The Language of Reverends
Bill says, 'Clergy titles are wonderfully ironic in the light of Christ's teaching.... this is all ballony!... Even Unitarians are not free from it. Why do we covert the title Reverend? We really should have nothing to do with this stuff.'
I've got to say I agree with him. Titles are awkward things for all of us I think. Are women Miss, Ms, Mrs - why do they have to be anything? Why does it matter to anyone what anyone's marital status is? Is there actually any function to any title, other than for people to think that they are better than others?
But in the religious life especially I am suspicious of titles. I'm increasingly Anabaptist these days and think that the testimony of equality is deeply important. That's not to say that there isn't a place for leadership. But leaders are not inherently more holy than others, and the title Reverend for me suggests they are. I think one of the fruits of a genuine spirituality is humility.
One of the greatest temptations on the spiritual path is pride in spiritual achievement. That's why Jesus spoke about it so much. It's very easy to get big headed as a preacher. I'm very guilty of that myself. I don't need any more encouragement, I don't need to be called reverend by anyone. That's spiritual unhealthy for those called reverend and those who aren't. Calling someone Reverend gives away too much of your sacred worth, being called Reverend gives you the thought that you are worth more than others. Both deny a sense of equality, a sense of inherent worth, divine incarnation in all of us.
I'm not actually sure I'm allowed to not be a Reverend as a minister, and I honestly haven't spoke about it to many people. Mainly because its difficult to say without sounding like you're insulting other ministers. But I think I'm going to try. I don't want to be reverenced. Reverence yourself.
Here's a bit more history and theology about this if you want.