“A More Equitable Salary” Petition to General Conference

Here is a petition I have submitted to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  

           A More Equitable Salary 5 (2) LINK HERE

If this petition is adopted, I believe it will transform the culture of our denomination dramatically.  I believe it will do the following:

1) Change the way our bishops and cabinets appoint clergy to local congregations by removing money from consideration in appointment making

2)  Allow the appointment of new clergy to healthy, thriving churches and the appointment of experienced clergy to struggling congregations

3) Allow all clergy to provide adequately for their family needs and protect clergy from the danger of riches (as Wesley would say)

4) Eliminate the “ladder of success” mentality that currently afflicts the spiritual health and integrity of our community.

5) Restore a sense of community among clergy who are now forced to be competitive with one another

7) Support salaries of pastors in areas where the church serves the poor such as in our central conferences

8) Serve as a CHRISTIAN witness to corporate America and

MOST importantly the adoption of this petition will BRING OUR CHURCH INTO CONFORMITY WITH THE SCRIPTURE (1 Timothy 5:17-18) with regard to our use of money.

Since I have submitted this petition as an individual to the General Conference, I am concerned that it might quietly become lost in the Finance/Administrative Committee. I am hoping that social media will help to bring this petition to a wider audience and will aid it’s passage. I consulted with my bishop as I drafted this petition in order to assure it’s constitutionality, and the petition DOES have some significant support from bishops in Africa, who assure me they will promote it among their delegates. Since MORE than 40% of 2012 delegates will be from central conferences, I believe that this proposal may be adopted if some delegates in the United States choose to support it as well.

So, I am inviting your discussion here. Please offer your concerns, and questions in the comments on this blog; and share this post with others (especially delegates), so this idea will receive the attention I believe it deserves.

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44 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christianity, CTA, General Conference, United Methodist

44 responses to ““A More Equitable Salary” Petition to General Conference

  1. Mary Ann Dimand

    I’ll be surprised if it passes, but it would do a lot to provide an environment in which the connectionalism we recite about might be restored– or built.

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    • It will not solve all of our problems, but I think it might get at the root of some of our most serious institutional and spiritual problems. I’d appreciate any help you might be able to provide in sharing this idea with delegates.

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    • Amos

      Check out this gbophb report of conference average compensation and denominational averages here in the US. There is more than a $20,000 gap between the lowest from the highest AVERAGE clergy comp package.

      The Seventh Day Adventists (who came from the Methodist movement) already have a single common salary scale across all ministry settings. It seems to work for them.

      http://www.gbophb.org/assets/resources/B75017B4D7364466951AE8C85E5C18B1.pdf

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      • The single common salary idea seems to work well in British Methodism, and there is a hidden little paragraph in our own Book of Discipline that allows an annual conference to try this. However, I believe the judicial council has declared that to be unconstitutional. The annual conference may not set the pastor’s salary, only the local charge may do that according to our current structure. My proposal STILL allows a local charge this freedom.

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  2. John Reasons

    Holly – Won’t your proposal effectively eliminate the Central Conference ministries which are able to serve for no salary, or, in an attempt to compensate them with “at least something if not as much as we would like,” bind those that receive a livable wage to a likely significantly reduced amount?

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    • I am not quite sure how to answer this question; but I don’t think it would be a problem in the central conferences. I have spoken to a general conference delegate from Kenya about this petition, and I have emailed it to a number of African bishops . None of them raised a red flag about this point. I believe that central conferences are currently given some discretion about which portions of the Book of Discipline apply to them. (This may change as we make more of an effort to revise the BOD to become a more global document in 2016). As the African church continues to grow and begins to institutionalize their congregations, I believe this Biblical standard will also serve them well.

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  3. This is sound, common sense thinking which would truly put the needs of the ministry of local churches in the mission field first.

    If this doesn’t pass, it will demonstrate exactly how disconnected our actions are from our rhetoric as a denomination.

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    • Thanks, John. This petition was born in a morning devotional not a committee.It is nice to think that God pushes common sense. I hope you will help me spread this idea with delegates to GC (especially folks on the finance/administration committee.

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  4. Jeff

    good job, Holly. I support it.

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  5. Thanks. Pass it on, please. Let others read it and think about it.

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  6. Bishop John K Yambasu

    Hollis, you have hit the nail on the head. In Africa, we continue to lose the best and the most trained and qualified of our pastors simply because we do not pay them “acceptable living wages”. Those we struggle to send over seas for higher studies never come back at the end of their training because of our poor conditions of service. Rather than negetively impact ministry, this petition if passed at GC will completely and totally transform ministry in Africa and will send membership increase in geometric proportions.

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    • I am deeply honored to see that you are reading my blog from Sierra Leone, Bishop. Thank you! Unfortunately as Mary Ann Dimand says the passage of this petition is doubtful. I have shared this petition with some of the leading pastors in the Florida Conference, and even with Adam Hamilton. I am not finding support from them. I would like to deal with their concerns in this blog. I will be publishing a short series of posts about their objections. I invite you to continue reading and joining in the discussion. Perhaps we can initiate a revolution in the United Methodist Church using social media! May God help us all.

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  7. I have long been a supporter of equitable compensation among churches that would allow pastors to stay where they are called for longer pastorates and eliminate competition among clergy.

    However, I think more research is needed before we jump into something. Issues that need resolving:
    1. How do you handle raises? Cost of living increases? Should one’s salary be capped forever? What about years of service? If I have served for 20 years should my salary be = to someone right out of seminary?
    2. What about Benefits? Housing allowances versus parsonages? Utilities? Travel? Continuing Ed? Retirement? Health Insurance?
    3. How do you handle cost of living differences across divides? An equitable salary in one place may be below the poverty line in another place, or the reverse may hold true an equitable salary in one place may be a fortune in another place.
    4. How do you handle single pastors vs. pastors with families of 6 or more? Do they make the same? It might be a surplus for one while barely making ends meet for the other? If not how do you explain to the pastor and spouse that just because they cannot have children they cannot get access to more income?
    5. How do you handle under the table finances? The undisclosed money that is never talked about but prevalent especially in a lot of our minority churches.
    6. How do you handle lay staff salaries? Does it make sense to pay the choir director, youth director, children’s director more than the senior pastor because their salaries are tied to what they can make on the open market or do we force the same levels on them?

    Again…I love the idea. I long for the day when salaries are a non issue in our churches and communities. I missed my calling as a Benedictine monk and I have no problem with my compensation being maintained at a livable level for my family. I just think that more thought needs to be researched (yes even through a committee) before we can do this.

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    • Dear Monk, According to my proposal, there will be an ample number of committees involved in making the decisions concerning pastoral compensation. The local church staff parish committee, the finance committee, and the local charge conference will still make decisions at the local church level—and they still have the freedom to pay less than the minimum salary or more than the maximum salary. At the annual conference level, the Commission on Equitable Compensation will work with the CFA to determine an appropriate salary RANGE for the particular annual conference. They will certainly need to take into account the different standard of living range within that annual conference, and the changing cost of living. I would expect the range to be adjusted each year. This proposal does not address issues such as housing allowances, health insurance, pensions, travel expense, etc. Those will be dealt with in the same way they are currently handled–by the appropriate committees with a great deal of study, I’m sure; and probably with the same number of under-the-table shenanigans as we have now. This proposal DOES impose a new BIBLICAL standard into the mix. (See 1 Timothy 5:17-18). By adding this maximum salary component, I think we would be restoring our covenant relationship as clergy brothers and sisters. I also think we would be making a positive Christian witness to a world that has seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Our denomination might actually lead the way in rebuilding a middle class. Frankly, I think that is a GREAT objective both in the United States and on a global level. It is a PROPHETIC and counter-cultural witness and statement. I never thought I would say this, but the committees and local church and the pastor will still have ample opportunity to study and argue and negotiate within these new disciplinary guidelines. The difference is the new addition of a Biblical guideline that reflects our covenant relationship as a Church.

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      • I’d add a question to Methodist Monk’s first question: How do you keep pastors in churches (or church sizes) where their strengths lie? Will a pastor better suited for small churches want to stay in them if there is never an opportunity for raises?

        If pastors are not being paid in Africa, where will the salaries come from? I’m not familiar with where Equitable Funds.

        (Note: the “t” in “The” United Methodist is always capitalized. The United Methodist Church )

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        • The answer to the first question is simple. The bishop makes the appointment.

          The second question is a bit more complex. Currently churches pay apportionments to support the Equitable Compensation Fund of their annual conference. The conference uses that money to supplement the salaries of pastors who are appointed to serve a charge that could not otherwise pay the conference minimum compensation. Currently the Equitable Compensation Fund money stays within the annual conference and is administered by the annual conference guidelines. If this petition is adopted, the annual conference would most likely receive additional funds from churches that vote to pay their pastor more than the recommended maximum salary. This additional money could be used to support churches within that annual conference that are unable to pay the minimum compensation, or with appropriate guidance of the General Council of Finance and Administration they may give money to conferences with greater need such as our central conferences.(This would be a new policy.) I suspect that this will be a short term influx of money for these central conferences. As churches in the United States settle into the recommended compensation range, the money available to transfer to central conference will diminish. However, the growth of our churches in these conferences is rapid; and i hope they will become stable enough to not require supplementation for extended periods of time.

          As an English teacher and as a proud United Methodist clergywoman, I am duly chastised for my error in capitalization. Thank you for holding me accountable.

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  8. Rev, Solomon G. Rogers.

    Rev. Solomon G Rogers (Sierra Leone Annual Conference)
    God works in a misterious way and He has wonders to perform. Your idea sounds great, I support it; hope and pray it goes through for the less privileged.

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  9. I think you have brought up some very good thoughts that should be discussed. I am currently serving as a Minister of Youth and Young Adults at a UMC in Ohio. I am going through the ordination process and will be attending seminary starting this February.

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    • Thank you for reading this petition. I am eager to find some support from FUTURE clergy since this will affect folks like you for your entire career. I am also interested in sharing this post with clergy from Ohio. (By the way, I was born and raised in Upper Arlington). Could you please forward this blog to some of the clergy (especially any delegates to general conference) you know so they can read it? I would appreciate your help in spreading the word. Best wishes as you start seminary..

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  10. Paul Thomas

    On the whole, I like the concept. Equitable Compensation is a tricky thing anyways, since some conferences use the group to subsidize churches that are on life support, but refuse to close them.

    I like the idea of making equitable compensation a body that helps even the playing field in regards to salary distribution as opposed to a life-support mechanism for chronically struggling churches.

    The maximum/minimum cap might be the point that gets debated the most. Perhaps another solution would be to let large churches continue to pay pastors the higher salary, but just impose a contribution requirement for all churches paying their pastor more than $xx,xxx. This way, it would potentially drive the salary down a bit in those larger settings, but would still result in more money to be used for Equitable Compensation funds.

    Well done Holly. Thanks for bringing up the conversation!

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    • Thank you for your affirmation, Paul. You are right. The way our rules currently structure “equitable compensation” means that it is often used as “life support” for declining and struggling churches. I am hearing a LOUD voice from pastors in large churches who seem to resent supporting struggling churches with denominational funds that they believe might be better used for other missional purposes. This proposal “rethinks” and redefines what equitable compensation means. This is consistent with our denominational emphasis to “rethink church”.

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    • One additional thought, Paul. The proportional feature of this petition is an important aspect. As clergy we are in a covenant together. Keeping within a proportional compensation range will help to maintain humility and mutual accountability. It will allow any pastor to be appointed to any congregation and take money off the table in appointment making.

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  11. Salama Hassan

    Holly,I thank God for you.I want to believe people like you are on their way to transforming this church in all aspect.Most of my friends abandon the ministry and loose their sense of caling because of the fear of the issue you are addressing now,young clergy like me is always in fear of what will happen in the future even though i know and see the evidence of call to serve God in this capacity.
    Holly,I am not among the GC delegate but i promise to be an advocate of this good idea among the GC delegate.I work in Lagos as a liaison officer of the UMC in Nigeria and so all the delegate most come through me here,i will want to receive the copy of this petition on my mail box revhassansalamarevYAHOO.COM to enable me print easily.my prayers is with you.

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    • Thank you for your kind words and for sharing this petition with the Nigerian General Conference delegates. I have emailed you a copy. I especially appreciate your prayers. I join you in praying for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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  12. Pedro M. Torio Jr.

    It is also important for us to face the issue of equitable compensation from the standpoint of responsible Christian stewardship. In Ilocos South District, we established the ISD Church Workers’ Centralized Salary Trust Fund to put a place a system to help our small membership and very remote mountain churches who cannot give AC-mandated salary levels to their church workers. Now for its second year, we will start a ten-year program so that tithes of our church workers will go to this trust fund. Meanwhile, we have short-term and immediate solutions for the most needy church workers. We still have a long way to go. But the reflections and comments that I read so far had been very encouraging. I’m learning from you.

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    • It is so good to know that my petition is now being read in the Philippines. I am also glad to know that your district has established a method to help pastors who serve small congregations in remote areas. Not every United Methodist district does this, and we have too many pastors who receive no support. This petition should help many congregations around the globe. We will all SHARE the responsibility to support effective pastors where there is need. One of the advantages of my proposal is it’s Biblical basis in 1 Timothy 5:17-18—a New Testament guideline for workers in the church. Please share this petition with general conference delegates from the Philippines—especially those who will serve on the Financial Administration Committee. I would like them to be prepared to deal with this issue when it is discussed. If this proposal does not pass during this year’s general conference, perhaps this idea can be incorporated into the new global Book of Discipline that will be developed during the next four years.

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  13. Joel Q. Bengbeng

    Thanks for the proposal brother Holly, particularly the inclusion of the Central Conferences. It is only when we take this issue seriously that we can claim to be a truly global church. By the way, I also belong to the Ilocos South District (ISD) of the Northwest Philippine Annual Conference. We are very glad for the initiative of our DS in establishing the Trust Fund for Church Workers in the District.

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    • It sounds to me as though your trust fund is very much like our “equitable compensation fund”–a very similar concept. I would appreciate your help in sending my petition to General Conference delegates from the Philippines so they may prayerfully consider it before General Conference. (By the way, I am “sister” Holly.)

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  14. Wade

    Interesting idea Holly. I have taken a similar look at the discrepencey of “perks” among charges. I have been a local pastor for almost 7 years now and have seen vast differences in pastor’s expenses. I know of pastors with $5,000 expense accounts, churches paying parsonage utilities including internet (one even satellite), pastor’s portion of health insurance and churches paying annual conference expenses. On the other hand there are pastor’s paying the church’s only phone line (it is in the parsonage), some their own internet and some even their own office supplies. I recently did an informal online survey to get an idea church-pastor expenses. There is a rather broad range of how pastor expeses are handled. This can become an issue and burden when a pastor moves to a charge with less generous perks. This is especially true when pastors are at or near minimum salary and these smaller churches offer fewer perks. And these perks do not include some of the rather large gifts given to pastors by churches or church members.

    On one hand I can see a need to standardize how churches support pastoral expenses, but at the same time I can see that churches need some autonomy in their decisions. Not an easy call.

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    • Dear Wade,
      Of course there are many issues surrounding pastoral compensation. This petition does NOT attempt to solve all of them. But when pastors in Kenya serve effectively for NO compensation, pastors in Angola receive the equivalent of $40 a month, and a pastor in Florida receives $118,000 a year—something needs to be done. I served a church one time that decided to go ahead and continue paying minimum salary, but no parsonage utilities (in effect cutting my compesation by more than a thousand dollars). I certainly understand where you are coming from. But frankly the little dickering we do over such matters is often more of an irritating little power play. My petition seeks to bring some genuine justice into a long-term inequity.

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  15. Pingback: Fair pay, African pastors, and General Conference » The Methoblog

  16. Patricia Kimmons Bennett

    I served in The Salvation Army that uses this level compensation for the very reason of allowing pastors to be appointed according to need rather than salary. It can be complicated as there are always perks that make one appointment more “attractive” than another which seems impossible to do away with.
    On the plus side, this would allow more experienced pastors to use their expertise in struggling congregations without having to make significant sacrifices in salary and anytime we can ease the burden of the burgeoning church in Africa this is also a win.
    The concept has to have a way to equalize the burden which is what will be difficult in the UM system. In the Salvation Army it is handled by central payroll, money is sent in to an administrative office and paychecks are then sent out.
    Since we struggle to get Mission and Ministry funds paid from many churches one worries how this would work if our salaries were involved as well.
    I still believe this is a way to allow Rural and Urban churches to both thrive and be served by trained and Ordained clergy.

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    • This plan IS different than the Salvation Army plan and the plan of the British Methodist Church in several respects. In this plan the local congregation RETAINS the authority to pay the pastor whatever it chooses The annual conference sets what it feels is a REASONABLE salary range for clergy. If a charge pays less than the minimum recommended salary the consequence is that the pastor will be appointed to serve part-time, or a pastor with fewer clergy credentials will be appointed (a local pastor for example). If a charge votes to pay a pastor more than the conference recommended maximum, it will also be required to pay additional money to the equitable compensation fund.

      In time, I suspect that salaries for United Methodist clergy would stabilize at a fairly comfortable, reasonable level. Some charges will be able to provide more perks for clergy (nicer homes, more travel expense, etc.); but it WILL allow more experienced clergy to be assigned to communities that need their gifts and skills. Money will not be the key factor in appointment making that it is now.

      The local church will STILL be in control of pastoral salaries with this plan–which is a point in it’s favor, in my opinion.

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  17. Bruce Davis

    How are you going to “require” congregations to pay into this fund?

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    • It seems to me that bishops and district superintendents will need to decide to enforce it. If a congregation does not choose to pay into the equitable compensation fund, it seems to me that they might expect to receive a new pastor the next year who will be delighted to receive twice the minimum in compensation.

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  18. Glenn Cox

    I wish I were there to support your petition. the Redbird Missionary Conference in Kentucky already has a form of your equitable salary idea in place. Thank you for submitting the petition.

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  19. I’m truly not a biblical scholar, but I’m not certain that the 1st Timothy passage that you’re referencing necessarily equates to equitable compensation.

    Beyond that, I recall a conversation I overheard at a local outreach ministry one day. This particular Christian outreach has a thrift store that provides funds to pay for its day-to-day functioning. I overheard two older women talking, and one of them said, “I don’t shop at Goodwill anymore because I heard that their CEO makes over $100,000 a year!”

    Now, whether that is true or not I’m not sure, but the sentiment bothered me. Goodwill is a major corporation, and though I believe it is not-for-profit, the skills that it takes to run that are not dissimilar from that of running any major national or international corporation with many affiliates and thousands of employees. Suggesting that the CEO of that organization should not make much, much more than the person folding shirts all day long should not be seen as some sort of cosmic injustice. Supply and demand, right? Many people can fold shirts, not many people can lead an organization of that size and complexity effectively.

    I think it is similar with clergy compensation. I would support measures to ensure that folks in the Central Conferences get a living wage, of course, especially those that are not bi-vocational. But, at least in the US, it is rather silly to think that serving some of the largest churches in the UMC is similar to serving a three point charge in rural Appalachia, for instance. Yes, they all involve the basic tasks: preaching, teaching, visitations, funerals, administration. But the difference in scale is massive. I’m perfectly capable of peeling an apple, but I cannot remove a burst appendix. Similarly, I am reasonably skilled at leading a congregation of 80 or so. Would my skills be transferable to leading a congregation of 3000-5000? I’m not at all certain, and probably will never know.

    Given the difference in gifts and graces needed to succeed in the vastly different ministry contexts we have, I don’t think it is unreasonable to see a similarly massive difference in pay scale. If it is unjust that some people receive little to no pay for their hard work, surely it is unjust for people with the education, skills, and charisma to be CEOs and COOs in corporate life to make what an entry-level worker or middle manager would make. If clergy who are able wish to live at a simpler level and give up much of their income, I would rather see that done voluntarily by fiat.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking proposal.

    Like

    • In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Paul was almost complaining that he did not receive any compensation for his work, and he set out a principle for the church that has been virtually ignored, and is being ignored today. Pastors who labor for the church should not be burdened with undue worry about how to feed themselves and their families. In the Roman Catholic tradition (which I believe is a fairly sustainable model for the church) priests lead very large congregations and actually take vows of poverty. Since United Methodist clergy are usually married, I do not believe a vow of poverty is realistic, but living modestly is a virtue worth upholding. The commander of the Salvation Army, who manages a 2 billion dollar organization, receives a $13,000 salary plus housing. If we claim to be followers of Jesus and preachers of Christ’s kingdom, if we honestly want to be in ministry with the poor, I think we are currently on the wrong track.

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  20. According to snopes, the current head of the Salvation Army makes well in excess of $100k annually. Other charity CEO salaries are listed in this article below.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/charities.asp

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  21. Laurie

    Thank you for your thoughtful article and responses that follow here. I do not totally concur with your thesis, however. As a UM pastor serving in the Baltimore-Washington region where the cost of living is very high, my family and I would struggle to support our expenses with minimum salary. Even with a salary that has been above minimum by a chunk it has been challenging at times to both care for our family and plan for the future. That is not to say that I don’t believe in sacrifice and a modest lifestyle. I am driving a car that is 14 years old and I have on many occasions chosen not to take my total reimbursement account to help the church. I did not enter ministry to get rich but I also didn’t take a vow of poverty (which btw, neither did the average RC priest….there are special orders within the RC that do, but most do not and their salaries and benefits are ever decreasing with some of them now unable to provide for themselves in retirement….a whole other conversation). I think that it is unjust to keep asking pastors to bear so much of the financial ‘guilt’ as it were by cutting salaries and benefits while the average person in the pew gives less than 2%. Our financial problem is not that pastors are paid too much, it is that the resources that God has given are not freely making their way into the offering plates.

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    • I understand your struggle. I would like EVERY United Methodist pastor to receive enough compensation to care for his or her family adequately. If we follow John Wesley’s example, however, we are to live frugally and trust that God will provide for our needs as we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Even though many pastors in the United States are struggling right now, other pastors are indeed wealthy—and that wealth bothers me. I believe it is wrong for a congregation in a wealthy community to “buy” a pastor when other effective, faithful pastors are living on food stamps (yes, I have heard of that!). A pastor who is serving in an extremely poor setting such as the DRCongo, or Kenya often receives NO salary. There is something amiss with this inequity in a connectional system.

      By the way, my petition did not meet with success at General Conference. I was able to be present in Tampa, and I was invited to speak in the subcommittee that dealt with the proposal. It received some support, but was defeated. Following the defeat, delegates from central conferences gathered 20 signatures to request that it be discussed on the plenary floor despite it’s defeat in the committee. However, after submitting the request, they changed their mind and withdrew the request. I am told that delegates from Nigeria will take my proposal, and over the next four years they will rewrite it so that something similar will be submitted at the 2016 General Conference. I am content with their plan. Since more than 50% of delegates will be from central conferences at the next General Conference, it will have a much better chance to pass.

      Writing this petition was my response to a prompting of the Holy Spirit. I simply acted in obedience. My role is done, and I am at peace with it.

      Like

  22. Pingback: On clergy compensation – a prophetic voice, or a young idealist? – My interview with Wesley Sanders | Teddy Ray

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