A reader sends this question:
The Anglican Church has its appeal, but there are a couple of issues that I bump up against. One of them is the church's habit of addressing clergy as "Father". Since Jesus clearly said "Call no man Father", I have a hard time with the Anglican and Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Some Anglicans asked me what I call the man that was married to my mother, but I believe that Jesus was clearly talking in a religious context, not a familial one. How is it that the Anglican Church violates what seems to be a fairly clear statement of our Lord?? Any thoughts?
Dear reader, yes, I do have a couple of thoughts. The first is that certain Anglicans -- but I am not one of them -- would agree with you. These Anglicans are typically on the "snake-belly low" side, basically Presbyterians with prayer books, Puritan types who detest anything remotely "Romish", like calling a presbyter a "priest" or addressing him as "father." So, if you did become an Anglican, you would find at least some kindred spirits in the Puritan party. (I'm using "Puritan" here, by the way, in a purely descriptive sense, not a pejorative one.)
My other thought is that those Anglicans who've asked you what you call the man that married your mother have effectively dismantled the exegetical argument, for it proves too much. Your response is that "Jesus was clearly talking in a religious context, not a familial one", but I don't think that really does much for your case, mainly because it's igoring the context in which the command to "call no man 'father'" is found. Let's have a look at the passage, which appears in Matthew 23:
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,a]"> and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbib]"> by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.c]"> 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
What is the point being made by Jesus here? Is it about inappropriate honorifics or rather about the importance of humility? Verse 12 contains your answer. It's clearly about not pridefully glorying in titles. Jesus employs a particular extreme rhetorical device here, like he does throughout the Gospels, with a view toward making a point, and here the point is clearly stated in v. 12. It's somewhat similar to the device he uses when he said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Is Jesus really telling us not to attend to the funeral of our parents? Hardly. And neither is he instructing us not to refer to our pastor as "father." I mean, why shouldn't we refrain from calling our pastor "pastor". For we have only one pastor. See how it works?
Is there no sense in which church leaders can be called "father", when St. Paul himself wrote, "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."? How can we call no man "teacher" when the gift of teaching is listed as one of the spiritual gifts? Are we to refrain from calling a seminary professor an "instructor"? Really?
So yeah, your argument proves too much, and really doesn't account for either the context in which the statement "call no man 'father'" is found or for the fuller testimony of Holy Scripture.
There are my thoughts, for what they're worth. And here's an article from a Catholic web site that goes into further detail: Call No Man "Father"?