Pay Equity for AME Bishops : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

I was quite surprised to learn while reading another related thread that the pay for Bishops has been adjusted to $55,000.00 per annum. As a professional economist for over 15 years I find this figure quite intriguing. This is an embarrisingly low pay scale. Bishops should be looked upon as CEOs of their corporation [read: District] and paid according to their duties and responsibilities. I would recommend that each Bishop be paid a minimum of $250,000.00 with contract incentives which could raise this amount to $400K or $500K contingent on church growth, creation of social outreach programs and technology deployment. If after a two-year review there is an absence of spiritual productivity, compensation would be adjusted downward as a necessary cost saving. Furthermore, my proposed pay plan would eliminate the periodic taxing of local churches to supplement the Bishop's salary with these ubiquitous "love offerings". Individuals should be paid commensurate with labor market productivity and core competencies. I know of no CEO paid $55,000.00. Do you?? Questions, comments, criticisms???

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2000


I actually mentioned this a few months back and got some emails about this same issue saying that the money is a sacrifice of going into the ministry and that God will provide greater blessings than money. I do agree that God will provide greater blessings than money, but the servant of God needs money to eat with and support their family as well. Pastor's and Presiding Elders and Bishops need salaries that allow them to focus fully on the immense jobs that they have. They are supposed to be supported by the congregations so that they can administer the church and serve the church fully. I still believe that the people of God should not expect the clergy to suffer low pay standards, when they will not suffer them themselves. Actually the last time I looked the low end pay for CEO was in the mid 100k range. The salary structure is quite unrealistic. Ministers have families to support and the cost of living is going up. The salary structure that you mentioned is not unrealistic, nor is it an over abundance of pay for today's cost of living and salary structures. I have seen the salaries of some of our pastors and seen the salaries of pastors from other denominations and for the same size church the desparity is very large. I find that alot of good pastors are forced to work secular jobs as well as pastor and therefore the pastor has a rough time giving his best effort and the church tends to see his ministry as well as the particular church as a part time thing.

We should make every effort to see that our clergy can devote as much time as possible to improving and growing the churches they serve. If someone wants to give thier lives to the Lord and answer his call to preach the gospel, then the church should make sure that they are taken care of well enough that nothing hinders their primary work.

I totally agree with you that if the Clergy was paid realistically, then the under the table payments and required gifts would not be necessary and the clergy would be less tempted and compromised by monetary issues.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2000

Bill, Michael, I certainly agree with your sentiment that $55K is woefully inadequate. As I have mentioned in other threads, $55K is entry-level pay in many markets for a wide array of jobs.

The spiritual benefits of church leadership have no dollar value. We all toil for the kingdom in different ways, and I am trusting God for the heavenly rewards that He assigns as a result of the manifest works we produced from the gifts He originally gave. This thread is not dealing with that aspect.

The fact of the matter is we cannot be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Episcopacy is very much an administrative function. And administratoin is as much emotionally taxing as it is time consuming. The church at large sees the public side of the episcopacy, where they preside in "pomp and splendor" over the very public activities of ministry. It does not see the late nights that bishops must put in dealing with their elders, answering distress calls from pulpit and laity alike, seeking to balance solutions that are fair to needy congregations and growing ministers both. The episcopacy is called upon to make tremendous, life-changing decisions, a work that truly requires and demands "Godly Judgement". To believe that a person should not be remunerated for such activities is to be selfish, itght-fisted, disengenuous, hypocritical, and a number of other things that I prefer not to get spun up about.

I agree with Bill that any of us in secular positions would want to be paid for the tasks we perform. Yes, ministry in general and Episcopacy in particular have sp[iritual rewards and benefits, but those don't put food in the belly, clothes on the back, or a roof over the head (unless the district already has an episcopal residence :-)).

At $55K, we are asking many of our candidates to take a pay cut from the pastorates that they left. In most cases, they demonstrated admistrative and spiritual excellence in these charges, and the local assemblies rewarded them materially as well as spiritually. If we insist on such inadequate pay, we promulgate the inefficiencies cited above.

Correcting the pay scale alone, though, will not correct the inefficiencies. Some of our bishops will still be in high demand beyond their episcopal duties because of their gifts. As you know, Bill, Bishop Bryant is a regular contributor to the Hampton preaching conference in June, a place where he is appreciated and sought after by his peers across the church, not just African Methodism. Our pay scale should not be attached to a proviso that limits or eliminates such opportunties for the bench - to do so would be a disservice to the church at large.

Nevertheless, I believe it is incumbent on us to do the right thing for our leadership at all levels. There are so many factors involved. Pay is one. Education is another. Prayer and spiritual development (the cultivation of one's anointing and gifts), in my mind, are the most important. Through it all, let us not forget that we are the church.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2000

I agree with all of you. It is often hard to consider the amount of work that a Bishop does. Even when we think of Pastoring we do not consider that they must live and eat. Their famalies also need providing for. In the case of a Bishop fortunately they have a home that is provided by the district. In the case of the First District we have resources and charges that can make major contributions to the life of a Bishop. We should provide for the Pastors so that they can focus upon the Preaching, Teaching, and Reaching of the ministry.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2000

AMEN!! My father is a bishop--William Phillips DeVeaux-- and I agree there is no way to pay the bishops for all the hard work they do-- these men (and now women-yeah!!) have reached the top of their profession--they have worked extremely hard and sacrificed --I really think they should be compensated accordingly--when I heard the salary I was very surprised--there are 22 year old "kids" coming out of college in the computer field making $55,000 and above in entry level positions!!

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2000

I agree that Bishop's official salaries are embarrasingly low. But that problem can not be fixed until we answer a more fundamental question of what has become of the widows mite! There is so much money that is unofficial and remains so in a scandal of silence that until it is fully disclosed and put on the table and overall financial disclosure and accountability is made a priority, other things will not be fixed. What happened to the widows mite?! She did better than legislated, guilt ridden tithing; she gave all that she had,out of her heart, out of her knowing that God has been good! She gives out of her fixed income, social security check. She gives when she doesn't have it to give. She was not a delegate nor was she near a microphone. Having scraped and saved to get to the General Conference, she paid another $50.00 to sit way in the back to be an "observer" of her church in action. Every leader at every level in the church has a fiduciary obligation to her and owes her an explanation. No it's not much that she gives, but it is all she has. We will never get things right for our leaders until our leaders make it right for her and account for that widows mite!!

-- Anonymous, July 27, 2000

I think the entire budget of the A.M.E. Church is ludicrous, for the lack of a better term. If we, in fact, total 2.5 million persons, using the old system of dollar money and the collection of $5 per person per year would already exceed the present budget. If this were increased to $50 per person per year or approximately 96 cents per week--less than the price of a 20 ounce Coke--it would total $125,000,000 per year or a half billion dollars in a quadrennial. With proper investment of this amount we could operate simply on the interest gained. I am in no way an accountant, economist, or financial planner but this seems so obvious and simple that I can't understand why it's never been discussed. This would of course necessitate an accurate count of members who attend and support our churches on a regular basis, since a congregation which reports 10,000 members would have a budget of a half million dollars. This alone might frighten some of us but if considered on a one-to-one basis it should not prove so threatening after all. So why do we persist on collecting spending change? Bishops' salaries often equal less than a third of that paid to their leading pastors. Yet, they are often called upon to be the administrator/CEO of 500 pastors, as is the case in my Episcopal District. I think it is seriously time for us to look at this in light of all the wonderful things we do as a worldwide Connectional Church and make a change.

-- Anonymous, July 28, 2000

The pay of our Bishops is low compared to other churches and professions. We really should conduct a churchwide census. Establish what our membership is and redraw district. Next we should ask ourselves if we can afford twenty Bishops. I think consolidation is the answer.

-- Anonymous, July 29, 2000

In response to Doris Steversons' point about asking ourselves can we afford 20 bishops. I note that throughout this thread and others on this (great) web site there is almost unanimity in using a CEO's pay as a model for that of our Bishops. Now I'd be the last to argue against Bishops being paid more than what they currently are paid, but can anyone list for me any Company that has 20 CEOs?? Correct. They do not exist--economically and structurally they couldn't exist. Next question: can anyone name for me any publicly traded Company which do not disclose publicly all of the compensation that the CEO made in what's called a 10K??. Correct again. They do not exist either. Bishops' salaries should be increased, but only within the context of a complete transformation of accounting for all of the money that the faithful give in offerings, towards programs, at the General Conference, in love offerings, special gifts, etc. We leave far too much under the cloak of secrecy.

-- Anonymous, July 29, 2000

Why restrict the question to the slary of bishops? It should begin with the pastor's salary. No raise should have been given to the bishops until ALL AME pastors were receiving at least the minimum salary required by the discipline. The bishops salary should be based on the salary of the pastors in his/her district. Raise the salary of the direct servants (pastors) and then raise the salary of the bishop the same percentage as the pastors.

-- Anonymous, July 31, 2000

The playing field is not levelled in the AME Church. More so with the mighty dollar! The salary stipulated is the basic without benefits such as housing, transport, telephones, etc. and we have bishops as CEO's, General Officers as CEO's - a whole duplication! You talk about increasing the minimum payment for ministers (in the USA, of course!). The AME Book of Discipline and Doctrine is only partially applied in the AME Connection. Overwhelming (90% plus) AME ministers (itinerant elders in fulltime positions) in Africa do not get the minimum salary, do not get housing, no basics no incentives! We labour and toil for 12 months under very harsh conditions, and at the close of the conference the bishop calls only the fulltime pastors behind close doors to give each one $10.00, making it categorically clear it is the best he can do from his own personal funds! Beggars can't choose, for we really do not know 100% whether the bishop has travelled throughout the US preaching and raising funds for him/herself (and is now partly sharing that!) or whether the bishop got a grant from the one or other AME Departments (Minimum Department / Overseas Development). Take the St. James AME Church in Mariental, Namibia (15th Episcopal District) for instance. A rural setting in comparison with the US, with more than 300 members, comprised of 75% senior citizens (on state grants of $15.00 per month) withelderly, 25% under or unemployed ($50.00 - $150.00 per month in earnings) or school children. Under these conditions you accept the call to preach, you do what any other ministers elsewhere on the universe is doing, without proper renumeneration from year to year. That is why I say the playing field is different. Those who advocate for higher salaries for bishops are requested to search their souls. The AME connection can do better. Let us not try to re-invent the wheel. There are provisions for Operation Partnership Projects and Programs in the Book of Discipline and Doctrine. Help me to connect your local church in the US with a rural local church in Africa. Open challenge to all fulltime AME ministers to invite a partnership with a minister in Africa. Let us rebuild this Zion from the bottom, and let us begin by revisiting the compensation of AME ministers on local levels.

-- Anonymous, July 31, 2000

As the originator of this thread allow me to thank everyone who has contributed critical insight into this matter about pay equity for Bishops. When I advanced the concept of "Bishops as CEOs" I used this metaphor to describe their duties within their particular District. Bro. Byrd's critique of my model seeks to extend the metaphor for the AME Church in general where clearly 20 Bishops are not needed as CEO. He is correct in implying that the metaphor would clearly be redundant yet my intent is to simply advance the argument that Bishops function within autonomous regions, aka Districts which I believe warrant CEO-like compensation. The comments by Revs. Hanse & Paris seek to make the strong case for salary correction at the local level. While that was not my original intent their commentary is indeed persuasive in showing that pay disparities must be eliminated inorder to retain talented and committed clergy personnel. I gladly welcome their recommendation and would be more than happy to volunteer my technical expertise in labor economics to remedy this serious problem. Finally the thoughts provided by J. Payne are greatly appreciated in helping me see the "big picture" concerning this topic. I would hope that programmatic changes being considered would finally result in all clergy being compensated according to discernable productivity and committment to the Gospel.

-- Anonymous, July 31, 2000

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