What to Call Episcopal Clergy
My response has always been “Call me anything but late for dinner.”
As with many things in the Episcopal Church, there is no specific rule, but there are hefty traditions and local customs. These traditions and customs seem to vary from place to place. It is always wise to ask a priest how she or he wishes to be addressed. Many of us will simply ask that you call us by our Christian name.
Up until the time of the Oxford Movement (High-Church or Anglo-Catholic Renaissance in the mid to late 19th Century), most priests were called “Mister, followed by their surname, i.e., Mr. Taylor. Many ministers felt that calling an Episcopal Priest “Father,” sounded too “Roman Catholic.” As the “High/Low Church “battles” have more or less subsided, many priests will answer to “Father,” or “Father” followed by their Christian name, i.e., Father Bill. A few women priests might answer to this designation as well, though others prefer “Mother.”
One thing is for sure, do not call an Episcopal priest, “Reverend,” or “Pastor,” at least orally. This is best to be avoided. The terms are far too synonymous with Baptist ministers and other evangelical ministers that are not apostolic successive ministers, that is, those who do not require the laying on of hands by a Bishop, signifying a succession of laying on of hands from the Apostles themselves. For instance, I have traced my line of succession to the Apostle James of Jerusalem.
When it comes to bishops and deacons, it is much easier as it is accustomed to say, for instance, “Hello, Bishop Haynes” or “Good Morning, Deacon Jones.” “Good evening, Priest” or “Good Morning, Rector,” has never caught on. Some priests in the Anglican communion will respond to “Vicar” or “Parson.”
Addressing clergy in a letter or on paper is a whole other matter, is best left for another article on another day.