By Kirk Petersen
At its first meeting after the General Convention in Austin, Executive Council voted to provide compensation to the president of the House of Deputies in the amount of $210,000 per year.
At first glance, this appears to be in line with other four top officers of the Episcopal Church, whose salaries are disclosed by canonical mandate on the church website. But Jane Cisluycis of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, who led the subcommittee that researched the compensation issue, said the president will be paid as an independent contractor and will not receive an employee benefits package that includes healthcare coverage and retirement accounts. As a rule of thumb, benefits are valued at about a third of base salary.
The position had always been uncompensated, but the responsibilities of the office have grown steadily over recent decades, and it now is a demanding job. The incumbent, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of Ohio, was re-elected to a third and final three-year term in July.
The House of Deputies had approved a salary for the president at three General Conventions since 1997, and each time the House of Bishops voted against, thereby killing the measure. Some bishops expressed concern that the president had grown too powerful over the years, to the extent of almost becoming a co-primate with the presiding bishop.
In Austin, the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, proposed a compromise that carried the day. He suggested that instead of being paid a salary, the president should receive director and officer fees for duties spelled out in the Constitution & Canons of the church. There would be no compensation for additional related duties that the president might pursue, such as speaking engagements not mandated by the canons.
Bishop Rowe’s resolution was passed with overwhelming support in both Houses, and Executive Council was directed to establish the amount of the director fees.
Cisluycis said her subcommittee started by reviewing the 14-page report (Blue Book, p. 897) that spells out the work the president performs, and divides into tasks that are or are not required by the canons.
Committee members studied the ebb and flow of responsibilities by time period. Immediately after General Convention, the president is “really, really, really busy with 600-plus appointments and co-nominations for roles,” Cisluycis said. Regular duties include serving as vice chair of Executive Council, which governs the church between General Conventions, and as a vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), the legal name of the Episcopal Church.
The subcommittee examined the compensation of other members of DFSM management as a guideline. “And then we used the guideline of what was available in the budget for the triennium,” Cisluycis said. The budget passed by General Convention allocated $650,000 for three years, reduced from $900,000 in earlier drafts. The larger number would have funded salary and benefits comparable to the other top officers. Cisluycis said $210,000 was chosen as “a round number” that used most of the available budget.
Jennings issued a statement to TLC: “Having director’s and officer’s fees for the president of the House of Deputies means that now, any deputy can discern a call to serve the church in this ministry. As I begin my final triennium as president, I am grateful to know that in the future, the House of Deputies and the wider church will be able to reap the full benefit of the gifts and perspectives of leaders who might otherwise have been unable to serve.”
As vice chair of Executive Council, Jennings is considered a member of all of its committees, but her spokeswoman, Rebecca Wilson of Canticle Communications, said Jennings did not participate in any discussions about her compensation.
At the three-day Executive Council meeting in Chaska, Minn., the council also elected and appointed members to various roles for the coming triennium. Three members were elected at large to Executive Council’s Executive Committee: Julia Harris of the Diocese of Oklahoma, Utah Bishop Scott Hayashi, and Rose Sconiers of the Diocese of Western New York.
The Executive Committee meets at least once between each meeting of Executive Council, which meets three times a year. The committee sets the agenda for each council meeting, and is empowered to take action on extraordinary matters that cannot wait for the full council to convene. The nine-member committee includes the presiding bishop, the president of the House of Deputies, the chairs of each of the council’s standing committees, and at-large members.
The council also altered its committee structure, reducing from five standing committees to four, and elected chairs for each committee. The committees and their chairs are:
- Finance (the Rev. Mally Ewing Lloyd of the Diocese of Massachusetts);
- Governance and Operations (Cisluycis);
- Mission Beyond the Episcopal Church (the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Diocese of Southwest Florida);
- Mission Within the Episcopal Church (the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Diocese of Georgia).