The idea of salary reform within the United Methodist Church has been banging around in my head for a while. I am going to take a couple of posts to work through some of it and I would love to know if you agree with my take on it and if anything differs in your conference. I will be referring, in these posts, to how things work here in my conference, the Western North Carolina Conference.
Our current salary structure is that the local church dictates the pastor’s salary. They decide at what level they are willing to pay. That level then dictates what pastor can be sent to their church. Pre-2004, the perception was when a clergy person moved it usually was an increase in salary. Post-2004 it seems different and especially post-2008 and the financial difficulties being felt everywhere. Now lateral moves or decrease in salaries seem to be more of the norm. The Cabinet (Bishop and District Superintendents who make the appointments) do not necessarily have a say on the salary level a church picks. They can help dictate the final salary during a move year but they will never tell a church that can afford a $40,000 appointment to pump it up to $60,000.
The way the current salary structure currently stands it gives off a couple of perceptions.
- The worth of the pastor is dictated by the amount of salary received. The best pastors in the conference get paid the most.
- Churches that want the best pastors need to increase their salary to a level that will allow them to tap into that type of talent.
- Highly paid clergy have the skill set needed to run the churches that pay the high salaries.
- The Appointment process seems to be broken down this way, 65% salary, 25% talent and gifts, 10% location.
Have I missed anything or was I over/under dramatic with one of these points? These are the perceptions that our salary structure create. It is the viewpoint of both the churches and the clergy. I am pretty sure this is how it is done in most of the UMC system in the US.
I have experienced the British Methodist System and it has some stark differences. I will be talking about that system in my next post.