GCSRW

How Far We’ve Come and the Distance Still to Go: UMC Clergywomen are Still Significantly Undercompensated

Introduction

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) has chronicled the progress being made in closing the disparities in compensation for United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy by gender. In 2011[1], GCSRW reported that clergywomen, on average, made 13% less than clergymen. In 2015 this pay gap had worsened, such that fulltime active clergywomen made, on average, 16% less salary, 12% less parsonage amount, and 14% less housing allowance than clergymen[2].

GCSRW has commissioned Dr. Magaela Bethune to be the lead research consultant in a study to explore the persistent compensation disparities along the lines of gender using 2020 U.S. compensation data from the denomination[3]. Results of this study show that, while some progress has been made in five years, clergywomen still lag clergymen in compensation. In 2020, clergywomen made, on average, 11% less in salary, 11% less housing allowance, and 9% less parsonage amount than clergymen. What follows is a breakdown of highlights from our analyses and findings.

 

Demographics

For this study, we used 2020 U.S. compensation data from the denomination that included UMC clergy (N = 14,124) who were actively employed in 2020, 100% fulltime employed (total across multiple appointments as applicable), and who resided or were employed in U.S. jurisdictions. By member type, clergy were: 46% elders – full connection; 21% full members, 20% fulltime local pastors, 7% provisional elders, 3% deacons – full connection, and 3% other member types (e.g., associate members, provisional deacon, student local pastor, etc.). By jurisdiction, clergy were: 36% Southeastern, 21% North Central, 20% South Central, 16% Northeastern, and 7% Western.

Clergy were, on average, 52.5 ± 11.1 years of age. The average age of clergy by member type was as follows: elders (full connection) were 51.2 ± 10.5 years; full members were 60.2 ± 5.3 years; fulltime local pastors were 51.1 ± 12.0 years; provisional elders were 42.6 ± 11.6 years; and deacons (full connection) were 50.8 ± 11.1 years.

Clergy had, on average, 15.7 ± 11.2 years of service. The average years of service for clergy by member type was as follows: elders (full connection) were 15.3 ± 8.0 years; full members were 30.7 ± 6.8 years; fulltime local pastors were 6.3 ± 5.9 years; provisional elders were 4.5 ± 3.7 years; and deacons (full connection) were 13.0 ± 6.7 years.

Table 1. UMC Clergy Member Type by Gender, 2020 (N = 14,124)

 

Gender

 

Member Type

Female

% of member type (n)

Male

% of member type (n)

Probationary Member

0% (n = 0)

100% (n = 4)

Full Member

21% (n = 623)

79% (n = 2,293)

Minister Other Denomination

22% (n = 45)

78% (n = 159)

Associate Member

23% (n = 42)

77% (n = 144)

Full Time Local Pastor

30% (n = 829)

70% (n = 1,951)

Elder Full Connect

34% (n = 2,239)

66% (n = 4,277)

Provisional Elder

39% (n = 390)

61% (n = 608)

Student Local Pastor

58% (n = 7)

42% (n = 5)

Provisional Deacon

66% (n = 57)

34% (n = 30)

Deacon Full Connect

66% (n = 279)

34% (n = 142)

 

Clergy were 32% women and 68% men. In comparison to other member types, clergywomen are much more likely than clergymen to be deacons[4] (provisional or full connection; see Table 1). In comparison to other jurisdictions, clergywomen are underrepresented in the Southeastern jurisdiction[5] – constituting only 27% of clergy (see Table 2).

On average, clergywomen (n = 4,511; 52.3 ± 11.3 years old) were about the same age as clergymen[6] (n = 9,613; 52.6 ± 11.1 years old). However, clergywomen (12.9 ± 9.4 years) had, on average, fewer years of service than clergymen[7] (17.0 ± 11.7 years).

 

Table 2. UMC Jurisdiction of Clergy by Gender, 2020 (N = 14,124)

 

Gender

Jurisdiction

Female

% of Jurisdiction (n)

Male

% of Jurisdiction (n)

Southeastern

27% (n = 1,398)

73% (n = 3,639)

South Central

31% (n = 888)

69% (n = 1,938)

North Central

35% (n = 1,012)

66% (n = 1,924)

Northeastern

35% (n = 787)

65% (n = 1,470)

Western

42% (n = 426)

58% (n = 585)

 

Compensation

Active, fulltime UMC clergy receive a salary and either a housing allowance or a parsonage amount as types of compensation. On average, UMC clergy received $59,515 ± $24,518 (ranging from $0 to $1,028,411) in salary in 2020. Table 3 shows salary by clergy member type. Clergy who received a housing allowance (38%; n = 5,364) received, on average, $21,420 ± $10,544 (ranging from $0 to $300,000). Table 4 shows the housing allowance by clergy member type. Clergy who received parsonage amount (56%; n = 7,862) received, on average, $14,350 ± $4,792 (ranging from $2,416 to $147,675). On average, UMC clergy received $75,637 ± $29,691 in total compensation[8] (ranging from $1,200 to $1,054,211). Table 6 shows total compensation by clergy member type.

 

Table 3. Salary by Member Type, 2020 (N = 14,124)

 

 

Salary (US$)

 

Member Type (n)

Mean

SD

Minimum

Maximum

Full Member (n = 2,916)

72,914

3,2582

0

1,024,811

Elder Full Connect (n = 6,516)

62,676

22,807

0

590,701

Probationary Member (n = 4)

54,565

5,736

48,011

62,000

Deacon Full Connect (n = 421)

53,882

18,099

0

133,238

Associate Member (n = 186)

51,491

14,085

31,200

120,775

Minister Other Denomination (n = 204)

50,198

1,121

28,314

101,192

Provisional Elder (n = 998)

46,836

13,557

7,840

62,000

Provisional Deacon (n = 87)

45,520

13,558

1,057

117,877

Full Time Local Pastor (n = 2,780)

45,191

10,449

8,885

150,000

Student Local Pastor (n = 12)

43,232

15,675

29,000

76,436

 

 

 

Table 4. Housing Allowance by Clergy Member Type, 2020 (N = 5,364)

 

Housing Allowance (US$)

Member Type (n)

Mean

SD

Minimum

Maximum

Full Member (n = 1,261)

23,992

11,190

1,800

128,500

Elder Full Connect (m = 2,538)

22,236

10,989

460

300,000

Probationary Member (n = 3)

17,600

1,833

15,600

19,200

Deacon Full Connect (n = 227)

19,054

8,680

1

47,990

Associate Member (n = 37)

17,038

6,764

3,000

40,300

Minister Other Denomination (n = 82)

20,114

9,541

2,400

60,000

Provisional Elder (n = 350)

18,815

7,126

3,000

48,000

Provisional Deacon (n = 46)

14,431

5,681

100

26,100

Full Time Local Pastor (n = 814)

17,472

8,363

1

87,999

Student Local Pastor (n = 6)

13,186

3,364

8,984

18,750

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5. Parsonage Amount by Clergy Member Type, 2020 (N = 7,862)

 

Parsonage Amount (US$)

Member Type (n)

Mean

SD

Minimum

Maximum

Full Member (n = 1,528)

17,297

5,617

5,475

71,250

Elder Full Connect (n = 3,696)

15,126

4,676

3,286

147,675

Probationary Member (n = 1)

--

--

--

--

Deacon Full Connect (n = 47)

13,359

4,211

4,800

29,364

Associate Member (n = 132)

12,826

3,264

5,625

28,875

Minister Other Denomination (n = 108)

12,727

2,709

7,673

25,298

Provisional Elder (n = 608)

11,846

2,313

3,300

26,894

Student Local Pastor (n = 5)

11,534

4,336

8,134

19,109

Full Time Local Pastor (n = 1727)

11,235

2,212

2,416

29,635

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 6. Total Compensation by Clergy Member Type, 2020 (N = 14,124)

 

Total Compensation (US$)

Member Type (n)

Mean

SD

Minimum

Maximum

Full Member (n = 2,916)

92,353

37,390

4,800

1,054,211

Elder Full Connect (n = 6,516)

79,917

27,994

10,000

738,376

Probationary Member (n = 4)

71,134

4,923

67,211

77,600

Deacon Full Connect (n = 421)

65,647

20,648

1,200

146,819

Associate Member (n = 186)

63,983

17,947

33,990

145,775

Minister Other Denomination (n = 204)

65,021

15,281

31,200

152,282

Provisional Elder (n = 998)

60,652

12,689

15,000

146,966

Provisional Deacon (n = 87)

54,463

14,966

10,647

117,877

Student Local Pastor (n = 12)

54,631

19,424

37,984

95,545

 

Compensation by Gender

In 2020, on average, UMC clergywomen received eighty-nine cents for every clergyman’s dollar in salary.

In 2020, clergywomen received substantially and significantly lower amounts of all types of compensation than clergymen. The average clergywoman received 89% of the salary[9], 89% of the housing allowance[10], 91% of the parsonage amount[11], and consequently, 89% of the total compensation[12] of the average clergyman. Table 7 shows 2020 salaries of each clergy member type by gender (refer to Table 1 for a breakdown of clergy member types by gender).

 Since clergy member type, jurisdiction, and years of service differs by gender, compensation was explored by gender, while also considering these factors. Even when controlling for age, years of service, clergy member type, and jurisdiction, clergywomen still receive significantly less salary (by an average of $2,740)[13], housing allowance (by an average of $1,642)[14], parsonage amount (by an average of $548)[15], and total compensation (an average of $3,505)[16] than clergymen.

 

 

 

Table 7. Salary of Each Clergy Member Type by Gender, 2020

 

Salary (US$)

 

Female

Male

Member Type

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Full Member

66,684

43,632

74,607

28,638

Elder Full Connect

58,265

17,700

64,984

24,763

Probationary Member

--

--

54,565

5,736

Deacon Full Connect

51,662

16,405

58,244

20,402

Associate Member

50,129

11,891

51,889

14,677

Minister Other Denomination

50,172

10,438

50,205

11,450

Provisional Elder

45,065

8,457

47,972

10,813

Provisional Deacon

44,017018

9,894

48,374

18,526

Student Local Pastor

43,517

14,122

42,834

8,675

 

Then and Now

From 2015 to 2020, the average age of fulltime clergy decreased from 54.2 to 52.5 years of age. Similarly, the average years of service for clergy decreased from 19.8 to 15.7 years of service. Overall, UMC clergy are slightly younger and have fewer years of service than in years past.

Despite the trend of women constituting over half of the UMC membership, women are still significantly underrepresented among active, fulltime clergy. However, with women’s representation rising from a reported 28% in 2015 to 32% in 2020, slow and gradual progress has been made. Women continue to be overrepresented (66%) among deacons in ministry in 2020, in comparison to 65% in 2015.

In 2015, clergywomen tended to be slightly younger (by less than one year) than clergymen, but averaged about six fewer years of service than clergymen. In 2020, the trend continued of women being slightly younger. In 2020, clergywomen still averaged significantly fewer years of service, despite averaging about the same age as clergymen. This may reflect differences between men and women as second career clergy. Other considerations may include at what age the clergyperson decided to follow their call to ministry.

The average salary of UMC clergy slightly increased from $57,512 in 2015 to $59,515 in 2020. Factors that may have plausibly contributed to an increase may include adjustments for overall increased cost of living; other factors, such as the younger average age and years of service of clergy may have attenuated the average increase of salary. Clergy salary and other forms of compensation vary greatly across clergy member types – with elders and full members (who also average the greatest number of years of service) being compensated the greatest in salary, housing allowance, and parsonage amount. Education requirements (e.g., Master of Divinity versus Course of Study) play a role in compensation, but were not explored as a factor in this study.

Slow, gradual gains have been made in the areas of overall women’s representation among clergy and compensation for ministry work. And although the disparity between clergywomen and clergymen’s compensation has narrowed from 2015 to 2020, there is still a significant and meaningful gender pay gap that persists, and that presents as a pattern across various types of compensation.

There are a few meaningful and plausible ways that may address this disparity. By increasing the overall representation of women in clergy and promoting women to roles with more seniority can situate women to receive more benefits to their work in ministry. The initial appointments for clergywomen might be explored in future research for how that influences the career path. Further, more attention must be paid toward equitably compensating women for their tenure and years of service, including recognizing and accounting for the tolls that women pay toward service to some conventional roles and contributions to society, which may impact the timing and continuity of women’s service in ministry. Clergywomen make an indelible mark on ministry within The United Methodist Church and should be acknowledged and properly compensated for their labor accordingly.

This report is the first of a series of reports highlighting the gender pay gap among UMC clergy. In the next installment, we will revisit geographic trends and new directions in equitable clergy compensation.



[1] Knudson, K. (2011). Women, clergypersons of color earn less: less seniority, lower-paying pulpits lend to pay gaps. Women by the Numbers.

[2] Bethune, M. (2017). UMC clergywomen still receive substantially less compensation. Women by the Numbers.

[3] De-identified compensation data was requested from and provided by Wespath Benefits and Investments, a general agency of The United Methodist Church.

[4] Chi-square analysis was used to examine the proportional differences in the gender composition of clergy across clergy member types.

[5] Chi-square analysis was used to examine the proportional differences in the gender composition of clergy across jurisdictions.

[6] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 ages of clergywomen and clergymen. There was no statistically significant difference in the average ages of clergywomen (M = 52.3; SD = 11.3) and clergymen (M = 52.6; SD = 11.1); t(14122) = -1.58, p > .05.

[7] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 reported years of service of clergywomen and men. Clergywomen has significantly fewer years of service (M = 12.9, SD = 9.4) than clergymen (M = 17.0, SD = 11.7); t(10762) = -22.54, p < .001.

[8] Total compensation was computed by adding the 2020 salary and either the housing allowance or the parsonage amount of each clergyperson.

[9] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 salaries of clergywomen (n = 4,511) and clergymen (n = 9,613). There was a substantial and statistically significant difference in the 2020 salary for clergywomen (M = $54,816; SD = $22,800) and clergymen (M = $61,719; SD = $24,982); t(9594) = -16.26, p < .001.

[10] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 housing allowances of clergywomen (n = 1,817) and clergymen (n = 3,547). There was a substantial and statistically significant difference in the 2020 housing allowances for clergywomen (M = $19,785; SD = $8,655) and clergymen (M = $22,258; SD = $11,301); t(4583) =   -8.901, p < .001.

[11] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 parsonage amount of clergywomen (n = 2,339) and clergymen (n = 5,523). There was a substantial and statistically significant difference in the 2020 parsonage amount for clergywomen (M = $13,459; SD = $3,819) and clergymen (M = $14,728; SD = $5,103); t(5803) = -12.12, p < .001.

[12] An independent samples t-test was performed to compare the 2020 total compensation of clergywomen (n = 4,511) and clergymen (n = 9,613). There was a substantial and statistically significant difference in the 2020 total compensation for clergywomen (M = $69,764; SD = $26,150) and clergymen (M = $78,394; SD = $30,833); t(10263) = -17.24, p < .001.

[13] Multiple regression analysis was used to test if – when controlling for age, length of service, membership type and jurisdiction – gender still significantly predicted salary. All these factors taken together explained 24% of the variance R2 = .24, F(15, 14107) = 277.75, p < .001. When all factors were accounted for, gender still significantly predicted lower salary for clergywomen, β = -.05, p < .001.

[14] Multiple regression analysis was used to test if – when controlling for age, length of service, membership type and jurisdiction – gender still significantly predicted housing allowance. All these factors taken together explained 10% of the variance R2 = .10, F(15, 5347) = 36.00, p < .001. When all factors were accounted for, gender still significantly predicted lower housing allowance for clergywomen, β = -.07, p < .001.

[15] Multiple regression analysis was used to test if – when controlling for age, length of service, membership type and jurisdiction – gender still significantly predicted parsonage amount. All these factors taken together explained 28% of the variance R2 = .28, F(15, 7845) = 191.02, p < .001. When all factors were accounted for, gender still significantly predicted lower parsonage amount for clergywomen, β = -.05, p < .001.

[16] Multiple regression analysis was used to test if – when controlling for age, length of service, membership type and jurisdiction – gender still significantly predicted total compensation. All these factors taken together explained 26% of the variance R2 = .26, F(15, 14107) = 302.48, p < .001. When all factors were accounted for, gender still significantly predicted lower total compensation for clergywomen, β = -.06, p < .001.