Sunday, February 14, 2010

3 Reasons why I will never be a Rev.

This post is not offered to insult or question the motives of the many good Christian leaders I know (and all those I don't) who have taken the title Reverend, and I know more than a few.  And this is not an issue that I would burn at the stake for. But that said I think the arguments are pretty compelling and I can't understand why everyone else doesn't think the same as me! ;-)

  1. Jesus' teaching in Matt 23:1-12 is quite clear that those who teach others about God shouldn't be in the business of self agrandisment and the taking (or accepting) of titles for themselves.   Despite the protests and straw men of the Roman Catholic apologists this is not about the exact words, "call no man FATHER," but about the way we choose (or choose not) to be addressed as a mark of honour in our communities.
  2. One friend of mine was told at his ordination, "you are now ontologically different,"  what nonsense.  The Spirit of God is what transforms us not the rites of a religious institution. If having those letters in front of your name doesn't actually in itself make you any different to someone who doesn't have them, then why do you want them there?
  3. I would rather people saved their reverence for God so would never want to suggest that it was in anyway due to me by taking the title Reverend.
Let me know what you think . . . especially if you are a Rev (or about to be one)!


  1. Scripture is perspicuous. Such titles, and they include others like Dr, Pastor etc.... sould be avoided. The trouble is it is not easy to persuade others always from using them.

  2. I knew you'd use the P word on me sooner or later! :-) As for your second and third points: indeed, indeed. Even when you have no titles whatsoever people still want to furnish you with them, sometimes!

  3. I rather find that your 'protest' and 'straw bears' offer compelling arguments to the contrary. But then I would, wouldn't I!

    To respond to your points:

    1)Is not Our Lord's criticism more towards those who elevate themselves and use their position to show off? I think that these verses must be read in this context. I could never 'insist' on being called 'Father Matthew' (once I am ordained) but this is how I will probably be known. Just as S. Paul wrote 'Paulos apostolos' (sorry for the transliteration), he was not elevating himself (though I might believe he was) so much as recognising who he was in response to God's calling.

    2)It depends on your view of the Church and of the 'institution' that it has become. If one believes that the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church and is passed on from the Apostles through the laying on of hands, as is continued in ordination then one can argue that there is an 'onotological' difference because the anointing of Holy Spirit for that ministry is passed on through the Bishop's laying on of hands, as a successor of the Apostles, though I rather suspect you don't see the Church this way! ;)

    3) This is a point that nobody could really argue with: the focus should always be on worshipping God and on leading others into worship. Besides, the title 'Reverend' is, I believe, a gerund--i.e. he/she who reveres. That is, the 'Reverend' whoever is somebody called and comissioned by the Church whose life is set apart for service of God and the Church--not somebody to be revered as you seem to imply.

    As for me, though I once shared your objections, when I am ordained I will be known as 'the Reverend Matthew McMurray' or simply as 'Father Matthew'.

  4. Hi Matt, :-).
    1. Yes of course, but I think the imperatives in the passage suggest that this is more than just a passivity towards titles but an eager refusal of them!
    2. Indeed, that is why I am a baptist and you are an anglo-catholic! Ecclessiology is critical. But I still love you.
    3. Hmmm, not really sure that is correct, although you are the greater linguist, but surely if the intention was to denote a posture of reverence they would be "The Reverent" rather than "the Reverend"!?
    I hope you wont be offended if I still call you Matt? :-)

  5. oh yes, and apostle designates function rather than office. he was an apostle because he was sent, a vacuum cleaner cleans by creating a vacuum, a Rev is a Rev by virtue of the institution regardless of what they do or who they are and whether or not they actually show any evidence of the Holy Spirit! You may say Jonathan is a pastor, as you can say jonathan is a guitar teacher, but please dont say "pastor jonathan", any more than you would say "guitar teacher jonathan". one of the problems i see in the evangelical church at the moment is the many people who have the title "pastor" but don't actually fulfill the function.

  6. You may be right about the apostle.

    A very good and honest critique of (some) evangelical leaders. Perhaps the other problems is as S. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 'though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.' 1 Cor. 4:15 (ESV) ...As I will become my congregation's (well God's, but you know what I mean) father through my ordination and licensing there, and more importantly through the ministry of God.

    I would much rather you called me 'Matthew'. No, I wouldn't be offended if you didn't call me 'Father Matthew', anymore than I would have my wife or my mum address me as 'Father'.

  7. wow! you just compared me to your wife or mum! :-) now i do feel honoured! hehe!

    I would make the same argument with regard to 1 Cor 4:15 as i did with the designation apostle, Paul is not accepting an honourific he is attempting to establish what he believes has been his function in the Corinthians Christian growth in order to argue for his right (authority) to speak into the present situation (cf. 1 Cor 3:5-9).

    good discussion.