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Salaries and stipends

Ever wondered about pay disparity in the Church?

Dollar Bills



In 2016, the General Assembly agreed, by a large majority, to “instruct the Assembly Council to review the salary policy in regard to senior posts within the Church Offices, with particular consideration to setting a cap on salaries and setting more appropriate levels of salary, and report back to the General Assembly 2017.”


Sometimes we hear of big businesses threatening to leave the country if it was independent. Regardless of my politics, I say, “Well, if that’s what they want to do, let them go!” I look at executive posts within society where people are paid millions and wonder who actually needs millions to live? The argument is that if you want the best you need to pay these kind of salaries – I don’t agree! I often think there are plenty of folk who would do a grand job at a much lesser rate – how often do we see some in high position without common sense or full of their own importance and who haven’t a clue how to treat people with dignity and respect? At the end of the day there is little we can do to change the business world, except if you are a Christian within it! But at least we can set an example in the Church!


Salaries we pay senior staff at 121 are not in the league of many high earners in society, but that is no excuse to pay in the region of £65k or £75k to some. It’s not right! We are a charity with a prayer vision…that the people of Scotland in all its parts, may hear clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, see the life of His Spirit among His people, and come to know the love of God the Father.


Mary’s Meals charity, for example, also has a vision…that every child receives one daily meal in their place of education and that all those who have more than they need, share with those who lack even the most basic things. I believe Mary’s Meals has a cap on high salaries and seeks to employ people who are committed to their vision – simply put, they work for Mary’s Meals because they believe in its vision. Is it too much to ask that we follow a similar line within the Church?


At present we have a graded system for the first five years of ministry, thereafter whether you are 5 years or 50 years in ministry you are paid the same, regardless of the size of your congregation. We made an earlier decision that congregations who could pay their minister more can no longer do so, in the name of fairness. How can it be fair then to pay such larger salaries to some? In the millions of pounds we deal with in the Church this may seem like small money, but it’s a BIG principle!


This is not to question the work of senior staff, simply to question the salary policy. We have many working in ministries throughout the land working their socks off, working long hours, to keep the good ship, the Church, afloat. How can there be any justification in paying staff at 121 double or more than these men and women?


The response to the successful deliverance at the GA2016 can be found in GA2017 Council of Assembly: section 8.


8-1-2 This section refers to “this recurring question” of senior salaries…surely this means that it keeps on itching where scratching is required, not a continual fudging of the issue as has now taken place? It is said that Church of Scotland stipends are amongst the highest in the UK – great news - but that argument means senior salaries of double or more are even more unacceptable! It is stated that unless you are paid £50k after moving from parish ministry to work at 121 then you are no better off financially. Quite ridiculous! On a salary of no more than a parish minister, I worked at 121 for four years, lived in my own house, and made a train commute to Edinburgh each day, so no more red herrings about having to live in Edinburgh or dodgy attributes about living in manses and commutes and equivalents, it is all smokescreen!!


8-1-3 This section mentions that outside agency “Ashworth Black” was enlisted to help with comparisons! Why do this? And why go to this expense? When did we give up deciding ourselves within the Church what we feel is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable?


8-1-4 This section details salary benchmarking data. We fit within "quartiles" apparently! Jargon, fudge, smokescreen, etc. Geeza break! Simply put, there is no need for a minister to be paid £75,000 to do any job at 121, and many in my Kirk Session and my congregation would be horrified to know that their annual contribution to 121 of £90k is being used in this way!


8-1-6 They say we are “exemplary” in the charity sector! This means all salaries are quite appropriate apparently! Then maybe the charity sector should take a good look at itself again! After all the jargon, senior salaries are simply NOT appropriate – why?


  • Is it right we pay senior posts, many who are ministers, double or more than our hard working parish ministers?


  • Why can we not cap salaries? Let’s compare ourselves to others that do, like Mary’s Meals! Or better still, let’s just decide to set a good example ourselves!


  • Is there no one motivated enough to work for the vision of the Church without having to be paid such high salaries for these positions?


  • A five-year modest graded structure for ministers, thereafter whether you are 5 or 45 years in ministry you are paid the same. It would be unfair to do otherwise. How then is it fair to pay some, including ministers, at 121 double and more than a parish minister?


  • We lose 14000 members each year; we have to participate in stewardship programmes; we are thankful for thousands of volunteers; many can’t afford other staff in our parishes; how then can we justify senior salaries that we pay? Reform the Church! Starting now!


When the Assembly Council reported back in 2017, many were probably bamboozled by the jargon in the report, it all seems so plausible! If the argument is that the GA2017 resoundingly agreed with the (now obsolete) Assembly Council, what does that say about the GA2016 which resoundingly agreed that salaries should be reviewed and capped at more appropriate levels? Time to stand up, set a good principle in the Church and live by it!


Mon the reformers!!!

(This page was last updated in October 2023)

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