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Clerical ‘Mikado-ish’ titles

by
15 April 2016

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Your answers

 

What are the pros and cons of retaining the Mikado-ish Venerable, Very/Right/Most Reverend titles?

 

The Christian name you were given at baptism when you were made a son or daughter of God should be sufficiently exalted. Fancy titles just cause problems and puzzlement, and give the impression of people seeking human dignity.

Having said that, I value my title “Canon” as a link with wonderful Christians with whom I lived and worked in Nigeria, and also “the Revd”, as, like a clerical collar, it tells people who you are.

(Canon) John Goodchild, Liverpool

 

My daughter is a consultant paediatrician, but, whatever her appointment or seniority may be, she is addressed as Dr Jane Walter. As an unimportant cleric, and definitely not a dignitary, I have never been troubled by a Mikado-ish title (and I might think differently if I had had one); but in any case I think that the title “Reverend” itself is a bit of a joke.

At a meeting of NSMs in Durham diocese years ago, however, Archbishop David Hope suggested that, as far as the world was concerned, all clergy were just vicars. Since all clergy, and of course the rest of the Church as well, are called to be vicars of Christ, I should be perfectly happy to be addressed simply as Vicar R. Walter if some sort of a title is required to define who I am. Please put Vr R. Walter on the envelope.

(The Revd, or Vr) R. Walter, Great Witley, Worcestershire

 

We have received no “pro” replies; and for a debate have had to go back as far as October 1975, when the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, writing in Southwark News, had argued that the title “the Reverend” was unnecessary, and that dignitaries’ titles “appeal to those who think that the Church should vie with the State on the matter of honours, but they are out of keeping with the teaching of Jesus and alien to the spirit of the age. Moreover, to many people they are frankly ridiculous.” They “may minister to our vanity, but they do nothing to add to our credibility as the servants of the humble carpenter of Nazareth”.

Few readers appear to have risen to the bait. One suggested that “The ‘spirit of the age’ . . . could equally well be appealed to by advocates of materialism, permissiveness, and all those other things against which bishops customarily fulminate. . . I would also point out that no instructed Church person would imagine for a moment that, by his use of ecclesiastical titles, he was ‘ministering to the vanity’ of his clergy: he would know that he paying due respect to the office and not to the holder.”

The Bishop of Mashonaland, Paul Burrough, noted an appeal in a similar spirit by Bishop Trevor Huddleston at the 1968 Lambeth Conference, but argued: “Prior to 1960 the vast majority of Bishops and other dignitaries of the Church were Westerners, but since about that date Africans and Asians have increasingly come into positions of leadership. It is most unfortunate if the idea is suggested that honour paid to the office (never to the man) can just now be devalued.” He even quoted W. S. Gilbert in his support.

One outcome of the resolution supported by Huddleston and most of the bishops had been less use of “Lord Bishop” and “My Lord”. But at the time several correspondents feared a loss of “the obeisance and respect of the faithful” due to bishops. “We are not so overdone with courtesy and respect these days that we can afford to reject the fragments that remain,” J. N. Menin wrote (20 September 1968). Editor

 

Your questions

 

As we cannot get enough organists to give lunchtime recitals in our seaside church, we wish to supplement them by playing CDs of organ and church music, but we are unsure of copyright regulations. Can anyone advise us, please?

T. P.

 

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.

questions@churchtimes.co.uk

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