Bishops to get a 3 percent raise in 2015

Churchgoers' offering accumulates to support the work of bishops and general agencies, among other global church efforts. Photo illustration by Joey Butler and Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications
Churchgoers' offering accumulates to support the work of bishops and general agencies, among other global church efforts. Photo illustration by Joey Butler and Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note bishops do not receive housing allowances directly. Conferences receive funds to support bishops' residences. 

Most United Methodist bishops will see a 3 percent salary boost next year, a higher raise than they’ve seen in five years.

“To put that in context, over the last several years, that (raise) has been in the range of 2 percent,” Charlie Moore told the board of the denomination’s finance agency, the General Council of Finance and Administration. Moore, a member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, chairs the board’s committee on general agency and episcopal matters.

During the global financial crisis, U.S. bishops voted to forego a raise altogether in 2010 and roll back their pay to 2008 levels.

The General Council of Finance and Administration board on Friday, Nov. 21, approved the following salaries for 2015:

  • $145,665 for U.S. bishops
  • $71,565 for most bishops in Africa and the Philippines; two African bishops face reduced pay because of auditing issues.

Based on the recommendations of episcopacy committees in Europe, the GCFA board also approved an aggregate 3.7 percent raise in U.S. dollars for bishops in Europe and Eurasia. In 2015, the pay for these bishops will range from $64,688 to $127,960.

Different costs of living accounts for much of the variation, said Dana Joki, GCFA’s episcopal services manager. In Europe, some bishops’ pay is capped at a certain amount based on pastors’ salaries or other local rules.

Conferences receive funds to support episcopal residences, but those amounts will be unchanged next year. Significant variation exists in what conferences receive for bishop housing, so the finance agency staff plans to do further study before recommending any changes.

GCFA approved the raises after commissioning a bishops’ compensation study earlier this year.

That study found U.S. bishops’ compensation was on average 4 percent lower than that of large church senior pastors. The study also recommended GCFA do further analysis of compensation in the central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — where salaries and living expenses vary dramatically.

GCFA staff also looked at market conditions and private industry trends. In a sign that U.S. economic conditions could be improving, Rick King, GCFA’s chief financial officer, said a number of business analysts are forecasting an average of 3 percent pay hikes in the U.S. secular work force in 2015. They include Mercer, Hay Group and Bloomberg.

United Methodist general agencies also have budgeted for 3 percent raises next year.

“We’re trying to be equitable in bishops’ pay,” said Valarie Willis, chair of the GCFA board’s Committee on Personnel, Policies and Practices. She is a lay member of the West Ohio Annual (regional) Conference and a leadership development consultant.

It’s still too soon to know what the average 2015 pay raises are for U.S. clergy, said Dale Jones, who oversees church relations for the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

Each year, the pension board publicizes a denominational average compensation to help calculate clergy retirement benefits. The number averages the salary and housing of full-time U.S. clergy in the pension board’s clergy benefit plans. By necessity of the budgeting process, the average is on a two-year lag, Jones said.

So, for example, the 2015 denominational average compensation is actually based on compensation in 2013, which averaged a 1.6 percent increase from 2012. Jones noted some churches are still finalizing staff pay for next year.

When the pension board makes long-term projections for pension benefits, the agency usually uses 3 percent compensation increases, which is in line with increases averaged over the last 15 to 20 years. But since the 2008 market crash, raises have been lower.

The Rev. Elijah Stansell, a GCFA board member and treasure of the Texas Conference, noted many areas of the United States are still recovering economically. But he supports the bishops’ pay increases.

“I think it’s an incentive, a way to encourage them to continue to be faithful to what they are assigned to do,” he said.

In other actions:

  • The GCFA board approved a total spending plan of about $226.7 million in 2015 for the work of nine general agencies and the Connectional Table. These church entities receive support from United Methodist giving. The Connectional Table, which coordinates the denomination’s ministry and resources, also approved the total spending plans earlier this month. Agency budgets also must receive approval by individual agency boards.
  • The GCFA board approved a spending plan of about $10.3 million for the work of the finance agency.

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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