Church of England urged to drop the Revs to tackle deference problem

The Church of England is being urged to abolish the title of Reverend as part of efforts to tackle a culture of deference.

Instead of titles such as Reverend, Right Reverend, Very Reverend, Most Reverend or Venerable, clergy should be addressed using the names of their roles, such as vicar, rector, bishop or archbishop, says a motion submitted to the C of E’s ruling body next month.

The motion quotes Peter Hancock, who was the C of E’s lead bishop on safeguarding until last year, who told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) that “issues of clericalism and deference have allowed abuse to be covered up and the voices of the vulnerable to be silenced”.

The title Reverend, referring to a person who should be held in reverence, has been in use for centuries. Crockfords, the C of E reference book, says in a section on how to address the clergy: “A good deal depends on circumstances, and, where a personal preference is known, it is usually good practice to follow it.”

In a damning report published last October, IICSA said the C of E’s culture of deference and “clericalism” meant it was a place where abusers could hide.

The report added: “Deference to the authority of the church and to individual priests … presented barriers to disclosure that many victims could not overcome.”

The clerical culture of the church “meant that the moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach”, it said.

The motion, submitted by James Dudley-Smith, the vicar of St John’s in Yeovil, Somerset, is unlikely to pass the threshold of 100 supporting signatures to be debated at next month’s General Synod.

A C of E spokesperson said: “This is a private member’s motion tabled in February which is not due to be discussed at synod.”

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