The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Addressing retired clergy

Pastor, Rev. or Never Reverend?

I recently addressed a retired clergyman as 'Pastor.' He said I should refer to him as 'Rev. Smith' since he is retired and no longer a pastor of any congregation. Isn't it more correct to say 'the Rev. Smith?' In the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches aren't there varying degrees of reverend?"

He is technically correct. Pastor is a designation that describes a relationship of a certain ordained person to a specific call, congregation or ministry. It speaks of a shepherding and leadership relationship and responsibility. When describing or writing to an ordained person, it's most correct to say or write "The Reverend Smith," simply noting that this person is ordained. But both active and retired clergy are addressed as pastor most often and this is perfectly fine.

(Weissenbuehler also answers: "Isn't it about time to stop using the term Protestant to describe and lump together all kinds of different Christian churches that aren't Roman Catholic or Orthodox? Shouldn't we identify ourselves by who we are rather than who we are against?")

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February issue


Embracing diversity