Ministry in Context

You May Refer To Me As...

When asked about my ethnic background, I usually say “Scotch Irish” and leave it at that. In fact I do carry Swedish on my mother’s side, but we were never into that when I was growing up, and I liked Scotch Irish better. I’ve had lutefisk once in my life, which was once too often. But haggis? Bring it on!

I visited Scotland for the first time last September, and it immediately felt like home, like this was where I belonged. Knowing that, for Christmas my eldest daughter gave me a parcel of land in Scotland. My estate is in the Highlands, northwest of Glasgow, south of Inverness. If you happen to be in the area, feel free to visit. It would be best to visit one at a time, since my estate, as I call it, is only one square foot, but still.

In the materials I received regarding the estate, I read that “the legal owner of a Scottish estate of any size may call themselves a Laird (Lord). Further, Lairds are considered members of the gentry, ranking below a Baron and above an Esquire in the non-peerage table of precedence." I also received legal papers which, if signed and witnessed, would legally change my name by adding my title.

We are sometimes drawn into the debate over what an intern should be called. Intern Pastor? Pastoral Intern? Vicar? There are some internship settings in which the intern is simply called “Pastor”... What finally matters in the world is not the title that others give you or that you claim for yourself, but what you get done in the world.

So, again quoting from the documents: “Informally you may be called Laird Steven, or Laird Steven of Glencoe. Formally, you should be styled as “The Much Honoured Steven L. McKinley of Glencoe” or “The Much Honoured the Lord of Glencoe” or “The Much Honoured Steven L. McKinley, Laird of Glencoe.”

I also received a necktie with the Glencoe tartan. I’m thinking about a kilt, but you might not want to envision that possibility.

Now I am a humble man. You don’t have to use my title, even though I have a right to it. I’ve never been much impressed by titles. Titles don’t tell us much. Accomplishments tell us more.

We are sometimes drawn into the debate over what an intern should be called. Intern Pastor? Pastoral Intern? Vicar? There are some internship settings in which the intern is simply called “Pastor”. I should probably have more energy for this debate than I do.

Formally there is a process of bestowing titles, be they ecclesiastical or academic. When you have worked to gain a degree or a position, when you are “entitled,” you certainly have the right to use that signal of rank or status. But what finally matters in the world is not the title that others give you or that you claim for yourself, but what you get done in the world. For clarification, see Matthew 11.2-6.

Perhaps on my next trip to Scotland I will drop my title into conversation. Until then, I’ll just be the same old “Steve” I have always been.

previous main next