Getting to know the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation
The following article highlights the work of Upper New York Conference’s Commission on Equitable Compensation, which, according to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, is charged with “supporting full-time clergy serving as pastors in the charges of the annual conference."
I remember the first time I heard the term “Equitable Compensation.” I was new to United Methodism and the district superintendent said the parish I was serving was eligible for some assistance through an “Equitable Compensation Grant” so I would be able to serve full-time. I didn’t give those words much of a thought again until I was asked to serve on the Commission on Equitable Compensation (CEC) for the then new Upper New York Conference. Many of you have seen me up front at Annual Conference session putting forth resolutions regarding housing, salary, and other clergy compensation issues, and others may have received benefits from a supplementation grant. But many people still wonder what the CEC is all about.
Our main task is to be an advocate for your pastor – or as The Book of Discipline notes, “ … to support the full-time clergy of the Annual Conference … ” We do this by proposing compensation and housing policies that reflect the level of education and responsibility required of clergy and by educating churches on the benefits of compensating pastors well. We support the pastor by providing supplementation grants that enable pastors to have full-time appointments in settings where a church or charge is not able to sustain full-time service without assistance. At the 2015 Annual Conference session, the CEC will also propose an arrearage policy outlining a procedure to follow if a church finds itself unable pay a pastor’s salary, housing, or accountable reimbursements.
But as we go about our work, we also have the mission of our Conference to guide us. Our goal in providing grants is not to help churches maintain a level of pastoral support they obviously cannot afford. By providing grants, we hope a church might be able to better focus on mission and ministry when finances become strained and also move toward financial self-sufficiency. We understand that churches will need some assistance from time to time to get through a difficult stretch. That is what supplementation grants are for. We are cautious, however, that we do not become a crutch for churches that need to “right-size” to a lower level of pastoral service. This means that sometimes the CEC must make the difficult choice to deny a grant application, even if it means a change in appointment level becomes necessary. These decisions are not made lightly and are always made in consultation with the Cabinet, who bears the responsibility of finding full-time appointments for the elders of our Conference.
The CEC has also come to realize many of you might be unaware of or not understand the Conference’s clergy support policies. This is true among our leaders on both local and Conference levels. Do you know what the policies are regarding the setting of housing allowances, the services churches are required to pay for at a parsonage, or what renewal leave allowances exist for our Conference? If not, this is in part the fault of the CEC for not making our policies better known. All of the policies relating to clergy compensation and housing can be found on the Conference website in a document entitled Clergy Support Policies which gets updated each year after Annual Conference session. Please take time to check it out.
Our work on behalf of the Upper New York Annual Conference session is truly a process. The CEC understands there is no such thing as a perfect policy, only policies that are being perfected. It seems like new situations arise with startling regularity, and we are faced with the reality that more and more churches cannot afford full-time clergy on their own. Therefore, we welcome input from the pastors and lay leaders of our Conference. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Conference Director of Human Resources/Benefits Vicki Putney, or any other member of the CEC as found in the Conference Journal. While it is not always possible to address each individual situation with a policy, being aware of what is happening in regards to clergy support enables us to pursue our task more effectively. God’s peace to you all.
*Wilson Jones is the Chair of the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation.