50 Methodist bishops agree to cut their pay

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One of the nation’s largest Christian denominations is addressing the nation’s financial crisis with what it hopes will be a spiritual teaching moment as well as a cost-saver.

Fifty United Methodist Church bishops in the United States will roll back their salaries by 4% next year in what Bishop Gregory Palmer of Springfield, Ill., president of the Council of Bishops, says is a gesture of solidarity with others hurt by the global economic downturn.

The salary cut is one of the strongest statements taken yet by a faith group as U.S. churches respond to a recession that has left growing numbers of people jobless and hungry. Other denominations have eliminated jobs, frozen salaries or canceled mission trips.

United Methodist leaders say the move, approved in May, is an acknowledgment that churches are hurting too and there’s less money to go around. But some Methodists said the bishops’ action would have been more effective — and might have saved some church jobs — if it had come earlier.

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The article goes on to list the salary of a bishop and the amount that they will be forfeiting:

The bishops’ salaries will fall back about $4,700 annually to their 2008 level, $120,942, on Jan. 1 from $125,658 currently. The annual pay, based on a formula, is set by the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, which voted in May to accept the bishops’ recommendation. The money comes out of denomination coffers.

Granted, I don’t know the scope or responsibilities of a Methodist bishop or the cost of living in their area, but off hand, that sure does seem to be a large amount of money for someone working in the ministry.

Pastor salaries are a sticking point for me.  Since it’s a calling, they pretty much know what they are getting into when it comes to sacrifice of all means, and I always thought that the calling should come with some sort of vow to financial humbleness; and I’m sure it does for some.  I understand the stress, dedication, the study, the amount of time, and other sacrifices  involved, but it almost seems like tithes aren’t being properly allocated to help those in need.  This isn’t a stab at the Methodist church, but the church in general.  To me, it’s almost as if people will turn first to the government for help, food stamps and what have you, because the church has their funds allocated to paying a high salary for a pastor.  And I bet in some cases, the pastor of church makes more than three quarters of his or her congregation.  And perception is a big deal.  There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then, but a pastor driving a luxery car to church can send an unintended message.  I don’t know what a proper salary should be, but off hand, anything over a $100,000 seems high.

Sorry for the rant, and I know several pastors read this blog, so this isn’t an attack on them.  If anything, I hope they can take this as one church goer’s perception of things.

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