Willimon’s Words on Equitable Compensation

Last month Bishop Will Willimon had some interesting words on Equitable Compensation in his podcast called, A Word about Equitable Compensation. In the podcast he points to equitable compensation, or help from conference funds to pay a pastor minimal salary, as the root of some of our issues as a United Methodist denomination.

Some of his points are…

  • It breeds laziness, in some ministers, in some churches, and in some cabinets who use it as a tool not to make hard decisions about pastors and churches.
  • Millions of dollars are being spent by conferences to prop up churches that don’t need to be propped up.
  • It only holds the bar up to the minimal salary or in other words, it allows churches to do as little as possible, the bare minimum. (he states pastors should get paid more than they do and I would be curious what he thinks the pay scale should be but he doesn’t get into that)
  • Churches that cannot afford to pay the salary and benefits of an ordained elder should be put on charges/circuits

There are many issues within the structure of our denomination and I agree with Willimon that this is one. I know of churches within my own conference that accept equitable compensation to pay a minimal salary for their pastor but then they also have two other people staff. Priorities seem unclear here.

Willimon also mentions a couple of things that makes it seem like he would be in favor of dropping the guaranteed appointment and making the cabinets start to make hard decisions and have tough conversations with clergy and churches. (more thoughts at another time)

Is equitable compensation a crutch for congregations that should just be put on a charge? Is equitable compensation telling pastors not to try too hard because there is only so far you can fall? Your thoughts?

If you would like to subscribe to Bishop Willimon’s podcast you can do so by going here.

One thought on “Willimon’s Words on Equitable Compensation

  1. Hey Jim, thanks for keeping an ear to the ground for us. At first I thought, “How great, a free-enterprise system where a church's true value is expressed in more realistic pastoral salary.” Then I thought, not so great, especially if I was placed in a flagging congregation. Churches that are drying up – be it from lack of vision, laziness, community hardship, changing demographics – would be the ones that pay less and less but are also tougher on the pastoral presence placed there. I keep thinking of the churches and pastors in the New Orleans area and hearing stories of how soul killing it can be working in those areas for pastors.

    So often, our newest and most energetic pastors go to our smaller multi-charge, flagging congregations and are asked to “work a miracle”. This is a receipe for disappointment all around. Yet we continue to insist in a healthier, younger clergy to support a continually aging community.

    What I hear Willimon say is that we should end the 'social security' system we have in place for the “business” of faith, but I wonder if that cost is just another one that will be passed down to the clergy. What do others think?


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