By Kirk Petersen

Church Pension Group issued its annual survey of clergy compensation for 2019 in an interactive format for the first time this year, and ecclesial data geeks can have a field day with it.

The new survey is the first major milestone in CPG’s efforts to fulfill four compensation-related resolutions from the 2018 General Convention, to help determine pay disparities based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

The new online tool enables users to click on individual dioceses (or provinces) on a map and examine compensation by gender for half a dozen attributes, including clerical order (priest or deacon), average Sunday attendance (ASA), compensation range, years of service, and more. Some of these attributes were touched upon in the traditional PDF format for 2018 and prior years, but mostly at a national level, and the selection was much less robust.

In fact, the interactive tool provides so much granular detail within a diocese that the results are suppressed for any subcategory that has fewer than five clergy in it, to protect the confidentiality of individual clergy.

But while the new tool provides a wealth of data at the diocesan level, it does not provide a convenient way to compare that data with the spectrum of other dioceses. In this regard, the old static format has an advantage.

For example, a seminarian might, hypothetically, be interested in knowing which dioceses have the highest median compensation. The old, static report includes a table with median compensation for every domestic diocese, and it shows decile ranking in a separate column. By scanning down the decile column looking for the number 1, a user can easily identify the dioceses in the top 10 percent of median compensation.

There is no practical way to learn this information with the interactive tool. (The transcendently impractical method would begin with clicking every diocese one by one, capturing the the desired data about that diocese, and pasting it into a spreadsheet.)

CPG spokesperson Curt Ritter confirmed by email that “Clicking on each is currently the only option, but we will take the note/suggestion for future updates.”

To be fair, it’s pretty easy with the interactive tool to see if compensation in a diocese is above or below the national median, because all of the data at the diocesan level are also provided at the national level.

And “national” is the appropriate word here, even though it’s a faux pas to refer to the multinational Episcopal Church as “the national church.” All of the comparisons discussed here are based on domestic dioceses. The new tool does have a separate database and click-on map with data for non-domestic dioceses, which cannot usefully be included with American dioceses because of small sample size, and differences in purchasing power, tax rates, etc.

For these reasons and others, the data available in non-domestic dioceses is more limited than the domestic data. Still, compensation reports for 2018 and earlier years did not include any non-domestic data.

A few more insights based on exploring the compensation tool:

  • Clergy compensation has increased slightly faster than inflation in the past two decades. From 2000 to 2019, median compensation for full-time clergy increased from $52,428 to $81,250, or 55 percent. In 2000 dollars, the increase was from $52,428 to $55,250, or 5.4 percent. (The tool provides the raw numbers, but the percentages require calculation by the user.)
  • The number of full-time clergy in domestic dioceses has declined from 6,022 in 2000 to 4,677 in 2019.
  • “Full-time clergy,” as defined by CPG, has nothing to do with hours worked. Ritter said any clergy person whose compensation exceeds an inflation-adjusted threshold is considered full-time for statistical purposes.  The threshold currently is $35,548.
  • Of the 5,344 clergy persons who receive compensation, 60 percent are male.  Median annual compensation for male clergy is more than $10,000 higher than for female clergy, $80,994 to $70,722, leading to a blended median of $76,734.
  • The compensation gap by gender is on a course to continue to narrow over time. The gap for clergy aged 65 to 72 is more than $14,000, while for clergy 34 and younger it is only a bit more than $3,000.

In 2021, CPG expects to add racial data to the report based on 2020 data, also in response to a 2018 General Convention resolution. Ritter indicated the racial report takes longer because of the need to begin collecting new data, while the gender-based reporting involves massaging data that CPG already was collecting.

Ritter urged clergy throughout the Church to help meet the convention’s goal of examining compensation disparities by updating their personal information in the MyCPG Account section of the company’s website.