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Commandments Concerning Titles and Honorifics


And concerning the etiquette of addressing pastors, missionaries, evangelists and suchlike you have no need that I write unto you for doth not nature itself show that it is a shame for a pastor not to put on airs and demand that his given name no longer be uttered by mere people in the pew? For though we may sing that we “say brother and sister ’round here” we know that it’s not quite that simple. And the honorifics of the pastor shall then be on thus wise:

It goes with almost without saying that thy pastor shalt be called “Pastor” or possibly “Pastor Smith” for as far as you are concerned “Pastor” is his first name even if he is only a hireling. But if thou shalt abide in the cleft of the rock and in that land of milk, honey, and NASCAR known as the Bible Belt thou mayest also sometimes tack “Pastor” to his first or last name if he shall allow it. For Pastor Billy-Bob doth often proclaim that he dost not care what you call him as long as you don’t call him late for a potluck. So shalt thou keep the distinction between clergy and those who only perch in the pew.

Thy missionaries and evangelists likewise shall be called “preacher” if they are there to preach, “missionary” if they are there to mission, and “brother so-and-so” if they went to a college where we don’t send our young people. And all shall know that these are among the chiefs of the sons of the prophets and worthy of love and (even more important) love offerings.

And if any such man shall have mailed in his money, and signed the book, and received a sheepskin for his dissertation on “What’s Wrong With America and How It Would Be Better If I Ran Things” then thou shalt make all haste to call him “doctor.” Likewise also if he shall have received an honorary doctorate from The Bible Stands Shcool of Theology and Small Engine Repair thou no longer address him as merely pastor for thus it is written “he who would be greatest among you, let him get his honorary doctorate right quick and hang it on his office wall.” Verily thou shalt rejoice that thy pastor yells so much better now that he has been instantly educated.

But of the address of pastors who have fallen, slid, stumbled, or done time in the pokey we have no command save that thou mention them as little as possible and never by name at all if you can help it.