Report Reveals Continuing Pay Gap for Female Clergy

By | December 3, 2020

Ed. The article was just published in Anglican Watch and is reprinted in full.

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The Church Pension Group, or CPG, is the Episcopal Church’s captive insurance company. Every year, it publishes a compensation report for clergy, a treasure trove of data for governance geeks.

As always,the 2019 data never fails to disappoint, and in many cases manages to alarm as well.

Total Number of Clergy

First, the number of full-time clergy in the church as a whole is declining precipitously, in keeping with the overall state of the church.

Looking only at the domestic dioceses, the church went from having 5,731 full-time clergy in 2009, to 4,677 in 2019. an 18.39 percent decrease. During that time, inflation-adjusted median annual income went from $54,436.00 in 2009 to $55,250.00.

Overall, 60 percent of compensated clergy are men, while 40 percent are women. Men receive $80,994 in median annual income, while women receive $70,772, representing a 12.62 percent disparity. That compares to an unadjusted overall variance for women in the US generally reported as 18-19 percent.

Average Sunday Attendance

Family-sized parishes (0-75 ASA)

When correlating compensated clergy by Average Sunday Attendance, or ASA, we see female clergy lag in every category, but experience marked disparity among family-sized parishes, which are among those likely to pay the least.

Thus, 42 percent of paid female clergy work in such parishes, versus 33 percent of males, and females receive 7.75 percent less annual compensation on average.

Pastoral-sized parishes (76-140 ASA)

Among pastoral-sized parishes, 28 percent of all paid male clergy work in such parishes, versus 25 percent of all paid female clergy. Men earn a median average income of $83,097 at these churches, while women earn $79,813, accounting for a 3.95 percent variance.

Transitional-sized parishes (141-225 ASA)

Among pastoral-sized parishes, 18 percent of all paid male clergy work in such parishes, versus 15 percent of all paid female clergy. Men earn a median average income of $92,500 at these churches, while women earn $84,989, accounting for an 8.12 percent variance.

Program-sized parishes (226-400 ASA)

Among program-sized parishes, 14 percent of all paid male clergy work in such parishes, versus 13 percent of all paid female clergy. Men earn a median average income of $103,562 at these churches, while women earn $72,504, accounting for an 29.99 percent variance. These numbers may be influenced by the increased likelihood among these parishes of an assistant rector or other additional clergy.

Resource-sized parishes (400+ ASA)

Among resource-sized parishes, 7 percent of all paid male clergy work in such parishes, versus 6 percent of all paid female clergy. Men earn a median average income of $118,261 at these churches, while women earn $83,130,  accounting for an 29.71 percent variance. As with progran-sized parishes, these numbers may be influenced by the increased likelihood among these parishes of an assistant rector or other additional clergy.

Gender and Age

There is some good news on this front, as younger clergy, while still experiencing a gender-correlated pay gap, are less likely to do so, with the overall gap smallest among the youngest cohorts.

Parish Income and Gender Pay Disparity

Interestingly, parishes with the most income, and thus the greatest ability to address gender-based pay disparity, have the worst track record in doing so. Again, it must be noted that the presence of assistant rectors and other additional clergy is a factor, but nothing suggests that this is the root cause of the problem.

Indeed, at parishes with more than $450,001 annual operating income, female clergy experience, on average, a 20.11 percent average pay differential, far greater than other cohorts as measured by annual operating income,

Compensation by Role

Interestingly, there is relatively little pay disparity among assistant rectors. But things really heat up when when correlates gender and role for solo and senior rectors.

Overall, solo rectors account for 57 percent of all compensated clergy positions. Within this cohort, female clergy experience an 8.96% pay differential.

Among senior rector positions, which account for 12 percent of all clergy positions, men earn a median average income of $118,266, while women earn a median average income of $104,305, accounting for a shocking 11.80 percent disparity.

Gender and Compensation Range

In this cohort, things get ugly. Really ugly.

Overall, 24 percent of compensated clergy earn annual median income of $100,000 or more. Twenty-nine percent of all paid male clergy occupy these positions, while just 17 percent of women do so.

At the bottom end of the pay scales, 16 percent of male compensated clergy earn $50,000 a year or less, while 25 percent of women earn less than $50,000.

Region III

I like to examine data from Region III, not only because it is my home region, but also because it is, in many ways, the bulwark of the Episcopal Church in the US.

Suffice it to say, in Region III, things are ugly indeed.

Comprising 807 compensated clergy, with a mean annual income of $81.303, gender-based pay disparity is particularly acute in this region.

To be fair, things don’t look too bad in the categories of specialty minister, assistant, or solo rector.

But it is the country club digs of the often elderly cohort of senior rector where things go awry. In this category, males earn average median annual income of $129,903, while women earn just $97,680 — a shocking 24.81% disparity. And while 18 percent of male clergy are aged 65 – 72 (the latter being the mandatory age for retirement), 26 percent of female clergy are within this cohort.

Thus, while there is little empirical data from CPG to support this conclusion, the author believes, based on his own prior research, that the male senior rectors in the largest Region III parishes are holding onto their richly compensated jobs until hell freezes over, or their vestries get tired of watching them play golf, whichever comes sooner. Certainly, these data reflect the historically disadvantaged role of women in the church.

Moreover, it is important to recall that, when a motion about these issue reached the floor of the diocesan annual meeting in 2014, a motion was put forth in response calling for the diocese to study the issue. While that motion fortunately was voted down, we have had 2,000 years of the Christian church to figure this one out. No one needs any more studies, and the motion illustrates that folks who play games remain alive, well, and active in TEC.

In short, it’s time to act, and I have zero patience for people who want to play the delay, deny, obstruct game.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

It is this author’s understanding that, for the first time, General Convention tasked CPG with collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity. In that regard, my hope is that these data soon will be reflected in the annual compensation report.

This may, of course, prove tricky, as in many areas the numbers may be too small to report without breaching privacy. That said, the church’s track record with transgender clergy is nothing to be proud of, and openly gay clergy still face barriers in many parishes, despite what church canons say.

Conclusions

To its credit, the Episcopal Church is making progress in these areas. But its dilly-dallying over sexual misconduct and continued efforts to water down protections in the House of Bishops, as well as its almost utter disregard for bullying, spiritual abuse, and other forms of misconduct that are used to oppress and make life difficult for women, LGBTQUIA+, and other marginalized and oppressed groups within the church make for a challenging path forward.