Last month Bishop Will Willimon had some interesting words on Equitable Compensation in his podcast called, A Word about Equitable Compensation. In the podcast he points to equitable compensation, or help from conference funds to pay a pastor minimal salary, as the root of some of our issues as a United Methodist denomination.
Some of his points are…
- It breeds laziness, in some ministers, in some churches, and in some cabinets who use it as a tool not to make hard decisions about pastors and churches.
- Millions of dollars are being spent by conferences to prop up churches that don’t need to be propped up.
- It only holds the bar up to the minimal salary or in other words, it allows churches to do as little as possible, the bare minimum. (he states pastors should get paid more than they do and I would be curious what he thinks the pay scale should be but he doesn’t get into that)
- Churches that cannot afford to pay the salary and benefits of an ordained elder should be put on charges/circuits
There are many issues within the structure of our denomination and I agree with Willimon that this is one. I know of churches within my own conference that accept equitable compensation to pay a minimal salary for their pastor but then they also have two other people staff. Priorities seem unclear here.
Willimon also mentions a couple of things that makes it seem like he would be in favor of dropping the guaranteed appointment and making the cabinets start to make hard decisions and have tough conversations with clergy and churches. (more thoughts at another time)
Is equitable compensation a crutch for congregations that should just be put on a charge? Is equitable compensation telling pastors not to try too hard because there is only so far you can fall? Your thoughts?
If you would like to subscribe to Bishop Willimon’s podcast you can do so by going here.
TeacherLady asked a good question about my previous post. Who is the “North American God”? I used that phrase from Bishop Will Willimon’s podcast entitled “Preaching Today like the Prophets of Yesterday.” Here is the actual quote from Willimon,
“I am worried about this turn in contemporary homiletics, be it liberal or conservative, toward the listener. I am worried about a contemporary, North American, narcissistic, sexually driven,…I could go on…person being the test for what Christians should utter in worship of this God. Because the test for this is my God not my own contemporary North American limitations.”
In it Bishop Willimon goes on to explain that we as preachers need to be true to the text not the world around us. The world around us will try and pull us in certain directions and frame the way we are to be followers of Christ. I think this is why we have the prosperity gospel movement that tells us that if we worship Jesus we will have wealth, health, and a huge house. In our society we would love it if God was simply an ATM (The Almighty Teller Machine). Another example would be hoard of sermons that are being preached about Social Justice. I would probably say that they are not being preached because of God’s Word stirring preachers to talk about social issues and the church’s response to them, but because Glenn Beck made headlines.
We, as North American Christians, have to peel back our social coats and listen hard to the Word of God because the Word of God is for the world, not just the part we live in. That can be hard when we live in the Rome of our time. We think we are the end all be all and that if it ain’t American, it ain’t right. We have to realize that Jesus was not buried with an American Flag over his coffin. Many times American ideals and Christian theology are used interchangeably. This is done from our lips during conversations with others and from behind the pulpit as well.
To paint a word picture of who the “North American God” it would be one word, Superman. A stranger from another planet who fights for truth, justice and the American way. This video explains it all…(and brings back memories!)
What Willimon stirred in me was the fact that it is our job as preachers to look past our North American way of life and into the Word of God, a global God, a “I built the whole earth, not just your part” God. To do so means preaching from the perspective of the scripture, not the listener. Or else we might just end up transforming a Jesus into a mild mannered Superman.