by Kristin Knudson
U.S. clergywomen in The United Methodist Church on average earn 13% less than their male counterparts, and
clergypersons of color—Black, Hispanic/Latina, Native American, Asian- and Pacific Island-Americans—earn
9% to 15% less than white clergy.
These were the finding of a recent study of U.S. clergy salaries, led by the General Board of Higher Education
and Ministry (GBHEM), with support from the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women
(GCSRW), the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), the General Council on Finance and
Administration (GCFA), the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) and United Methodist
The study found that race and gender do play a role in
clergy salaries. However, researchers Eric B. Johnson of
the Princeton Center for the Study of Religion and the
Rev. Hee An Choi of the Anna Howard Shaw Center at
Boston University School of Theology explain that the
gender and race gaps also stem from different causes:
This study, which tracks salary of clergy serving the church between 1997 and 2008, is the first-ever attempt to
research United Methodist clergy pay and any impact according to race/ethnicity and gender, according to the
the Rev. HiRho Park, GBHEM’s director of continuing formation for ministry.
Among the study’s other findings
Johnson of the Princeton Center is a
specialist in the dynamic interaction
between large-scale institutions and
concrete social processes. Choi, who
is also a lecturer at Boston University
School of Theology, is a specialist
in women’s studies and theology
in multicultural and post-colonial
Combining their specialties, Choi
and Johnson give The United
Methodist Church a look into how the
denomination fares with regard to
salaries of male, female, and racialethnic
clergy within the religious
community and in comparison to
With regard to clergy salaries, career paths, and effectiveness,
According to Johnson’s summary, U.S.
clergy salaries overall have increased
substantially over the study period
(1997-2008), exceeding the general
rate of inflation by approximately
2% per year, resulting in a 20% total
increase over the past decade. (It is
important to remember that this study
examines salaries among clergy only
in the United States.)
And while race/ethnicity and gender
differences are evident, it is the size
of congregations served that is the
largest differentiating factor for pastor
salaries, reflecting the importance
of appointment status as a mark of
“upward mobility” for pastors.
The study finds that women and racial/ethnic pastors receive lower compensation, not because of education or
seniority, but mainly because cabinets consistently appoint women and racial/ethnic pastors to congregations
and multi-church charges that pay lower salaries.
The differences in how appointments are made within annual conferences as well as the various formal and
informal practices regarding salary setting made the statistical analysis challenging, however, Johnson started
with a baseline of five possible predictors of pastor’s salaries:
The data was collected from GBPHB and the GCFA. Retired pastors serving congregations and supply pastors
were excluded because their data is generally excluded from the Board of Pension data. Part-time and other
local pastors serving local congregations have been included as their numbers are greater.
The salary figures used for the analysis include the salary and any housing allowance (if any) paid to the pastor
and reported to GCFA. It does NOT include other forms of compensation, such as benefits and contributions to
More than 80% of the pastors in the study held full-time appointments, even though both the number of parttime
appointments and the proportion of pastors being paid for half- or quarter-time have increased over the past
10 years. During the study years, the percentage of full-time pastors in the data decreased from 89% in 1997 to
79% in 2008; also, the percentage of pastors earning half- or quarter-time increased from 3% to 17%.
The differences in salaries? Hour for hour, three-quarters-time pastors earn 73% of what their full-time colleagues
earn, half-time pastors earn 64% and one-quarter time pastors earn 41% of what full-time pastors earn.
While the number of women pastors steadily increases, the majority of United Methodist pastors serving
U.S. appointments are men. When the study began in 1998, 20% of U.S. pastors were female. In 2008, that
percentage had increased to 29%. (Remember, women make up 57% percent of the U.S. population and at least
57% of United Methodist membership.)
The number of pastors of color lags even farther behind, with racial/ethnic clergy comprising only 12% of
United Methodists serving clergy appointments. (The U.S. population is 35% non-white; membership in The
United Methodist Church in the United States is about 5% racial/ethnic, according to the GCORR.)
According to Johnson, the number of racial/ethnic clergy has not changed dramatically over the past 10 years.
The majority of non-white pastors are Black (7%), followed by Asian (3%), and Hispanic/Latino (1%). Racial/
ethnic groups that fall within the “other” category also account for about 1% of United Methodist pastors.