How to Address a Pastor with a Doctorate?
The office staff at my church writes our pastor’s name as – Rev. Dr. B. W. McClendon, Ph.D. Is it appropriate to use all those titles all at once?
————– Mrs. Brown
Dear Mrs. Brown:
—-#1) Something Before or Something After: In the U.S. – the tradition is a simplified style which uses one thing before a name or one thing after a name. Not both. With a pastor with a doctorate these are the traditional forms:
—-On the envelope or address block on a letter:
—-—-The Reverend (Full Name)
—-In a university catalog, degrees are listed after the name:
—-—-(Full Name), D.Div.
—-In a salutation (and conversation) use an honorific:
This rule is followed when formally addressing U.S. elected officials who are ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’. When we address them as ‘the Honorable’ we do not include another title or rank in front of their name: E.g. none of these is combined with ‘the Honorable: Dr., Mayor, Senator, General, Judge, Professor, Mr./Ms./Dr.
—-—-Yes The Honorable James Higgins, Senator for …
—-—-Never The Honorable Senator James Higgins of …
—-—-Yes Dr. James Higgins
—-—-Yes James Higgins, Ph.D.
—-—-Never Dr. James Higgins, Ph.D.
—-So … That’s the rule … one thing before or after, not both.
—-#2) More Than One at a Time? This is in contrast to the British who include every honorific and post-nominal all at once: ‘The Reverend Dr. (Full Name)’. In the U.S. you see the British Style used by some clergy, notably the Episcopalians – probably influenced by the Church of England.
Other non-Episcopal clergy use the compound style too, so you do see it. I am just saying it’s not stylistically consistent with the standard U.S. styles.
If you know it’s their personal preference – use it. It’s always courteous to address an individual in the form they prefer regardless of whether or not it is by the book.
—-#3) Reverend -or- The Reverend? When the correspondence is formal … use The Reverend rather than just ‘Reverend’ or ‘Rev.’ Sometimes Reverend is abbreviated so just Rev. (Name) . Abbreviating is less formal than spelling it out.
My mother’s pastor likes to be addressed in conversation as Reverend Bob – so I address him as Reverend Bob. In writing I would use The Reverend (Full Name). In a conversation or salutation, if I did not know his preference, I’d use Pastor (Surname). That’s widely acceptable and works for all the Protestant denominations.
– Robert Hickey