Church of England

  • May be abbreviated to C of E in copy after first reference; CofE (no spaces) is acceptable in headings. The adjective for Church of England is Anglican, and members of the church may be called Anglicans.

  • Bishops may be diocesan or suffragan but it is not usually necessary to mention this. A bishop is the Right Rev or Dr John Smith, the Bishop of Placename, or vice versa as above, and subsequently the bishop or Dr Smith. An archbishop is, technically, the Most Rev or Dr John Smith, Archbishop of Placename, or vice versa as above, then the archbishop or Dr Smith, but ‘the Most Rev’ is not often used.

  • primate: an alternative word for archbishop after the first reference. Use with care as it is also the word for monkeys, apes and humans.

  • clergyman is the generic term for Church of England ministers. Specific posts include vicar and curate. Some C of E vicars are called ‘rectors’ for historical reasons (in the past they received twice the amount of tithe as vicars) but they are referred to in the same way, eg ‘the rector, the Rev James Brown’. Some vicars choose to be known as ‘Father’ or to be referred to as a ‘priest’. In this case, call them ‘Father Jones’ throughout. Say ‘the Rev John Smith, vicar of All Saints (lower case ‘v’) or ‘rector’. The term ‘vicar’ is restricted to the Church of England. 

    Other ranks of C of E clergy include prebendary (the Rev Prebendary John Smith at first mention, then Prebendary Smith or the prebendary); canon (the Rev Canon John Smith, Canon Smith, the canon); archdeacon (first mention: the Venerable John Smith, Archdeacon of Placename, or alternatively the Archdeacon of Placename, the Venerable John Smith, thereafter the archdeacon); dean or provost (the Very Rev John Smith, Dean/Provost of Placename, or vice versa as above, then the dean/provost).

  • Reverend should be abbreviated to Rev, not Revd. The title takes a full name and the definite article, eg ‘the Rev John Smith’. ‘The/the Rev’ is used only at the first reference and in no other context. In subsequent mentions he/she becomes Mr, Miss, Mrs or Dr Smith, according to his/her academic qualifications, but is never ‘Rev John Smith’, ‘the Rev Smith’ or ‘the Reverend’. It cannot be used as a noun replacing clergyman, as in 'a reverend'.

  • Women in the C of E are clergywomen in general, but all the titles are the same as for men.

  • Anglican bishops are consecrated, Roman Catholic bishops ordained.

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The Roman Catholic church

  • Technically ‘Catholic’ refers to the whole Christian community, so it is preferable to be clear and use Roman Catholic at the first mention. Catholic is fine subsequently. Many papers refer to the Roman Catholic church as ‘the church’, reserving the capitalised ‘the Church’ for the C of E.

  • the Pope: Give his name but not necessarily his number at the first reference, then call him ‘the Pope’ (cap). At second or subsequent mentions you can call him ‘the pontiff’ (l/c).

  • the Archbishop of Westminster is the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, but must not be described as ‘the leader of Britain’s Catholics’ as there are archbishops in Scotland and Northern Ireland. To date, all Archbishops of Westminster have been created cardinals. He should then be referred to as ‘Cardinal John Smith, the (Roman Catholic if necessary for clarity) Archbishop of Westminster’, then Cardinal Smith, the cardinal or the archbishop.

  • Other archbishops at first mention are ‘the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Placename, the Most Rev John Smith’ and then Archbishop Smith or the archbishop. Again, ‘the Most Rev’ is not often used.

  • Bishops should at the first mention be ‘the Roman Catholic Bishop of Placename, the Right Rev (or Dr) John Smith’, and subsequently Bishop Smith, Dr Smith, or the bishop.

  • priests are the Rev or Father John Smith at first mention, then Father Smith, never Mr.

    Higher ranks include provost and canon (Provost/Canon John Smith, then Provost/Canon Smith, or the provost/the canon); monsignor (Monsignor John Smith, then Mgr Smith or the monsignor).

  • Anglican bishops are consecrated, Roman Catholic bishops ordained.

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Other Christian churches

  • The ‘free churches’ include Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed, Evangelical, and Pentecostal. Clergy are called ‘ministers’ or sometimes ‘pastors’ and take Rev in the same way as in the C of E. Do not call them ‘vicars’.

  • The Salvation Army is a Protestant church organised on quasi-military lines. Its ministers are called officers and have Army-style ranks. Refer to ‘a Salvation Army officer, Colonel John Smith’ and then ‘Mr Smith’.

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Non-Christian faiths

  • Buddhism is a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha. A Buddhist holy man is a monk, and would be referred to as ‘Mr’. There is no central holy text.

  • Hinduism: Hindus worship at a temple. A priest would be named in the paper as Ravi Patel, priest of the Wimbledon Hindu temple, then Mr Patel. A swami is a holy man who would be called Swami Patel. A guru is a teacher who would be called Guru Patel.

  • Islam: This is the correct term for the faith followed by Muslims. Followers worship at a mosque. The holy book is the Koran and spiritual leaders are imams. Refer to Imam Hussein Ahmed (of Placename mosque if necessary), subsequently Mr Ahmed. Note that it is forbidden in Islam to portray the Prophet Muhammad, and that doing so will cause extremely grave offence.

  • Judaism: Jews worship at a synagogue. The scripture is called the Torah and a spiritual guide is a rabbi. In the first reference, say Rabbi Lionel Blue, subsequently Rabbi Blue or the rabbi.

  • Sikhism: Sikhs worship at a temple called a gurdwara. It is fine simply to call it a Sikh temple. A priest would be addressed as Surinder Singh, priest of the Beckenham Sikh temple, then Mr Singh.

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Last updated November 25, 2017