are styled The Right Reverend. [4]

With Christian clergy, the forms His Reverence and Her Reverence are also sometimes used, along with their parallel in direct address, Your Reverence. [5] The abbreviation HR is sometimes used. [5]


In traditional and formal English usage 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. [6] 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 honourable or an adult man as being a mister. [7] [8] It is likewise incorrect to form the plural Reverends. Some dictionaries, [9] 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 Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland. [10]

Male Christian priests are sometimes 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 an informal title is used for 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.[ citation needed ]

In a unique case, Reverend was used to refer to a church consistory, a local administrative body. "Reverend Coetus" and "Reverend Assembly" were used to refer to the entire body of local officials during the transformation of the Dutch Reformed Church in the mid-18th century. [11]


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



  • 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 seminarians who are ordained to the diaconate, before being ordained presbyters; Deacon (in speaking); nearly never Father Deacon when referring to a Latin Church deacon in English.
  • Priests, whether secular, in an order of canons regular, a monastic or a mendicant order, or clerics regular 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
  • Patriarchs of Eastern-rite Catholic churches (those in full communion with Rome) who are made Cardinals are titled His Beatitude and Eminence
  • The Catholic Pope and other Eastern-rite Catholic or Orthodox leaders with the title Pope as His Holiness [3]

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.

Eastern Orthodox

  • 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 [13] 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.



Among Southern Baptists in the United States, pastors are often referred to in written communication and formal address as Reverend. However, Southern Baptist pastors are often orally addressed as either Brother (e.g., Brother Smith, as New Testament writers describe Christians as being brothers and sisters in Christ) or Pastor (as in Pastor Smith or simply Pastor without the pastor's last name).

Many African American Baptists use "Reverend" informally and formally, however correctly The Reverend John Smith or The Reverend Mary Smith.

Members of the National Baptist Convention usually refer to their pastors as The Reverend.

  • Deacons: Commonly styled Deacon and their last name (such as Deacon 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: [note 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.

In some Methodist churches, especially in the United States, ordained and licensed ministers are usually addressed as Reverend, unless they hold a doctorate in which case they are often addressed in formal situations as The Reverend Doctor. In informal situations Reverend is used. The Reverend, however, is used in more formal or in written communication, along with His/Her Reverence or Your Reverence. Brother or Sister is used in some places, although these are formally used to address members of Methodist religious orders, such as the Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery. Use of these forms of address differs depending on the location of the church or annual conference.

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.

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.


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, 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.).

Restoration Movement

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. [18] [19]

Community of Christ

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.


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 nondenominational Christian traditions rather than The Reverend or Reverend.


The primary Jewish religious leader is a rabbi, which denotes that they have received rabbinical ordination ( semicha ). They are addressed as Rabbi or Rabbi Surname or (especially in Sephardic and Mizrachi) as Hakham.

The use of the Christian terms "Reverend" and "minister" for the rabbi of a congregation was common in Classical Reform Judaism and in the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially if the rabbi had attended a Western-style seminary or university rather than a traditional yeshiva.

Some small communities without a rabbi may be led by a hazzan (cantor), who is addressed (in English) as "Reverend". For this reason, and because hazzanim are often recognized as clergy by secular authorities for purposes such as registering marriages; other hazzanim may be addressed as Reverend, although Cantor is more common.


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

Related Research Articles

A bishop is an ordained member of the clergy who is entrusted with a position of authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally responsible for the governance and administration of dioceses. The role or office of the bishop is called episcopacy. Organizationally, several Christian denominations utilize ecclesiastical structures that call for the position of bishops, while other denominations have dispensed with this office, seeing it as a symbol of power. Bishops have also exercised political authority within their dioceses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holy orders</span> Sacraments in some Christian churches

In certain Christian denominations, holy orders are the ordained ministries of bishop, priest (presbyter), and deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clergy</span> Formal leaders within established religions

Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, clergyperson, churchman, cleric, ecclesiastic, and vicegerent while clerk in holy orders has a long history but is rarely used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deacon</span> Office in Christian churches

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Methodism, Anglicanism, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view the diaconate as an order of ministry.

A style of office or form of address, also called manner of address, is an official or legally recognized form of address for a person or other entity, and may often be used in conjunction with a personal title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal capacity. Such styles are particularly associated with monarchies, where they may be used by a wife of an office holder or of a prince of the blood, for the duration of their marriage. They are also almost universally used for presidents in republics and in many countries for members of legislative bodies, higher-ranking judges, and senior constitutional office holders. Leading religious figures also have styles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Curate</span> Religious occupation

A curate is a person who is invested with the care or cure of souls of a parish. In this sense, curate means a parish priest; but in English-speaking countries the term curate is commonly used to describe clergy who are assistants to the parish priest. The duties or office of a curate are called a curacy.

A pastor is the leader of a Christian congregation who also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. In Lutheranism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, pastors are always ordained. In Methodism, pastors may be either licensed or ordained.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ordination</span> Process by which individuals are consecrated as clergy

Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorized to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination vary by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is commonly found in a book known as an Ordinal which provides the ordo for celebrations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stole (vestment)</span> Long narrow cloth band worn around the neck; part of ecclesiastical dress

The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations, which symbolizes priestly authority; in Protestant denominations which do not have priests but use stoles as a liturgical vestment, however, it symbolizes being a member of the ordained. It consists of a band of colored cloth, usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out in the shape of a spade or bell. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with two crosses, or sometimes another significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38–39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minister (Christianity)</span> Religious occupation in Christianity

In Christianity, a minister is a person authorised by a church or other religious organization to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister. In some church traditions the term is usually used for people who have been ordained, but in other traditions it can also be used for non-ordained.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">English honorifics</span> Courtesy form of address

In the English language, an honorific is a form of address conveying esteem, courtesy or respect. These can be titles prefixing a person's name, e.g.: Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Mx, Sir, Dame, Dr, Cllr, Lady, or Lord, or other titles or positions that can appear as a form of address without the person's name, as in Mr President, General, Captain, Father, Doctor, or Earl.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clerical collar</span> Detachable collar worn by Christian clergy

A clerical collar, clergy collar, or, informally, dog collar, is an item of Christian clerical clothing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dean (Christianity)</span> Ecclesiastical title

A dean, in an ecclesiastical context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and many Lutheran denominations. A dean's assistant is called a sub-dean.

The Right Reverend is an honorific style given to certain religious figures and members of a clergy.

The Very Reverend is an honorific style given to higher-ranking members of a clergy. The definite article "the" should always precede "Reverend" when used before a name, because "Reverend" is an honorific adjective, not a title.

Ecclesiastical titles are the formal styles of address used for members of the clergy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holy orders in the Catholic Church</span> Ordination of clergy in the Roman Catholic Church

The sacrament of holy orders in the Catholic Church includes three orders: bishops, priests, and deacons, in decreasing order of rank, collectively comprising the clergy. In the phrase "holy orders", the word "holy" means "set apart for a sacred purpose". The word "order" designates an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an order. In context, therefore, a group with a hierarchical structure that is set apart for ministry in the Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican ministry</span> Leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. Ministry commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.

In Christianity, an elder is a person who is valued for wisdom and holds a position of responsibility and authority in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is an ordained person who serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of word, sacrament and order, filling the preaching and pastoral offices. In other Christian traditions, an elder may be a lay person serving as an administrator in a local congregation, or be ordained and serving in preaching or pastoral roles. There is a distinction between ordained elders and lay elders. The two concepts may be conflated in everyday conversation. In non-Christian world cultures the term elder refers to age and experience, and the Christian sense of elder is partly related to this.


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  2. "Reverend Earl Ikeda" Archived 29 December 2021 at the Wayback Machine , Tricycle: The Buddhist Review website.
  3. 1 2 ""How to Address Church Officials", Catholic Education Resource Center website". Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  4. The Lutheran Witness, Volumes 9-11. C.A. Frank. 1890. p. 67.
  5. 1 2 "His/Your Reverence". Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2017. 1.2His/Your Reverence A title or form of address to a member of the clergy, especially a priest in Ireland. 'I regret, Your Reverence, that I cannot come to meet you.'
  6. The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010
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  13. "Forms of Addresses and Salutations for Orthodox Clergy". Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
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  16. Nathan, George Jean (1927). The American Mercury, Volume 10. Knopf. p. 186. Retrieved 17 December 2017. When traveling in England they are customarily addressed as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship" and thus put on the same footing as the Bishops of the Established Church of that country, who, when sojourning in America, are properly so addressed. Similarly, a visiting Anglican Archbishop is "Your Grace." He is introduced as "The Most Reverend, His Grace, the Archbishop of York."
  17. "The Church of Ireland". Archived from the original on 13 October 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
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  19. Foster, Douglas A; Blowers, Paul M; Dunnavant, Anthony L; et al., eds. (2004), Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans, ISBN   0-8028-3898-7