United Church of Christ

Not Funny

I love award shows, but sometimes the host’s jokes just aren’t funny. At the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais made a crack that producers were excited for a re-make of Ocean’s Eleven with an all-female cast, specifically because it would cost less to pay women actors. Not cool. (For additional thoughts on Ricky’s jokes check out RevGalsBlogPals.

There’s a Twitter conversation going on right now at #its2016AndWeStillDont; some of the responses are silly, others are serious critiques. The fact that it’s 2016 and we still don’t provide equal pay for equal work is a problem. 

Pay equity is a societal issue but it’s also an issue for the church. A 2014 report from Church Law and Tax Report shows that while the number of female pastors increased significantly between 1990 and 2009, there continues to be an average annual pay gap of $10,000 between men and women. This pay inequity is present not only in the pulpit, but in church administrative and custodial positions as well. A report on gender pay gaps for UCC clergy was released earlier this week.

While gender is one of the most discussed justice issues regarding equal pay for equal work, I suspect that inequality in ministerial compensation is also present between licensed and ordained ministers.  

Clergy compensation guidelines within the United Church of Christ indicate ranges for compensation based on size of the congregation, years of experience, and position expectations, including part-time/full-time ministry. However, the phrase “we can’t afford an ordained minister” is commonly heard. I wonder if what is behind that phrase is the reality of “we can’t afford a full time minister” or the perception that a licensed minister will do the same amount of work for less pay? Regardless of the reasons behind the phrase, this is an important topic for our church to discuss. It’s 2016 and income inequality is not a laughing matter.  

Sparking Ministry Conversations

An analysis of clergy compensation in the UCC can be found in the 2014 UCC Statistical Profile. All UCC Conferences list Clergy Compensation Guidelines on the Conference’s website. How does your church’s ministerial compensation package compare to your Conference Guidelines? Should a pastor’s compensation be determined by form of authorization (licensed or ordained) or by the ministry tasks required by the position? Besides gender, what other biases may be at play when determining compensation?  

About the Author
The Rev. Holly MillerShank is the Team Leader for Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization. She appreciates Lilly Ledbetter for raising the question of pay equity to a national conversation, and Jennifer Lawrence for continuing to raise the conversation in Hollywood.

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