Finance board votes on bishop, agency pay

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Key points:

  • As it does annually, the board of The United Methodist Church’s finance agency voted on bishops’ pay for the coming year.
  • The General Council on Finance and Administration board also adjusted the salary scale for agency employees.
  • Amid rising disaffiliations, giving from the U.S. was slightly up compared to this time last year.

The board of The United Methodist Church’s finance agency approved adjustments in bishops’ pay and the salary scale of all United Methodist general agency staff. The changes take effect next year.

At its online meeting Aug. 18, the board of the General Council on Finance and Administration also received an update on church giving so far this year.

Apportionments — shares of church giving — fund the work of both bishops and general agency employees, including the staff of United Methodist News. Denomination-wide ministries receive apportionments from annual conferences, regional church bodies that in turn receive apportionments from local churches. These compensation adjustments do not affect the amount requested from either conferences or churches.

Board members approved a 5% increase to the agency salary scale, which is used to set the minimum and maximum pay that an agency employee can receive depending on their role.

The board’s Committee on Personnel Policies recommended the increase.

More GCFA actions

The General Council on Finance and Administration also announced the successful completion of a comprehensive training and financial update meeting for African United Methodist leaders.

Topics included reports on the Episcopal Fund, the disaffiliation process in the U.S., apportionment collections and calculations, and the resources and support services available from GCFA to central conferences.

Read press release and watch training video.

Read press release about board meeting.

The Rev. Anthony Tang, the committee’s chair, stressed that the increase only affects the scale itself and does not automatically mean individual agency employees will get a raise. Staff salaries are set by each agency. The adjustment requires only that staff receiving the minimum pay for their duties be brought up to the new minimum.

“The current salary structure was implemented in 2018, and is reviewed annually to determine if the structure should be adjusted based on market trends,” Tang told the board.

“Based on previous adjustments, we are approximately 10% behind comparable organizations in the market. That’s due to inflation and no adjustments having been made to the structure in 2019 and 2020.”

The change in salary structure is “so that we’re capable of being competitive” with other religious nonprofits, Tang said.

The board also heard that medical costs for participants in the agencies’ health insurance plan had gone down by 22.2% between 2022 and 2023. General Council on Finance and Administration staff attributed the drop to wellness programs offered as part of the agencies’ health benefits.

The board approved a slight increase, less than 1%, for the agencies’ health and welfare plans, resulting in no increase to employee premiums. The board also agreed to bundle dental and vision insurance with the medical plan, which also will reduce the costs of those benefits.

For bishops, the board unanimously approved the General Agency and Episcopal Matters Committee’s recommendation of a 2% pay increase, starting in 2024. The board also agreed with the committee’s recommendation to keep the bishops’ housing and office allowance grants at the same level as this year. The raise is less than the 3% cost-of-living increase projected for 2024. 

Bishops’ salaries vary by region. In 2024, U.S. bishops each will make $179,110. The bishops in Africa and the Philippines will each make $88,025. The European and Eurasian bishops’ salaries will range from $66,401 to $150,729.

The Episcopal Fund, which supports the work of bishops, has long been a particular source of concern for the finance agency’s board.

In 2019, the Episcopal Fund was in danger of running out of money in a few years. The COVID-19 pandemic actually helped the bishops build up their reserves by reducing their travel. The bishops also took on larger workloads to cover for colleagues who, because of their age, faced mandatory retirement.

Late last year, United Methodists held bishop elections to name successors to some of the retiring bishops. However, the episcopal elections still left The United Methodist Church with seven fewer active bishops than the denomination had in 2016 when the last denomination-wide budget was approved. The denomination currently has 59 active bishops in the U.S., Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

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The Rev. William Williams III, the General Agency and Episcopal Matters Committee’s chair, gave the board an update on the Episcopal Fund’s status.

He noted that with the addition of new bishops, the Episcopal Fund shows a $3.2 million deficit through June. That is still $700,000 better than budget projections because of higher apportionment collections from the U.S. Some expenses were also lower than budget.

“The interim reserve balance on June 30, 2023, for the Episcopal Fund is $18.2 million,” Williams told the board. “And you’ll also see that the projected yearend balance is also $18.2 million.”

At this point, the apportionment collection rate through July from the U.S. is slightly ahead of where it was at this time last year — 32.7% compared to 32.5% at this point in 2022. At the same time, collection rates were down from central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. U.S. apportionments fund the bulk of denomination-wide ministries, and most of the denominational apportionments from all regions typically come at the end of the year.

The small boost in U.S. apportionment receipts comes as the denomination in the U.S. is grappling with a mounting number of church disaffiliations after decades of intensifying internal division over LGBTQ inclusion, and the launch of a theologically conservative breakaway denomination last year.

Disaffiliations actually are playing a role in the slight bump in collection rates. One of the requirements for disaffiliating churches to leave with property is that they pay two years’ apportionments. The General Council on Finance and Administration receipts include $1.3 million the Mississippi Conference sent in July from its disaffiliating churches.

Williams said the finance agency is asking other U.S. conferences to provide similar information to differentiate their normal collections from that related to disaffiliations.

But even as some churches withdraw from the denomination, The United Methodist Church is planting new congregations and, in some places, seeing a renewed spirit of evangelism.

The Rev. Moses Kumar, top executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration, told the board that the agency is working to help all United Methodists to get a better sense of the denomination’s financial picture and to equip people to give generously.

“I'm here to tell you what you probably already know: Renewal is taking place,” he said. “The next generation of United Methodists is already here.”

Hahn is assistant news editor for UM News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Friday Digests.

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