Current Realities in Clergy Employment & Health
I had a fascinating and provocative meeting with representatives of the Church Pension Fund last week. The purpose was to keep dioceses updated about current realities across The Episcopal Church. They had some very important information about trends in congregational life, ordination, clergy compensation, and medical insurance.
This diocese has a significantly higher average congregational Sunday attendance (120 vs. 88 in Province VIII and in TEC as a whole), average operating income (~ $340K vs. $242K and $264K), and percentage of congregations with compensated clergy (67% vs. 57-58%). More than a quarter of our congregations have endowment funds, and fewer operate at a deficit (28% vs. 41-43%). The data are the most recent available (from the 2015 Parochial reports) and are certainly signs of vitality, reflecting very conscious attention and work toward sustainability and thriving congregations across the diocese.
Ordinations in this diocese have reached gender parity; the wider church still has a persistent gap of about 10%. The average age of ordinands in San Diego, at 38, is significantly lower than Province VIII (47) and churchwide (44). Of those ordained in San Diego in the last five years, 90% are employed (vs. 58% in Prov VIII and 67% in TEC), nearly 90% of them full-time. A remarkable 33% of those ordinands are serving as senior rectors (vs. 3-5% elsewhere)!
Churchwide, full-time male clergy are still paid about $10K more than female clergy. The average full-time compensation in this diocese is just over $71K, compared to around $74K in the province and the wider church. Our diocesan clergy are employed at the same rate (63%) as in the wider church, and at higher rates than in Province VIII (56%). We have a far higher number of senior rectors (23%) than in other parts of the church (13%), and more assistants/associates (25% vs. 15-16%). Of our compensated clergy, 81% are full-time (vs. 87% in Prov VIII and 89% in TEC). Women are employed at significantly higher rates in San Diego than in the rest of the church (77% vs. 57-63%); as senior rectors (30% vs. 8%); as assistants/associates (25% vs. 20-21%); and full-time vs. part-time (90% vs. 86-87% elsewhere). That is indeed good news!
A look at our health/medical insurance presents a challenge: Please note: our use of preventative health screening services is extremely low! This is not good news, for preventative care helps avoid more serious disease, and ultimately lowers the cost of health care for both the individual and everyone else. Only 22% of us are using the benefits for preventative care (29% in Province VIII do, and 40% churchwide). As some might expect, clergy use these services less frequently than lay people (17% vs. 24% in San Diego; 29-30% Province VIII, 39-40% churchwide). The gender gap among clergy is even worse: 29% of women and 12% of men get preventative care in this diocese; the rates are about 10% higher in Prov VIII and an additional 10% higher in TEC. One more preventative note: our dental insurance coverage includes three cleanings a year. Only 13% of us take advantage of three, and 40% don’t even get one! Again, prevention is a lot cheaper and far less painful!!!
Pension benefits: CPG projects that of our active clergy, 10 are likely to retire in the next five years, and together, they have an average of 16 years of credited service (lower than TEC, with 18 years). Very, very few of those 10 have an RSVP account. A personal retirement account – in this case, a 403(b) – is deemed essential to financial self-sufficiency in retirement unless you are independently wealthy. The lower the expected pension payment (based on years of service), the more personal savings are going to be needed, together with Social Security. If you would like to start a retirement savings account, visit: https://www.cpg.org/active-clergy/retirement/investing-for-retirement/retirement-savings-plan-rsvp/ If you need assistance, please call us.
There is plenty of good news in these data, as well as work to do, particularly around our own wellness. I would encourage you to reflect on both sides of this missive as part of your Lenten discipline!
Know that I give thanks for your ministry in this diocese, and pray that you may be and find abundant blessing in your daily journey.
Shalom, salaam, y la paz de Cristo,
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego