The Living Church

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The Living ChurchJuly 7, 1996Clergy Salaries by James L. Lowery, Jr.213(1) p. 8-9

Clergy Salaries
How Episcopal Church stipends compare to those in the Church of England
by James L. Lowery, Jr.

Some Episcopal clergy are more Anglophile than others. I have always considered myself fairly middle-of-the-road in this respect. Be that as it may, upon retirement I followed the advice of a trusted classmate and subscribed to the international airmail edition of the Church Times for amusement and edification. Issue after issue reminded me how wonderful and weird are the ways of the "Brits." One also sees that the extremes in the Church of England are far more so than in our Episcopal Church.

An article in the Feb. 9 issue caught my eye. Headlined "Clergy Worthy of Equal Hire," it reported that the Archdeacon of West Cumberland was slated to move in the February sitting of General Synod that bishops be paid the same stipends as parish priests. Now here, thought I, was an example of true English eccentricity. But what followed revealed an attitude which made me feel uneasy about our American ways. The underlying issue treated was the pay-gap between the top and bottom. The practice over there showed a tendency toward real equalitarianism. I had not expected to find this in England. The Bishop of Guildford may have been slated to argue against the archdeacon that "the diminution of differentials had gone quite far enough," but the differential was far less than in our American land of equality and democracy. My interest aroused, I set to work gathering a relevant selection from the data available to a constant clergy-watcher. I have arbitrarily chosen figures mostly from the dioceses of Connecticut, Massachusetts and London. These jurisdictions seem similar: urban-oriented and high cost of living areas.

In England, stipends are presently paid mostly by the Church Commissioners and the rest by the diocese. In process is a change to a situation after the turn of the century where the diocese will pay almost the whole stipend and the commissioners mostly the pensions and the housing. The dioceses set the specific amounts of each grade, but there is a variance of only 3-4 percent among the jurisdictions. Parishes pay a quota to the diocese, which then pays the clergy from a central pool. In the U.S., stipends are set individually by what is politely called the law of supply and demand and generally paid by the employing church with each diocese setting minimums enforceable only for rectors at the time of their calling and remaining in force for mission clergy and diocesan staffers. There is wide variation here, while in England the pay is the same for all in the same diocese in the same grade.

In England, there are approximately 10 grades for compensation with the listed 1995 stipends, translated into dollars @ $1.52 = 1£: There are approximately the same number of clergy alive and clergy serving parishes in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury receives 31/2 times the stipend of the lowliest curate. And the normal ordinary receives twice the salary of the lowest neophyte. The diocesan's stipend is 13/4 times that of the normal incumbent. It is the spread between rector/vicar and bishop that the person quoted in the Church Times article says is "too great a differential."

As for the differential, in the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop received a $160,000 stipend in 1995. The Bishop of Massachusetts, in 1996, earns $110,000. The Bishop of Connecticut, gets $50,000. The English diocese similar in demography, high cost of living, and numbers, London, has a prince-bishop stipended at $57,660.

In Connecticut, a young cleric with zero prior years of service starts at $25,000. The diocesan receives twice that, the disparity between the two being exactly the same as in the run of English dioceses. In Massachusetts, however, the disparity between the median salary of assistants ($17,500), and their ordinary is that the bishop's stipend is 6.3 times that of the curate. And the greater disparity in America continues when we compare the difference between curates and incumbents in England (6 percent now, down from 21 percent in 1977) and the situation in Massachusetts. The cardinal rector (paid more than the bishop) of Trinity Church, Boston, has a base stipend of $130,000. At present rates, this rector receives 7.43 times the median salary of the assistants and curates. And on the national scene, the Presiding Bishop receives 9.7 times the salary of new curates. To use more normal examples, a goodly number of experienced rectors in Massachusetts have stipends in the $40,000-$45,000 range while their assistants make $15,000-$20,000. Comparatively, the Church Times writer Betty Saunders states the differential is 6 percent in the Church of England.

There is another area to explore - total remuneration, or, in the vernacular, the "full package." Many American jurisdictions consider "basic compensation" to be stipend plus housing plus utilities. Then come the benefits: pension/disability, health coverage, car and travel, social security payment and continuing education. Optional perks often added are entertainment allowance, babysitting allowance, business or country club membership and maybe even the parish cottage at the lake! The total mounts. The young parish rector where I live part of the year receives a stipend of $34,000, but the total package adds up to more than $70,000. My working figure for average incumbents in the U.S. is 2.1 times stipend. As we move up the scale, the multiplier for the total package is higher. The canon to the ordinary in Connecticut has a stipend of $37,600, and his total package is 23/4 times this ($102,200). My educated suspicion is that the majority of the higher ranking clergy have a full package of roughly three times stipend and in some cases more. This means canon to the ordinary, archdeacon and up, who have big travel allowances, and bishops, many of whom have expensive housing.

One British source reminds me that there is little or no health cost in England because of the governmental coverage used by almost everybody. Not counting this area, therefore, he estimates the total package for parish clergy is still about twice the salary payment. I therefore infer a similar relationship between the Brits and ourselves on the relation between stipend and total package.

What all the above reveals in this selective comparison of urban high-cost dioceses in Olde Englande and New England is a similar acceptance of a pay differential between those with less responsibility and those with more (with the exception that in England all incumbents of all sizes of parish receive approximately the same). Similar also in the two churches is the total compensation package being roughly twice the amount of the stipend for the lesser clergy and three times stipend for greater luminaries.

Then come the differences. First, the divergencies/disparities between the highest pay and the lowest are much larger in the U.S. (9.7 times) compared with the British archbishops receiving stipends only 31/2 times that of curates. Second, the gap between incumbents, and their assistants in the U.S. shows the higher getting five to seven times the pay of the lower while in England the differential is only 6 percent. Third, within the same grade with the run of parish incumbents there is substantial equality of stipend in England but a great chasm between the $17,700 paid to the rector of Holliston in Massachusetts in 1995 and the $130,000 stipend for the rector of Trinity, Boston (7.3 times as much). In Connecticut, there is a smaller gap between the salary of a young rector and the stipend paid a typical Connecticut cardinal rector (the latter receiving 3.2 times as much) in the last year salaries were printed in the convention journal there.

My conclusion: Life in the Church of England, despite my expectations, offers fairly equal pay for all clergy doing the same thing at the same level no matter what the responsibilities and the situation socially. There is more financial equality and less disparity. In Connecticut, which for a number of years was best in the country on minimum and median pay, there are goodly disparities, but in Massachusetts both the disparities are huge. Ditto the national gap between the highest and the lowest.

I append a final tidbit on the disparity between the high and the low in the secular world culled from Anthony Lewis on the op-ed page of the New York Times of March 8, 1996. It may put things in perspective. "The Chief Executive Officers of some major American corporations have gone from pay 35 times the wage of their organizations' average worker 20 years ago to compensation that is today 187 times that of the average worker." q

The Rev. James L. Lowery, Jr. is a retired church agency director and a priest of the Diocese of Massachusetts. He resides in Old Lyme, Conn.

Episcopal Church Clergy Stipends Connecticut $50,167 New Jersey 48,246 Delaware 47,943 Hawaii 47,121 New York 46,037 California 40,778 South Dakota 34,169 Eastern Oregon 32,760 Eau Claire 32,110 Navajoland 29,487 National Median $42,531Church of England Stipends Archbishops (average of the two) US $67,500 Prince - bishops (London, Bath & Wells, Durham) 67,660 Diocesan Bishops (Ordinaries) 37,425 Suffragans, deans and provosts 30,315 Archdeacons 30,190 Residentiary (paid) canons 24,825 Vicars and rectors (parish incumbents) 20,175 Curates (beginners in training or internship usual first post after ordination) 19,035