Another open letter to the Faith Action Group and Assembly Trustees.
Dear Faith Action Group and Assembly Trustees,
For my views on pay deals and stipends, please see my previous open letter blog last year (to which I never received a reply to the questions asked):
I won’t bother wasting your time, nor that of readers, by repeating the various arguments contained in my previous blog, but let me ask for an update, a dangerous question, I know. Why do I say that? Because I recently asked for an update from the General Trustees about how they were getting on with the question of manses and the prospect of ministers finally being able to live in their own homes, and I was politely told that it was none of my business and I should wait for the report to the next General Assembly. So much for showing interest and the quest for openness and transparency in the Kirk! The manse question will be blogged about again, for sure!
Back to Stipends.
In 2023, minsters received a 5% increase.
In 2024, ministers received a 5% increase.
Both welcome and appreciated.
However, let’s look at inflation…
In January 2022, it was 5.5%, rising to a high of 11.1% in October 2022, ending with 10.5% in December 2022.
In January 2023, it was 10.1%, slowly reducing to 3.9% in November 2023, noting it was still at 6.7% in September 2023.
Rocket scientists have now worked out that, despite two consecutive 5% increases in stipend, ministers’ salaries have decreased in real terms.
In Scotland, the latest pay grades for police show a constable rising from £30,039 to £48,237 over an eleven year period; a sergeant rising from £49,878 to £53,926 over a four year period. Teachers go from year one £38,655 to £48,516 within five years. Roughly speaking, new ministers in 2024 start in year one at the rate of a newly recruited constable and, after five years and thereafter, all ministers get paid the rate of a year one teacher. If ministers, who are expected to undertake several years training, are all to be paid the same as bus drivers, for example, let it be so, but give us an explanation as to why this should be the case and, if so, why the same principles are not applied to those who work for the Church in non-ministerial positions. (And please don’t say we’ve got to add in the value of living in a manse, it’s always been a red herring, and the value is absolutely zero!)
This scenario led me to raise the question at General Assembly 2023…
We can’t just wing it each year when setting stipends. Both 5% increases in stipend were announced without explanation as to how and why this figure was agreed. The former bodies of the Maintenance of the Ministry Committee and Board of Ministry worked tirelessly for ministers to be paid a good and reasonable stipend, but I fear we have lost our focus in recent years. There was a pay and grading review of Central Services – whilst I do not agree with central pay structures, at least they have been reviewed, even with external consultants brought in!! We do not seem to have developed any strategy about stipends – what would be reasonable pay – what comparisons should we make – can we simply say we are well paid in comparison to some clergy in other Churches – or can we say we are underpaid compared to the teaching profession, for example? We cannot simply look at how much we have in the bank and offer what we can afford at the time. We need to have a system, an aim, on how we determine stipends, so let’s call for this to be done. Personally, I think we should follow the teaching profession pay grades. This would help stretched clergy and future new recruits!
Once again, over to you, Faith Action Group and Assembly Trustees. Any chance of an update on your thinking pre-General Assembly 2024, or should I mind my own business as per General Trustees?
Your annoying friend,