Contribution - Departing Bishop : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

Several weeks ago our local church was told to pay $490 to the conference toward a gift for the departing Bishop. (Estimate of gift total from First Episcopal District is $200,000.)

Our church is hesitant to participate because it seems to be a mandatory assessment and we have no way of asking questions about the honorarium: Who generated this request for funds? Will the incoming Bishop live in the parsonage occupied by the current Bishop? Will the members of the First Episcopal District have to purchase a new parsonage for the new Bishop? Will the old parsonage be repaired or sold? Is this collection of funds the beginning of a new precedent for departing Bishops?

-- Anonymous, February 11, 2000


I have read this question for several days now, and have delayed answering in hope of receiving "Godly Judgement." The question really embraces several different issues. Some I shall have to forgo, others I shall humbly attempt to address.

Mandatory Assessment - This is one of the most volatile issues the church faces today. As I write this we stand on the precipice of General Conference, usually a multi-million dollar expenditure. We are faced with legal issues around the connection, some of which may tap or strap connectional resources. We struggle with the continued salary structure question of our "upper management", the council of bishops. At one point in the last 24 years, it was legislated that a bishop may only receive his/her salary, and no honoraria (or was that proposed legislation? After 6 quadrennia it sometimes blends together). The fact of the matter remains that our bishops still are not paid commensurate to their task. Consider that in most of the stateside districts a bishop is supervising anywhere from 300-400 churches. This means have a personnel understanding of the needs of 300-400 different organizations, and knowing enough about the pool of personnel to supervise them, to make decisions that are beneficial to both the personnel and the local assembly. This requires "godly judgment", and also management skill. In the general work force, such skill would be worth a lot more than we're paying in terms of salary.

Related to this is the notion of bonus, reward, and appreciation of a "job well done". Should our bishops, simply because they ARE bishops, be excluded from such positive reinforcement and appreciation?

Episcopal Residences - Parsonages appear to me to be a holdover from a very different era of ministry. By the time most of our bishops are elected, they have purchased properties of their own. The only problem is such properties are usually outside their assigned jurisdiction. Thus, the episcopal residence's prime purpose is to give the bishop a comfortable place to entertain guests of the district, and a place to live within the district to provide more direct personal access to the charges and personnel of the district. To this end, the bishop should occupy such a residence. Nevertheless, how many of us would choose to occupy some of the residences we make available to our bishops? If the residence is in disrepair, I should think the district has the responsibility to maintain it. If the residence is out of date,I should think a new one should be considered. Modern considerations place additional needs on an episcopal residence, such as telephone and e-mail connectivity.

Honoraria Precedence - Giving a bishop an honorarium, or a parting gift, or simply an "expression of love" is nothing new. Over the years there have been "receptions" for Bishops at Annual Conferences, at which time the people have the opportunity to show their love in both poetic and tangible ways.

There are many things to be considered in the future of our Zion, especially when it comes to financial stewardship and remuneration. In our haste to get within the box of fiscal responsibility, let us not throw out the babies of generosity and appreciation with the bath water of corruption and fiscal abuse.

-- Anonymous, May 03, 2000

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