Review by Kirk Petersen

Church Pension Group has issued its annual survey of clergy compensation, in an updated version of the interactive tool it introduced last year. The survey has added data on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, all part of CPG’s effort to fulfill compensation-related resolutions from the 2018 General Convention. The survey also for the first time has some data from every diocese in the church, although the report for domestic dioceses is more robust than the non-domestic report.

Some highlights from the domestic dioceses:

  • Median compensation nationally for full-time clergy in 2020 was $83,392, up from $81,250 the prior year. The level has been roughly flat on an inflation-adjusted basis for the past few years.
  • The number of clergy considered “full-time” (about which more below) was 4,559, continuing a steady decline from a high of 6,338 in 2003.
  • Sixty percent of clergy were male, and male clergy received median compensation about $10,500 higher than female clergy. That gap has widened slightly since last year’s report, which showed a gap closer to $10,000.

CPG offers a webinar demonstrating how to use the tool. What follows is a more idiosyncratic guide. This is going to get long and geeky, so if you’re already bored, stop reading.

One key thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of available data is based not on full-time clergy, but on all compensated clergy. (More specifically: all clergy with assessable compensation from Episcopal employers, as reported to CPG for pension purposes.)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the tool is based on full-time clergy, because the two most prominent charts on the domestic report are labeled “Full-Time Clergy” (see Figure 1).  But CPG spokesman Curt Ritter confirmed that those two charts are the only places where data is limited to full-time clergy. Everything else is based on all compensated clergy.

Figure 1. These two charts are the ONLY places where data is limited to “full-time” clergy.

“Full-time,” importantly, has nothing to do with hours worked. For CPG purposes, clergy are considered full-time if their compensation exceeds a threshold that is indexed for inflation. The threshold for 2020 was $35,183, which would include some half-time clergy. This means that clergy who are truly full-time — as defined variously by different dioceses — have median income higher than indicated in most parts of the tool.

When the tool was first introduced a year ago, TLC noted: “A seminarian might, hypothetically, be interested in knowing which dioceses have the highest 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 desired data about that diocese, and pasting it into a spreadsheet.)”

The new iteration of the tool takes a step toward improving this. It’s still not possible to browse comparisons across the entire domestic church, but it is now possible within each domestic province.

Figure 2. (Province V.)

If you click into a province on the map (let’s take Province V as an example) and scroll down a bit, you’ll find a drop-down menu labeled “Select Category.” One of the available categories is “Diocese” — a category not available for the nationwide view of the map. This will lead to a couple of busy charts, including one labeled “Median Compensation by Gender and Diocese” (Figure 2).

Studying the chart leads to some interesting insights. As noted earlier, male clergy in general are more highly compensated than female clergy. But the difference in relative compensation levels varies significantly across dioceses.

In the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, which is north of Detroit, the median compensation for male clergy is more than three times the level for female clergy: $69,179 vs. $21,000, a disparity that dwarfs the national difference. Note that small sample sizes lend themselves to outlying results. Other parts of the tool reveal that the Eastern Michigan comparison is of nine men and seven women. (For privacy reasons, CPG omits any subset with fewer than five clergy, which is why there are some gaps in Figure 2.)

Chicago provides a different anomaly. Compensation for men in most Province V dioceses is higher than for women (women have a slight edge in Indianapolis, but it’s essentially parity.) But in the Diocese of Chicago, median compensation for women is more than $11,000 higher than for men: $86,767 vs. $75,400. Chicago is the largest diocese in the province, with 67 male and 44 female clergy.

The reasons for the role reversal are unclear, because various factors skew the results in different directions. Clergy tend to make more money at larger churches (a fact you can verify with the compensation tool), so one hypothesis would be that some of the largest churches in the Diocese of Chicago happen to have female clergy. But 15 minutes of tedious research with the help of church websites and a completely different database — the parochial report tool maintained by the Church Center — shows that the four largest churches in the diocese all have male rectors. Note that the data includes not just clergy at churches, but clergy on diocesan staffs (including bishops), and clergy employed by schools, hospitals, or other Episcopal institutions.

The diocese’s annual compensation report provides a clue that pushes in the other direction. It states that of the part-time clergy, 17 are male, and only 3 are female, and those salaries all are below the median. That moves the male median down a net 14 notches.

So, you might wonder, are there other dioceses in the country with compensation disparities more pronounced than in Eastern Michigan and Chicago? Here’s what you would have to do to find out:

  1. Click the eight domestic provinces on the map, one by one.
  2. Scroll down and select Dioceses from the drop-down menu.
  3. Scroll down and find the chart that looks similar to the Province V chart above.
  4. Check for disparities between male and female compensation. (Be careful not to mix up the three shades of green.) This may involve doing some math.
  5. Write any interesting data on a piece of paper, to compare at the end of the exercise.

This is actually feasible because you only have to do it eight times. Here are the results:

  • There are 14 domestic dioceses where median compensation for women is higher than for men. They are Bethlehem, Central New York, Chicago, El Camino Real, Indianapolis, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Newark, Northern California, San Diego, Spokane, Tennessee, and West Tennessee.
  • In three of those dioceses, the scales tip in favor of women more than in Chicago. They are Montana, San Diego, and Spokane.
  • The largest disparity in favor of women is in the Diocese of Spokane, where nine women have median compensation of $60,337, and 10 men have median compensation of $36,157.
  • Eastern Michigan has the highest disparity in favor of men, but there are two other dioceses where median compensation for men is more than twice that for women. They are Albany, which has 35 men with median compensation of $60,827 and 15 women with median compensation of $30,142, and West Missouri, 25 men with median compensation of $70,428 and 11 women with median compensation of $30,000.

Figure 3.

Sticking with the topic of disparity between male and female compensation, while the tool does not provide national comparisons by diocese, it does provide them by province (see Figure 3). From a data-visualization standpoint, that chart is somewhat confusing. But with a bit of time and some modest spreadsheet and charting skills, the tool provides the building blocks for a more meaningful visualization.

Every chart on the CPG tool comes with three little icons at the top. The icon on the left displays the data as a table, while the icon on the right exports the data into a spreadsheet. The third icon, shaped like a funnel, provides access to what appears to be a powerful database interface. But there are no instructions for how to use it, and exploring it is a frustrating exercise.

Neither the table nor the spreadsheet are formatted in a way that makes comparisons between genders easy. But by manipulating the formatting in a spreadsheet and selecting a different type of chart (about a half-hour task, depending on skill level) you can produce Figure 4.

Figure 4. Created based on CPG data, but CPG has not reviewed this. The chart uses pink for women and blue for men because sometimes stereotypes provide clarity.

Figure 4 shows variations by province in how much lower compensation is for female clergy than for male clergy. The deficit for women ranges from 8 percent in Province V (the Upper Midwest) to 19 percent in Province VII (the Southwest). CPG provides the data in raw dollars, but calculating the difference between genders involved building a formula into the spreadsheet.

Aside from male-versus-female data, the tool provides other interesting insights. Among survey respondents nationwide, White men make more money than White women, but women have higher median compensation than men in the Black and Hispanic categories. In fact, Black women and Hispanic women have higher median compensation than White men. That may seem counterintuitive, but that’s what the data show (Figure 5).

Figure 5. This is the nationwide chart, although that’s not apparent from the way it is labeled. Props for the footnote.

Variables such as race, sexual orientation, and gender are self-reported, and are based on the 41 percent of clergy in CPG’s records who responded to a survey. Data that compare only compensation and gender are based on all compensated clergy.

In the webinar, a CPG analyst said the 41 percent survey sample appears to be reasonably representative of the full universe of compensated clergy. However, Matthew J. Price, senior vice president of research and data, urged more clergy to respond to the survey, to enable more granular comparisons of subcategories. Clergy can access the survey at cpg.org/picture.

Almost all of the above has focused on domestic dioceses. Because of much smaller sample sizes and multiple legal jurisdictions, the data for non-domestic dioceses is inevitably much less robust. The tool reports the number of male and female clergy in each non-domestic diocese, and reports median compensation, but compensation is not broken out by gender.

There are 288 clergy spread across 12 non-domestic dioceses, ranging from Taiwan to Haiti to the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The median compensation for those clergy is reported as $8,237, which is a meaningless number because the diocesan medians range from $2,400 for the 22 clergy in Colombia to $72,185 for the seven clergy in the Virgin Islands.

Data on race and ethnicity are reported only for the non-domestic dioceses as a group, rendering those numbers also meaningless. (It seems likely the percentages for Asian and Hispanic clergy would vary considerably between, say, Taiwan and Honduras, but there’s no way to check.) There is also data on sexual orientation and gender identity, again based only on clergy who completed the survey, and again not broken down by diocese. There were 26 respondents among the 288 clergy, a response rate of 9 percent.

CPG has put considerable effort into creating the non-domestic report (translating the survey into the languages of each diocese, for example). But the examples above demonstrate the difficulty of reporting useful data based on small sample sizes.

The domestic tool, on the other hand, provides a wealth of information for diocesan compensation committees, parity advocates, and data geeks.