Poor as church mouse?

Saw this: Hundreds of clergy facing hardship despite vast C of E wealth

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/06/clergy-hardship-church-of-england-wealth?

Wondering what shipmates make of it? What are your experiences? Are things similar in other settings?
«1

Comments

  • There are genuine cases of hardship but everything is not always as it seems. The CofE's "package" is better than many others including my own and I have first hand experience myself of what it's like to struggle on an 80 hour week averaging less than minimum wage with 3 teenage children. Not much fun.

    The big "however" is that all of us know the score upfront. That sounds tough but I think it's true that most go in with eyes wide open. If you don't then beware …. not all promises are delivered and that includes grants and finance.

    Ok there will be financial (a background in finance and i see virtually everyone hitting big £ crisis every 10 years or so). There are other crises too (bereavement, family breakdown etc) but the figures for the CofE may suggest some structural issues - clergy trying to live up to high standards enjoyed by their congregation in certain upper middle class areas or having a perspective on Ministry which can't work. I've seen the former quite a few times (it's tough being the one man in the church gang who doesn't go skiing) Perhaps it's time to look at team ministries involving lay and ordained and recognising that it doesn't need a priest to do stuff. Big ask I know … but worth the question just to avoid the human fall out.
  • The C of E doesn't have vast wealth, afaik, as their assets are needed to pay pensions which are due. Churches are closing or being sold off, and clergy with stipends are covering ever larger areas, with lay people and self-supporting ministers taking up whatever slack they can.

    The stipend was surely never meant to be a salary, but a help to those called as priests who couldn't support themselves sufficiently to work the necessary more than full time hours for the church as well.

    Clergy are able to claim tax credits and other benefits, and I don't think they have to pay rent for their accommodation, but do pay council tax? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
  • In TEC clergy negotiate their salary and benefits directly with the hiring parish (bishop must approve the individual and perhaps consult regarding the salary and benefits). Thus wealthier parishes can afford more seasoned clergy and offer what at times is a rather cushy financial package. Poorer parishes (and in New England that it a high percentage) tend to hire very part time clergy. This then limits time for leadership development, pastoral care, etc. These part-time folk are either retirees, people whose spouse has a good paying job, or are holding down a secular job to make ends meet. Most if not all parishes are not willing to share one priest -- the standard cry is “But who will get to have midnight Mass?”. This is reaching a crisis point. In our polity a diocese cannot force parishes to merge, although it may encourage such. Many in the diocese I serve are reaching the tipping point of closure, but hang on in hope and anger.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    The C of E doesn't have vast wealth, afaik, as their assets are needed to pay pensions which are due. Churches are closing or being sold off, and clergy with stipends are covering ever larger areas, with lay people and self-supporting ministers taking up whatever slack they can.

    The stipend was surely never meant to be a salary, but a help to those called as priests who couldn't support themselves sufficiently to work the necessary more than full time hours for the church as well.

    Clergy are able to claim tax credits and other benefits, and I don't think they have to pay rent for their accommodation, but do pay council tax? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    Agree as regards stipend - it is claimed it is enough for basic minimum standards of living. Again that depends on whether you might want to live up to the standards of your congregation. Claiming benefit is pretty tough - more than usual. DWP can't quite grasp the additional benefit of house etc and see it as income hence reduced (or no) benefit.

    I wonder what studies ever include total household, as opposed to clergy only, income. Many clergy spouses work now -- when Mrs M was working she was pulling in more as a part time staff nurse than I was as a full time minister. Does that change the stats of clergy poverty to being "not well paid for the work w edo?" I don't now but would be intrigued to see what the overall income of clergy households are given that many clergy spouses of my acquaintance are in jobs like teaching, nursing etc. Some like one I could name are high flyers indeed with salaries into the 6 figure bracket.

    They pay neither council tax nor water rates. Phone, internet and part of electricity also provided. Mileage at 45p per mile. pension used to be one of the best in terms of proportion of final salary and was non contributory. Not sure if that's still the case.

    For those of us in other denominations the pension is now defined contribution rather like most other people in the UK. It's about 30% less in retirement year on year than the old defined benefit (years) scheme was.

    There's also significant opportunities to access provided housing post retirement -- again a pretty unique position.
  • Maybe I am Mr Judgemental, but ISTM that if you are on £27K a year plus free accommodation, and you are in financial difficulty, then that probably isn't the sort of difficulty that can be solved just by raising stipends.

    That is, maybe you are just bad at managing money, or you have expensive compulsive behaviour (gambling addiction or similar), or you are quixotically using your own funds to pay for things that the parish should pay for, and these are all real problems, but the solution to those problems isn't raising stipends.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 6
    Many clergy spouses work now -- when Mrs M was working she was pulling in more as a part time staff nurse than I was as a full time minister.
    This. Many households - certainly those with a mortgage - require two incomes simply to make ends meet. My wife was a deputy headteacher and our combined income at one time was higher than that of most households in the church. Because the Manse provided was large, the church gave us an extra heating allowance, but we said we didn't want it.

  • In the Guardian article, Owen-Jones says, "“I think there is an increasing reliance on non-stipendiary vicars. How much of the church is being kept afloat by self-supporting ministry? Whether those ministers can continue to be treated as full-time ministers, that to me is morally questionable.” He has a good point, I think. Some SSMs are recent retirees with good assets and pensions who can basically work full-time for free. Others are juggling their ministry with part-time employment and can get completely overwhelmed if their congregations expect them to always available, even for trivial matters.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Maybe I am Mr Judgemental, but ISTM that if you are on £27K a year plus free accommodation, and you are in financial difficulty, then that probably isn't the sort of difficulty that can be solved just by raising stipends.

    That is, maybe you are just bad at managing money, or you have expensive compulsive behaviour (gambling addiction or similar), or you are quixotically using your own funds to pay for things that the parish should pay for, and these are all real problems, but the solution to those problems isn't raising stipends.

    That's one thing I wondered, the best part of £30k and a free house would be a massive step up for myself and and many folk I know.

    The article did mention the house for duty and self supporting clergy who in the model of ministry presumably have other sources of income. I wonder if this model is working?
  • I won't name names but a clerical friend made a big fuss about the size of the total package and made a bit of a flourish about refusing to accept it anymore - until his wife lost her job, he realised he'd have to pay council tax - and he got back on board for a time.

    As a freelancer my earnings are a fraction of what they were when I was in a regular job, but we'd paid off the mortgage and I've got my late wife's pension - which isn't huge but helps - and a stipend for local government involvement. I find it hard to understand how a vicar couldn't make ends meet, but then I don't have a young family.

    It's all relative. In some places clergy will be among the highest paid people in their community.
  • It's all relative. In some places clergy will be among the highest paid people in their community.
    yep I was once …. and made sure I turned down pay rises to level the playing field

  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Maybe I am Mr Judgemental, but ISTM that if you are on £27K a year plus free accommodation, and you are in financial difficulty, then that probably isn't the sort of difficulty that can be solved just by raising stipends.

    That is, maybe you are just bad at managing money, or you have expensive compulsive behaviour (gambling addiction or similar), or you are quixotically using your own funds to pay for things that the parish should pay for, and these are all real problems, but the solution to those problems isn't raising stipends.
    Quite -- hence my point about living beyond and/or unrealistic expectations

  • I think this whole thing can become very seductive and lead one to repeatedly break the Tenth Commandment. One church I served contained a good number of active retirees, many of whom had had good jobs and had thus amassed a decent pot of savings and a gold-plated pension of the kind which will become increasingly rare as time goes on. Several went on very expensive holidays to far flung places and seemed to spare no effort in talking about their plans (before they left) and their experiences, good or bad (when they returned). In one case a couple's holiday had cost nearly as much as my entire annual stipend.

    This annoyed me for a number of reasons. First it was unthinking: others in the church had very little money. Second I got frustrated at having so many people away, so much. Thirdly I felt sad that, in some cases, life for these folk seemed to exist merely for their holidays. Fourth I wanted to question their spending priorities (how much did they give to charity, which of course I didn't know). And finally - let's be honest - I was both judgmental and jealous. Fact is, in any society there will always be those who earn more than oneself. I don't envy the super-rich as their lifestyle is so stratospheric as to be completely unattainable; no, it's the folk just a few tiers above me (so near and yet so far) that get on my goat!

    As EM says, those of us in ministry know what we're coming to, financially speaking. And one huge positive for most clergy is the job security which seems to have largely vanished for so many folk (possibly less true in congregational denominations where ministers are paid directly by their local churches). I accept that, for some folk coming late to ministry after a successful "secular" career, the financial implications are great; the inevitable "downgrading of lifestyle expectations" won't be easy. And I also wonder if there are still parishioners around who except their clergyperson to live up to the standards of an old-fashioned "squarson" and place pressures of them to do so even though they cannot?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Objectively, when we were living with three dependant children and only a single stipend for income we were entitled to (and claimed) Child Tax Credits which came in at between £700-£800 every four weeks.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Objectively, when we were living with three dependant children and only a single stipend for income we were entitled to (and claimed) Child Tax Credits which came in at between £700-£800 every four weeks.
    The DWP claimed special privilege for us ... each tax office could view the nominal value of the house in their own way. Ours chose to see it as income hence no benefit. Others found different - no appeal was successful in our case.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Interesting. The former Churches Main Committee (now the Churches Legislation Advisory Service) advice in 2009 was that
    where a minister is provided with housing for the better performance of the duties of the office and it is customary for living accommodation to be provided for such ministers (usually referred to as “job-related accommodation”), the value of the accommodation provided is not taxable.
    (Scroll down to para 10. Paras 11 & 12 for applicable conditions.) And we were told that for Tax Credit purposes
    taxable benefits that are not counted [as income] are living accommodation…
  • In the Guardian article, Owen-Jones says, "“I think there is an increasing reliance on non-stipendiary vicars. How much of the church is being kept afloat by self-supporting ministry? Whether those ministers can continue to be treated as full-time ministers, that to me is morally questionable.” He has a good point, I think. Some SSMs are recent retirees with good assets and pensions who can basically work full-time for free.

    And I think as this becomes less common this model of SSM will become less viable (it's also self selecting to an extent), and so the Church needs to be very cautious about relying on it too much.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited September 7
    That is fixable on the part of the church. (New laws were introduced regarding tied accommodation to try to regulate gangmasters and debt slavery. You can not pay someone an income that, once rent is paid to you, is less than the minimum wage.)

    So if the accommodation package was provided at market rental cost, with salary adjusted to be the same as it currently is - net of rent - the arguments with government over tax, benefits and perks ought to disappear. The financial situation of the parish should not change, because the extra money they pay in salary is returned in rent.
  • That is fixable on the part of the church. (New laws were introduced regarding tied accommodation to try to regulate gangmasters and debt slavery. You can not pay someone an income that, once rent is paid to you, is less than the minimum wage.)

    So if the accommodation package was provided at market rental cost, with salary adjusted to be the same as it currently is - net of rent - the arguments with government over tax, benefits and perks ought to disappear. The financial situation of the parish should not change, because the extra money they pay in salary is returned in rent.

    CofE parishes don't pay the stipend anyway.

    I'm with others in struggling to believe claims of poverty from full time stipendiary clergy, given the big uplift in stipends from when I was growing up in the vicarage. Money was certainly tight then, my mum recalls buying our clothes with post-dated cheques because they didn't have the cash to pay for them upfront. Current stipends, however, are pretty much in line with my own pay as a classroom teacher once you account for housing and associated costs. By the standards of most of the country, that's a pretty decent living. The issue comes, I think, when you're carrying existing debt and struggling to get out from under it. With a clean slate the stipend provides a pretty comfortable existence.
  • In the Guardian article, Owen-Jones says, "“I think there is an increasing reliance on non-stipendiary vicars. How much of the church is being kept afloat by self-supporting ministry? Whether those ministers can continue to be treated as full-time ministers, that to me is morally questionable.” He has a good point, I think. Some SSMs are recent retirees with good assets and pensions who can basically work full-time for free.

    And I think as this becomes less common this model of SSM will become less viable (it's also self selecting to an extent), and so the Church needs to be very cautious about relying on it too much.
    Yes.

  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 7
    The issue comes, I think, when you're carrying existing debt and struggling to get out from under it. With a clean slate the stipend provides a pretty comfortable existence.
    There is also a surprising number of clergy who own their own properties (inherited from parents) from which they can gain a rental income and which offer security for retirement.

  • BroJames wrote: »
    Interesting. The former Churches Main Committee (now the Churches Legislation Advisory Service) advice in 2009 was that
    where a minister is provided with housing for the better performance of the duties of the office and it is customary for living accommodation to be provided for such ministers (usually referred to as “job-related accommodation”), the value of the accommodation provided is not taxable.
    (Scroll down to para 10. Paras 11 & 12 for applicable conditions.) And we were told that for Tax Credit purposes
    taxable benefits that are not counted [as income] are living accommodation…

    I predate 2009 but I can assure you that they took housing as an income (or rather as a cost that I didn't pay) and I lost on appeal. Mind you I am not CofE
  • The issue comes, I think, when you're carrying existing debt and struggling to get out from under it. With a clean slate the stipend provides a pretty comfortable existence.
    There is also a surprising number of clergy who own their own properties (inherited from parents) from which they can gain a rental income and which offer security for retirement.

    Not that surprising given the demographic profile of CofE clergy.
  • Not just CofE though.
  • Not just CofE though.

    I'm pretty sure white British clergy of almost all denominations are overwhelmingly middle class, just like their congregations. Black British clergy probably skew more working class. The only major outlier is probably the RCC but the economics of their situation is so different as to not be comparable.
  • Not just CofE though.

    I'm pretty sure white British clergy of almost all denominations are overwhelmingly middle class, just like their congregations. Black British clergy probably skew more working class. The only major outlier is probably the RCC but the economics of their situation is so different as to not be comparable.

    I don't think this generalisation is true, based on my dealings with clergy of all denominations. Rather, they are a mix of people from a mix of backgrounds.
  • Possible tangent, but how do you define middle class?
  • ArethosemyfeetArethosemyfeet Shipmate
    edited September 8
    Twangist wrote: »
    Possible tangent, but how do you define middle class?

    For the sake of argument, coming from homes where the main earner was ABC1 as opposed to C2DE. It's more complex than that but in aggregate it's close enough.
  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate
    I’m single and stipendary. The stipend is enough to live on if I’m careful and don’t buy to many theology books. I have a 10 year old car and will be financially challenged when that stops working. I holiday in the UK often staying with friends. My lifestyle is nowhere near the poverty line but it would be nice not to have to think about whether I can justify a new coat this winter as the last one is looking a bit shabby after 7 years.

    I love my job and wouldn’t do anything else but I do sometimes look at my contemporaries who are earning five or ten times what I earn and note that there is sacrifice is this calling.
  • You must have an exceptional set of contemporaries, I think.
  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate
    Working class and first of my family to go to Oxbridge so my contemporaries are lawyers, media people, actors, bankers and the like. Not all of course but enough.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Twangist wrote: »
    Possible tangent, but how do you define middle class?

    These days it's "if the washing machine breaks down, can I afford to just go and buy a new one without going into debt?"
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited September 9
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Maybe I am Mr Judgemental, but ISTM that if you are on £27K a year plus free accommodation, and you are in financial difficulty, then that probably isn't the sort of difficulty that can be solved just by raising stipends.

    That is, maybe you are just bad at managing money, or you have expensive compulsive behaviour (gambling addiction or similar), or you are quixotically using your own funds to pay for things that the parish should pay for, and these are all real problems, but the solution to those problems isn't raising stipends.
    Quite -- hence my point about living beyond and/or unrealistic expectations

    Ministers in BU Home Mission Churches don’t get £27K – more like £23k – and the final salary pension scheme is long gone.

    The housing is a tremendous help – there’s no way we’d be able to afford to minister where we are without it. Plus we get water, rates and phone / internet – but not gas and electricity. IME, most churches stopped paying energy bills years ago because of the cost. Many manses aren’t particularly heat efficient.

    You can expense things, but they have to be paid for upfront and then you claim the money back. Expense claims are processed with varying degrees of speed. Which can really screw up your cash flow. Add in an unexpected bill or life event and it’s easy to see how someone can get into difficulties. Once you’re in that cycle, it can be hard to break out of it.

    We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    That said, having your housing provided, some bills paid and the potential to apply for somewhere to live when you retire is a tremendous privilege that needs acknowledging as none of our congregation members have it.
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Maybe I am Mr Judgemental, but ISTM that if you are on £27K a year plus free accommodation, and you are in financial difficulty, then that probably isn't the sort of difficulty that can be solved just by raising stipends.

    That is, maybe you are just bad at managing money, or you have expensive compulsive behaviour (gambling addiction or similar), or you are quixotically using your own funds to pay for things that the parish should pay for, and these are all real problems, but the solution to those problems isn't raising stipends.
    Quite -- hence my point about living beyond and/or unrealistic expectations

    1. Ministers in BU Home Mission Churches don’t get £27K – more like £23k – and the final salary pension scheme is long gone.

    2. The housing is a tremendous help – there’s no way we’d be able to afford to minister where we are without it. Plus we get water, rates and phone / internet – but not gas and electricity. IME, most churches stopped paying energy bills years ago because of the cost. Many manses aren’t particularly heat efficient.

    3. You can expense things, but they have to be paid for upfront and then you claim the money back. Expense claims are processed with varying degrees of speed. Which can really screw up your cash flow. Add in an unexpected bill or life event and it’s easy to see how someone can get into difficulties. Once you’re in that cycle, it can be hard to break out of it.

    4. We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    5. That said, having your housing provided, some bills paid and the potential to apply for somewhere to live when you retire is a tremendous privilege that needs acknowledging as none of our congregation members have it.

    1. Tell me about it … I'm an Accredited Minister in BUGB too (albeit at slightly higher than minimum stipend - their choice not my ask). I was quoting the Anglican position which is better than BUGB at £27 plus the pension is non contributory for them.

    2. Don't forget that you can claim a proportion of what you pay from HMRC on that part of the manse used for church activities. I claim 10% and its never been questioned.

    3. Churches should recognise cash flow …. I email expenses to the Treasurer so he can prepare the cheque or send it via BACS.

    4. I agree that there's often not enough money but I don't think it's always quite that simple. I don't have enough money for some stuff but enough to live on if I am careful. Admittedly I am much nearer the end than I am the beginning - in fact very close to it - but I guess my needs and expectations are pretty narrow. I am gradually reverting to the countryman of my youth …. pretty basic needs only. With a 20 year career in finance I can see many of the pitfalls but my retirement with only be something like 25% of what it would have been … however little I've lost in one way, I've gained more than I can say in others.

    5. Yes don't forget that even in this straightened times that there are always possibilities for support into retirement. Mind you let's not forget that we went into it knowing what the deal was.


  • Poppy wrote: »
    Working class and first of my family to go to Oxbridge so my contemporaries are lawyers, media people, actors, bankers and the like. Not all of course but enough.

    Yep me too but do we find it hard to live on £1500+ net pay?
  • Poppy wrote: »
    …. it would be nice not to have to think about whether I can justify a new coat this winter as the last one is looking a bit shabby after 7 years.
    Waxed coat from the Farmers' Shop here I come - £30 for a few years wear!

  • Tubbs wrote: »
    We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    I was going by the £27K + housing figure quoted in the article in the OP for Anglican priests. That's better than what I earn and (with housing) more than the average wage in the UK.

    Don't get me wrong - I accept the clergy make sacrifices. My job takes up 35 not very strenuous hours per week, arranged around childcare responsibilities. Ordained ministry is vastly harder and seems to have no upper limit on the working hours expected by the congregation. There is no doubt that the clergy earn their crust and more. That seems to be slightly different, though, from the implication in the article that the stipend isn't a living wage.
  • It's a good week when I do less than 70 hours pretty full on with few breaks. I'd say that, even with benefits, it's less than minimum let alone living wage.
  • It's a good week when I do less than 70 hours pretty full on with few breaks. I'd say that, even with benefits, it's less than minimum let alone living wage.

    I take your point - I meant 'living wage' in the sense of 'enough to live on', rather than an hourly rate.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Tubbs wrote: »
    We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    I was going by the £27K + housing figure quoted in the article in the OP for Anglican priests. That's better than what I earn and (with housing) more than the average wage in the UK.

    The average wage in the UK is £26.5K so that's better than the average wage before housing (average home rental is £940 pm - albeit with huge regional variations).
  • In 2015 the national stipend benchmark was £24,210. Adjusted for inflation, the equivalent in 1962 was £14,000.

    As a child of the 1950s/60s I remember those times well: I certainly remember the day that my Papa's stipend (and we were in a "wealthy" parish) hit the dizzy heights of four figures, and it was only just while I was still at school, when the national average salary was then roughly a third (£5,000) a year more.

    It is not that the stipend is very different from other people's, it is that the cost of housing prevents many clergy, especially those who have gone into training straight, or almost straight, from university from getting onto the housing ladder at the same time as a modest mortgage now requiring two incomes. With student debt this problem is only going to get worse.

    However, clergy pensions compare very favourably to those in the private sector - indeed, many of us have no occupational pension at all and the cost of a personal pension which will give someone anything like a reasonable standard of living is beyond all but the most highly salaried.
  • The training to degree level is paid for too, so there is no student debt?
  • Pre student fees/ loans all tuition fees at university were paid for by the state, and all students (other than those either with parents who refused to complete the forms or on certain courses) got at least a minimum grant - £50 per term in 1970. Fees were not charged to students in theological colleges.

    Nowadays university costs are payable by all students, the church pays the fees for theological training.
  • Again, not the case in my denomination: students have to be sponsored by their "sending" churches or pay their own way. Unsurprisingly this (and other factors) means that the old model of full-time residential training is vanishing fast. As a matter of interest, does the CofE pay anything for living expenses during theological training?
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited September 11
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Tubbs wrote: »
    We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    I was going by the £27K + housing figure quoted in the article in the OP for Anglican priests. That's better than what I earn and (with housing) more than the average wage in the UK.

    The average wage in the UK is £26.5K so that's better than the average wage before housing (average home rental is £940 pm - albeit with huge regional variations).

    Thing is, the housing isn’t necessarily a perk or a benefit, it’s more of an enabler due to the expectation / requirement by many churches that clergy live in the areas they serve rather than commuting in from elsewhere (cheaper) . Given the ludicrous price of housing in some parts of the country, that can be a pretty big ask. (The spouse’s salary is irrelevant. Because it just is. We're family rather a BOGOFF).

    Clergy housing is a really mixed bag. Some churches are excellent landlords with well-maintained properties and a willingness to act quickly when there are problems. Others are, frankly, shite.

    I’m not quite clear what the article is complaining about though. The fact that clergy may experience financial difficulties and worrying about them can impact your ability to do your job properly – which is pretty universal. Or the fact that unpaid, “house for duty” roles still exist in the 21st Century.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 11
    I had a thought - what about local Councillors who often work long hours in the service of the community yet are not exactly well remunerated? Can/should we draw any parallels with clergy? See: https://tinyurl.com/y6ghcgex.
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Tubbs wrote: »
    We really need to get away from the automatic assumption that people who are experiencing financial difficulties are crap with money or have a secret gambling habit. Sometimes the financial difficulty is that there simply isn’t enough money!

    I was going by the £27K + housing figure quoted in the article in the OP for Anglican priests. That's better than what I earn and (with housing) more than the average wage in the UK.

    The average wage in the UK is £26.5K so that's better than the average wage before housing (average home rental is £940 pm - albeit with huge regional variations).

    Thing is, the housing isn’t necessarily a perk or a benefit, it’s more of an enabler due to the expectation / requirement by many churches that clergy live in the areas they serve rather than commuting in from elsewhere (cheaper) .

    Even when it is an enabler - it's also undeniably a benefit as it is a cost that everyone incurs - albeit at different levels. And spouses salary is equally irrelevant for everyone isn't it ?

  • It is true that there are clergy who are eligible for benefits such as tax credits, which says to me that they do not have to be living extravagantly or have unrealistic expectations, to have financial issues

    Living in the house is a requirement of the job and not a perk... It is something that ends when ministerial life is over. And retirement provision, in the CofE, is poor these days.
  • I had a thought - what about local Councillors who often work long hours in the service of the community yet are not exactly well remunerated? Can/should we draw any parallels with clergy? See: https://tinyurl.com/y6ghcgex.

    I can see some similarities. Local councillors seem to be prime targets for character assassination in the local media, which is an unenviable position.
  • I think the question partly comes down to: "To whom are we comparing clergy?" The implication often seems to be that clergy are middle-class professionals who expect and deserve a standard of living equivalent to (say) experienced teachers, middle-range administrators or perhaps even doctors. And I have to say that I am at present fortunate enough to enjoy a reasonably comfortable lifestyle of that kind, although - like many others - I shall have to "draw in my horns" when I retire.

    But is this the right way to look at things? In most denominations clergy stipends are fairly "flat" with leaders getting little more than rank-and-file clergy except, perhaps, for expenses (however in my denomination, where ministers are paid locally, it's true that some folk get good stipends). In other words there isn't the salary progression you would expect to get in many careers, and this may rankle among those who have faithfully ministered for many years.

    On the other hand, many of us have a job security undreamed of by many of our contemporaries in secular employment; that though has to be set against the need to move house when taking on a new role. And some of us may need to realise that there are those in our congregations and parishes who, although employed, face a daily struggle to pay the mortgage/rent, Council Tax and utilities, keep the family warmed, clothed, transported, fed and watered ... and so on. Life can be very hard even for people in work.

    I'm sure there are clergy families who have had to subsist on very little - indeed that has been the case for me on some occasions. I'm sure, too, that churches and denominations can be insensitive to their clergys' needs; such attitudes need challenging and correcting. And we all know that the "prosperity" churches pay their pastors ridiculous amounts (because the Lord who owns the cattle on a thousand hills obviously wants them to live in a mansion and drive a Mercedes) - that is an aberration but can also make us envious. Nevertheless, let's be careful when we complain.
  • It's a good week when I do less than 70 hours pretty full on with few breaks. I'd say that, even with benefits, it's less than minimum let alone living wage.

    This is not good or healthy. Can your elders/deacons/trustees/congregation do anything to redress this?
Sign In or Register to comment.