This discussion introduces policies modern religions created about clergy receiving salaries verses clergy who don't receive compensation. The first principle (followed only by the LDS faith and a few other religions) is that receiving a salary or compensation:
- Can lead to the spiritual and temporal corruption of the church and the clergy in addition to limiting the wisdom of the clergy themselves.
- It also limits the ability of the church itself to function temporally and limits the churches own opportunities.
The second principle (followed by every other religion to one degree or another) is that receiving a salary is necessary for the clergy in order to survive in this world and also to be able to support their families. In addition, they deserve a salary based on their services they provide in their work.
Doctrinally, both arguments are supported by scripture. Paul was a tent maker while serving his missionary work and apostolic calling. He publically criticized others who earned a living from their preaching and boasted when saying he supported himself. Jesus, along with other prophets are largely beleived to have never received a dime. (1 corinthians 9: 4-18)
The 2nd argument is found in 1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward and Luke 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Although this is not speaking about clergy receiving money, it is often interpreted that way by many pastors.
Since both arguments are important to the lives of churches, clergy and dependants of clergy I will only define the arguments of both sides and discuss the consequences of following each principle. I will leave it up to the reader to decide which principles are more effective or inspiring to follow and which conflicting principle has more benefits.
First, The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS church) is the only large church that has a lay ministry. No bishops or leaders receive any compensation for the time and effort they put into their calling. Below is a graph of the average salaries clergy receive in each denomination. Catholics are the only ones with similar beliefs as the LDS church with regards to clergy receiving no compensation. Religious priests take a vow of poverty, only receiving a small allowance to sustain life. Other Catholic priests receive a small salary along with retirement benefits and health benefits necessary to sustain the life of the priest. Never the less, this has still proven to be a major liability to the Catholic Church due to high medical costs associated with sustaining the livlihood of priests. In some dioceses, priest liabilities have cause the bankruptcy of numerous dioceses throughout the country with pension, medical and other salaries reaching as high as 65% of all liabilities in the diocese. All other major denominations compensate pastors to a high extent. Salaries can very widely, from low 23k a year to as high as 72k a year. Below is a chart showing the annual wage clergy receive per religion. This discussion includes the research of six of the largest religions in America. In addition, clergy salaries should also reflect the impact on the congregation itself. For example, it is common for a single congregation to use over 70% of all annual donations to the church just to compensate the salary of the pastor.
For example, an ELCA congregation in Washington State publishes their finances in a monthly newsletter. Their monthly expenses can be found in the graph below.
The monthly budget barely allows enough income to survive throughout the month. When using the donations of members on salaries, it leaves very little other opportunities for the congregation. In addition, why is the position of a priest so vital to the congregation as to use 70% of the finances to support it? Can resources be used more effectively to bring people to Christ?
In contrast to the financial principles of an LDS congregation in Canada, no money is used for the salaries of clergy. This allows vital donations to go toward charity work and monthly bills to operate the facility like electricity. In the operating bills, much of it is used directly towards the congregation, like library material, functions like dances and dinners and also office supplies.
In this case, 88% of the sacrifices of members is saved for when revenue is lower than expenses. This allows the church to be self sufficient in tough times and also allows flexibility when deciding how to minister to people. Sometimes the savings is used to build additional buildings or to support missionaries who cannot afford to pay for their own mission.
The first consequence of having a lay ministry is the consequence of lay ministers dedicating a great amount of time away from their calling and using it on their profession. Although LDS Bishops spend an average of 10 to 20 hours a week in their calling, it is short of the 40 hours a week full time pastors spend on their ministry. The LDS congregation makes up the difference by calling 2 other counselors to assist the LDS bishop and inviting the congregation to participate in the affairs of the church. Any typical LDS congregation provides dozens of Sunday school lessons a week, visits to all members monthly, 3 to 4 sermons a week, dozens of families assisted temporarily, countless weekly activities, service projects, hundreds of hours of missionary work and other similar projects completed weekly. A good consequence of having clergy away from their calling and into their own profession is the concept that the bishops themselves become great contributors to society through their own profession. By becoming dentists, accountants, pilots and so forth, bishops provide many professional services and are also able to support their families temporally. In conclusion, the spiritual welfare of the congregation is provided through bishop interviews and personal discussions with the bishop.
The first consequence of having a paid ministry is the consequence of congregations surviving without any minister or priest in their own congregation. Many denominations today suffer with a lack of priests and pastors to fill their congregations. Since the purposes of pastors are essential to the spiritual lives of the congregation in many denominations, this can cause congregations to miss important spiritual events in the congregation. An example is the need for sacraments, marriages, baptisms, sermons, confessions, traditions, and other spiritual ordinances often performed by priests. They are left largely without these events because no one among them took the necessary steps of going through 6 years of theology school and being hired for the position. Or simply, the congregation can’t afford to pay a clergy in that position. Clergy are likely to be hired in larger congregations which offer higher compensation for themselves and their family.
Another consequence is how receiving compensation can lead to corruption. Obviously taught by scripture, living extreme lifestyles from ministries is morally wrong and very sinful. Private jets, multi-million dollar homes, extravagate vacations all paid from the tithes and sacrifices of followers is nothing short of evil. A classic example is Benny Hinn, a TV evangelist. To simply put it, anyone who enjoys following these nut cases is not very smart….. in any way, shape or form. (Scripture?)
Less extreme examples, all though notable are pastors who receive $200,000 plus a year for basic services, or like mentioned earlier, who use 70% of all the congregations donations just on their own salaries. Common sense dictates this greatly hinders the stability of the congregation.
Another consequence of having a paid ministry is a concept of forgetting a major purpose of religion itself, charity. Charity is the idea of being in the service of one another and lifting one another’s spirits by dedicating your own time, talents and money. The idea that through your actions you expect no reward or compensation other than knowing you’ve helped someone in need. That charitable experience is taken from you the moment you open your hand for a pay check or some sort of compensation for the work you did. Others who argue that the clergy who perform those services are still being charitable regardless of their salary are completely missing this point and have forgotten so many of life’s precious moments.
The chart below conveys the number of clergy who exist in America today. Some organizations are larger than others and this is only a handful of the thousands of churches that operate in America.
Below is a chart showing the estimated yearly costs each organization spends on their clergy. This rough estimate was created simply by multiplying the number of clergy with their average annual salary.