Why I’m a sell-out


I live in a beautiful house. I’m surrounded by beautiful art and furniture (most of it came from flea markets, charity shops, and thrift stores, but, seriously, I’m really blessed). I live comfortably and do not lack for anything. Except maybe a refrigerator. The freezer door opens every time we close the fridge door, and sometimes we find all of our ice cream full of crystals in the morning…. And an oven. All of the knobs are missing and it’s hard to tell what temperature we’re cooking at… but I digress. The point is that I’m satisfied.

And yet, I write about money.

I love my on-line buddies, many are deep in the wonderful world of free culture. The idea is that all information should be free and readily available for public use and modification. It runs parallel with a very Protestant idea that receiving the good news should not come at a cost, and should be creatively spread.

And yet, I write about money.

There’s a reaction against people who have spent years gouging the flock on a regular basis for prayer cloths and televised agape. And in the Emerging church discussion right now, there is a frustration that the leaders have “sold out.”

And yet, I write about money.

I know there must be a line somewhere, and I’m not sure how to point it out. Maybe… it’s right here… no. I can’t figure out exactly where it is….

But there is a line between getting paid for work–which is a very biblical concept–and fleecing the flock. And most of us, pastors and even the conference-leading writers, who publish with a company, are barely getting paid for our hours.

Do I write about money because I’m a greedy, materialistic jerk who could never be content? No. As I said in first paragraph above, I am very satisfied with what I have. But I just hate the judgment that can be dished out against people who are getting very meager payment for the hours and hours of work that we are doing.

I would claim, “I have a family that I need to provide for.” But, that would be hollow. I would fight for any single woman to be paid for her work as well. She deserves it too.

And that brings me to my point… I recently met Joseph Stewart-Sicking who is doing research on women clergy. He’s comparing his data to studies that were done ten years ago. I asked if women were doing any better with pay equity, and he said that we’re not. He explained that the only real difference is that women seem to be more resigned to their fate these days than in the studies of the first group of ordained women.

And that’s why I write about money.

Sisters, we’ve got to do it for ourselves, because no one is going to go out of their way to give us a raise, which means we could spend our entire careers at the minimum salary.

We, the generation who grew up with girl-power, we were told over and over again that we could become the President of the United States if we put our minds to it. Yet, we’re ending up on the bottom of the heap time and time again in our professions. We, women who graduated at the top of our seminary class, are finding it hard to compete against the men who only got through Greek because we spent so much time tutoring them.

Seminaries are still recommending less qualified men over experienced women for better paying jobs. Our denominational governing bodies are still giving shinier endorsements to men than to women.

Even though women far outnumber men in our pews, laywomen have not been fighting for equity; in fact, many women on church search committees would rather have a man in the pulpit. Many women on our personnel committees overlook the injustice between pay in our staffing models.

And so, I write about money, not just for me, but because I don’t want to read in ten years that men are still far out-pacing women with salaries and positions. I’m thinking about those girls in past youth groups who looked up to me and decided that they might go to seminary. I don’t want them to expect discrimination, because I didn’t fight for the wages of clergywomen.

There is serious injustice. And so we need to learn to balance our “I would do this even if they didn’t pay me” attitudes with a bit of fight.

(And now, if a certain woman on our personnel committee reads this, she will surely roll her eyes, since I turned down a raise last year…).

photo by owlsplace

17 thoughts on “Why I’m a sell-out

  1. Thanks for this Carol – I think… it saddens me to no end that this continues to be the case (recently read a blog by a colleague in my presbytery who probably doesn’t even realize how sexist his language is). It is an interesting tension to live in and I can only hope (and work towards) it is different for my daughter in whatever way she uses her gifts.

  2. I have the privilege of working as a liaison with search committees (in the PCUSA). It’s been interesting as they sift through candidates with an unacknowedged basic assumption that they are looking for a middle aged male (citing their ‘unique’ need for experience as far as age). Yet as a female and the youngest pastor in my presbytery, I get to be an example of another ‘type’ of pastor. One of the search committees seems poised to call a young adult female (still older than me though). I will absolutely use whatever persuasive power I have to encourage them to pay her equally/fairly. I would be especially concerned for a single female.
    At the same time, I am married and my husband has an extremely well-paying job. I’m sure that even if they never verbalize it my Personnel committee keeps that in mind when it comes to future raises for me. And I don’t mind, because the truth is, we could more than manage on his salary alone.
    It’s not so much that I’m resigned to all that, as I just don’t need a raise. I do what I can to advocate for both women and young adults as a whole, but I don’t know that I can/should/ want to be an example, if that makes sense.

  3. Here is a personal example: I am seeking my first call (second career, female, single). I applied for an associate pastor position (I am also looking at solo positions) which was open to first call pastors. I never heard a word from the PNC, which I am OK with.

    What I am not OK with is this: They hired a man with 4 years of experience. The salary figure given (including housing) was $45K (Midwest area). Information from the presbytery minutes inddicates he is being paid $62 K in housing and salary, along with the other benefits.

  4. Seminaries are still recommending less qualified men over experienced women for better paying jobs. Our denominational governing bodies are still giving shinier endorsements to men than to women.

    This bit’s hitting my wife and I especially hard right now. She’s having trouble accepting the fact that a colleague who met with the bishop (she’s Episcopalian) at the same time she did to start the ordination process is now fully ordained and back at the same church she’s volunteering for while she’s only a couple of months ago finally been officially recognized by the diocese, with ordination itself at least a year away, if not two or three.

    This is despite the fact that she knows far more than he does both academically and liturgically, and he has no deeper roots in the denomination itself than she does.

    She’s pretty careful not to blame him. He’s a decent guy. But he was rushed through the process for unknown reasons while she’s been left to slog through, and that’s just not fair.

  5. Elaine said, “What I am not OK with is this: They hired a man with 4 years of experience. The salary figure given (including housing) was $45K (Midwest area). Information from the presbytery minutes inddicates he is being paid $62 K in housing and salary, along with the other benefits.”

    It’s a good point.

    There’s probably a good lesson to learn for all of us in this story. The listed salary is usually the lowest that the church can pay. It’s rarely the highest. My tendency is to go with that number, but usually there is a lot of room to negotiate up.

    Studies show that women (here’s just one of many reports on this) don’t negotiate as much as men. And with pastor salaries, when we don’t often receive raises above cost of living increases, the starting salary negotiating is really important.

  6. As someone married to a brilliant, well-qualified candidate for ministry [she postponed her career so I can entertain mine] that is experiencing difficulty in receiving a call I say right on!

    I am tired of all of the lip service paid to equality. The Deathstar and its minions are full of good, honest people. The fact remains that there is a great divide between the injustice delivered to our sisters and the just compensation that our brothers get. I know that times are tough all over. When will justice and equality supersede the fear and terror that fills the halls of the Deathstar and beyond into the galaxy.

    It angers me to know end that we talk, talk, talk about youth in the church, minorities in the church, women in the church and still subject the majority of our sisters and brothers to abuse and unjust systems.

    Why do we wait for permission to be let in to the hallowed halls of institution? Where is the empowered voice that demands justice and equality. If it is not answered today injustice reigns. Perhaps taking our self worth and call to other sacred spaces shall tell them we are serious about these demands. I say let it all die.

  7. I only have my solo pastor position because they could not afford someone with more experience/ money requirements. For me I made the trade off because of the calling I felt to this church and because I knew my husband would help out (sadly he lost his job 3 weeks into my call, but yet another story).

    Being a part of a church of call system, my advise is be an advocate for yourself but be reasonable. Know what kind of church you are dealing with. Some churches have money and some just do not. (Mind doesn’t). But, even when you are serving a poor church, ask for benefits of what is less costly- vacation time, good maternity leave policies, etc. I felt empowered to ask for what I needed other than actual salary.

  8. As a UMC pastor, I have a little different situation than some of you in regards to the process. But what I see, and what I talked to my wife (who is also a UMC pastor) about just last night, is the fact that as a white male, I stand a better chance than she does, as a white female, of being appointed to a church with a high salary. She stands a better chance than a black male who stands a better chance than a black female, who based on our system stands almost no chance. Not only is this not fair, it flies in the face of what we claim as Christians. My solution, which she disagreed with, is that we need to have socialization of salary within our Conference. That would mean that everyone is paid equally, based on years of service or experience. She argues against it though, saying that it would allow pastors who are ineffective to receive an increase. Being on the Board of Ordained Ministry, she is big on making sure that pastors are doing their jobs faithfully and effectively. She says before we have equal pay, we have to do something about those who are ineffective. The problem I have with that is that I am not sure you can gauge a pastor’s effectiveness if he or she is serving a church that is not interested in growing or is complacent with where they are.

    I guess for me it comes down to this: the idea of equal pay regardless of race or gender which allows ineffective pastors to receive pay increase is a better option than keeping things the same, and hoping for a day when gender and race will not be a factor in appointment-making.

  9. Carole, In your last post you wrote:

    “We’re extremely weak on social justice, ethnic diversity, and the number of men far exceeds the number of women.”

    This says to me that the “Emergent” group you are talking about is skewed toward white men. If that is the group who is using the word “sell-out” to describe women and people of color who are trying to navigate through our tangled system as best they can, then I am suspicious of the accusation.

    As for advocating for equality of pay–absolutely! But I also think it’s just fine to take that lesser paying job because it is fulfilling, feeds your family, and/or you simply feel called to it. Part of equality is having the freedom to accept a call for our own reasons and not to answer to someone else’s agenda.

  10. “Thus, when the apostle says: ‘Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor’ [1 Tim 5:17], he refers not only to the reverence due them, but to the remuneration to which their ministry entitles them.” (Institutes, 2.8.35) Just happened to come across this in my Calvin reading today. Seemed appropriate.

  11. I have to say that I approach this from a bit different place. As a Disciple of Christ pastor, our denomination has no set minimums. You negotiate with the congregation. They pay what they can. Most of our churches are under 100 members. Since, no one appoint us to a position, we are really on our own.

    Women do work under a different set of expectations. Among Disciples, most of our larger churches have male pastors, though that is changing. Thus pay disparity is reflected in part with where many women are pastoring.

    Carol makes the point in a comment about negotiations. That may very well be true — men probably do negotiate harder. When I came to my new position, I knew I had to negotiate a decent salary because I am no the sole breader winner — in my previous position, my wife was able to make up the difference. So, is there a dynamic here that women tend to stay closer to home than male pastors? If a woman is married, how does her husband’s job situation affect what she takes.

    Now, again I write this as a Disciple where there are no recommended or required salaries — you get what you can negotiate!

  12. Carol, thank you for another provocatively truthful post.

    I am hoping that with voices like yours and others the PCUSA will begin to address some of the many issues that have weighed us down from our God given mission. This is an exciting, challenging and scary time, but I would suspect ii always is when God is doing a new thing.

    BTW, GodComplex is GREAT!


  13. I think Bob (above) pinpoints the importance of negotiation for a reasonable salary. I like JB’s Calvin quote too.

    There are some interesting studies on the difference in the way men and women negotiate. At the state (Ohio) AAUW convention, one workshop on women and equity showed a video about how women and men graduates from a business program differed in their negotiation for pay in their first jobs. Women did not negotiate much at all; men did negotiate and got higher salaries. Now these were students out of a well known graduate school of busicness. If these women struggle to know how to negotiate and to feel comfortable negotiating, imagine the struggles women graduating from seminary face.

    I would suggest that seminaries need to teach negotiation skills to all their graduates, women and men alike.

    See http://www.wageproject.org/ for a national charitable group working to help women “get even” in pay.

    Also, did you all notice that this week the senate is debating and hopefully passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182)?

  14. Yeah… there’s a facebook conversation going on about this too, and negotiations came up. Studies often show that men see it as a game and women hate it.

    My daughter’s a great negotiator. It can get annoying sometimes, but I try to encourage it. Hopefully, she’ll be able to keep the skill when she needs it the most.

  15. Late to the conversation, but here goes…

    I want to reiterate a couple points already made. Research and negotiation.

    Research the congregation. Find out what they can pay. Research the community. Find out how much it really costs to live there. Don’t just look at the price of houses; look at the cost of living. We moved into a community in which we had to pay for our children to ride the bus to public school. Didn’t see that one coming. Research the cost of children’s activities, etc. (Sorry,we have young kids, so these are the things on our minds. Your life situation may be different, but you get the point.) Bottom line: there is a lot more to living somewhere than the cost of the house and taxes. We need to know what those things are, so we can do the next step well.

    Negotiate. You have to do this well the first time, because as was said earlier, this is the point all increases are based on. I served in a multi-staff congregation as an associate (I’m a white male.), in which a female pastor was resentful of my salary (and in turn, me). There were some other dynamics. She was second career, but first call. This has been my only career. I had more experience in congregational ministry, but I was younger than she. I made a good but more than she did. I also found out I negotiated, and she did not.

    Do it well the first time. It’s hard to make up ground after that.

  16. Carol…
    Just wanted to say that your blog and tribal church give me a good deal of encouragement as I finish seminary and starting figuring out how to search, where to search and what to search for in terms of a call in the PC(USA). Thanks for continuing to talk, especially when other won’t.

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