Wednesday, December 20. 2006
Comments, criticisms, praise, concerns, all are welcome as the Metropolitan Council adopts a way forward.
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You've GOT to be kidding me! Please, someone, tell me I'm so obtuse that I misread the report. If not, then someone just shoot me, cuz I picked the wrong road to riches; I shoulda been a monk and targeted the primacy for my career goal.
It looks as though the Mt. has been receiving a 6-figure salary (salary level 14)???? And even with a cut will be at 75K??/ Is this what the charts at the end indicate?
Carve some (a lot) of the fat off of that salary and pay for a lawyer to create some real best practices with it. And while we're at it, why don't we get ourselves a REAL monk to lead the OCA (preferably one who left a comfortable worldly career for the joys of poverty and obedience to a community.)
Ugh. I'm ill.
Wisdom. Let us be very attentive. (Again, someone please tell me I misread the report.)
#1 V on 2006-12-20 16:04
I say bull. Still sounds like an organization with a champagne appetite on a beer budget
#2 withold my name please for now on 2006-12-20 22:41
I'm a little confused because the Best Practices language is in the reorg document.
#3 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-12-21 06:54
As the work of the Metropolitan Council and the various Task Forces and Standing Committees unfolds, it will become clear that there are at least two distinguishable yet interrelated issues that are being dealt with. First there are the administrative problems which were part of what led to the OCA scandal and failure in leadership. These include the lack of official policies and procedures to govern the administration. This to a large extent is what was dealt with at the December MC meeting - adapting policies, procedures and personnel positions to administrate the OCA.
The second issue, and no doubt the more controversial, is dealing with the people who were administrating the OCA and if and how they either abused the lack of system or used the lack of system to their own advantage.
The first issue is being dealt with in the total reorganization of OCA administration. Because, at least in my opinion, the various volunteers working on this did not take the quicker/easier fix of simply trying to put band aids on gaping wounds, but rather made a proposal to rethink and restructure the administration, the reorganization of the OCA administration is going to take some time to implement. We are not simply building a hodgepodge, patchwork set of additions on a shaky foundation. Rather a new foundation is being laid down, upon which the structure can be built. This process is full of risks (and opportunities!). And because it is being built new, not just a facade put on the old structure, it is going to take a bit more time and effort to get the whole thing off the ground and ready to open for business (not as usual!). We have people dealing with issues that we either never dealt with before, or which we need a new way of dealing with them. And as in any building process there are many inspections and permit approvals and ordinances to be met (and ordnances to be dealt with!), zoning issues, building codes, supply and subcontractor problems.
Each of these issues needs to be dealt with. But we also are in somewhat a chicken-and-egg situation where we need the personnel (the chancellor and chancery staff) to be in place to actually do the leg work. The Task Force proposal governing the restructuring calls in 6E) for a "Transition Officer" to provide "leadership during restructuring." This would be the person to help get this thing ready for take off. That person should be put in place ASAP.
If you read the entire document and job descriptions you do see that an HR "best practices" policy is called for and so too Best Practices are mentioned and assumed for the various people to be hired. What is needed though is to begin putting personnel into place to carry out these changes and policies, people who will also have to help point out what is being ignored in the building process of structuring the administration.
It will require the help of us all - not to assume things are progressing, but to take an active interest in what is happening.
The second part of the problem - did people abuse the failures of the old system, is one which will require a different set of wisdom to deal with. This second set of issues will help us understand the importance of having published and transparent rules, policies, priorities and procedures. It will have to deal with the sticky wicket of blame and responsibility and deciding what is the appropriate action for the church to take if some of its leaders fail in their duties to us, the Church.
#4 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-12-21 07:33
This comment might rightly be more appropriate to the '"Best Practices" on Hold' posting. In my reading of the Reorganization Plan I note that a number of the top job descriptions clearly point out that the office-holder will respect the "Best Practices of the OCA". Clearly, the Best Practices will have to be completed in order to finish up the Reorganization Plan. It is too bad that both could not be approved at the December meeting.
#5 Brad M on 2006-12-21 14:30
You read it right. But now for the really sick part. Ask the Diocese of Washington and New York how much they are paying him too? Remember this is just the OCA budget not his own diocesan budget. Also did you notice that his archdeacon, living in a BIG new house that MH paid for, complete with wine cellar, he too got a fat raise in the new budget.
Does anyone know if the Archdeacon is double-dipping from the Diocese of NY/WA as a driver and aide too? Maybe he drives MH TO a parish for the OCA and AWAY for the diocese.
Yep, you GOT to be kidding!
#6 Anonymous on 2006-12-21 16:05
It is quite a revelation when our principal "monk" takes a cut in pay 3-4 times more than our average parish priest's salary--a priest with a wife and children! It's good to know, though, so that when the Metropolitan retires we can "award" him a library in his honor and then tell him where he can hire the contractor to build it for him at his own expense.
When will this nonsense stop?! When will we get on with the mission of Christ, His Gospel, and His Church?! When?!
I think my comments over the past year have demonstrated that I'm hardly a supporter of the status quo, so please understand that my strong disagreement with the above comment is not motivated by a desire to defend the current or former administration or to preserve business as usual at Syosset.
The salaries listed in the organizational chart are well in line, actually moderate, compared with the norms not just in expensive New York but throughout most of the country given the level of education, professional accomplishment, personal commitment, responsibiilty, and experience required in these positions.
We must demand that our bishops and priests be honest and accountable. We should not demand that they receive less in compensation than a mid-level manager in a mid-sized corporation or a fresh-from-seminary junior episcopalian cleric.
I've lived through the process of two parishes bringing clergy compensation in line with the OCA guidelines. It requires a shift in perspective. The comment above represents a shift backwards to the old "well he's a priest, he shouldn't expect to get paid" mentality.
And consider this -- The "he shouldn't expect money" attitude is itself a contributing factor to the environment that allowed the abuses to happen. When there's such a restrictive view of compensation, the clergy start figuring out ways to sneak a bit more income. It's an oddly small step from treby to multiple bits and pieces of salary and housing allowances and cash back out of contributions that, after all, I was responsible for bringing in, so why shouldn't I benefit? Now the priest collecting a bit here and there for this or that service is simply doing what is necessary to keep food on the table, while the chancellor taking out $9,500 in cash every couple of weeks is paying for various luxurious indulgences and God knows (He really does, by the way) what else, but the two are nonetheless connected.
Paying reasonable salaries, above board, set by appropriate comparisons with incomes in the area and at similar institutions is part and parcel of building a transparent, responsible, accountable organization.
#8 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-12-21 18:25
I live in NY (the actual city, Manhattan ... not quiet, suburban Long Island). Unlike +Herman, I get no housing, I get no car and driver, I get no pension, I get no food (does he get a cook? Does he do his own shopping? Who pays for his gorceries? His clothing?) Oh yeah -- and I AM NOT A MONK! I live in a very small, very expensive aparment; I pay more for a box of cereal than most in America would imagine is possible (don't even ask me about milk). But, were it not for my very weighty grad school loans (actually, even with them, if I budgeted well), the salary that +Herman gets would be more than necessary to live even where I live (even without all the perqs he gets), much less in his part of L.I.
This is not about the professionals who work for the OCA, its about the primate (a monk!) getting paid a professional's salary that is sufficient to live in the world ... and then some. The salaries of the professionals whom the OCA hires and needs to fulfill its institutional tasks ought to be competitive, very competitive. They shoul be well paid to ensure we get the best working for us (so long as they are not crooks or enablers, that is.) But this is about the salary of the primate -- a monk, if it hasn't been made clear yet. And, in this case, he was Treasurer (Treasurer!!!) when funds were diverted from orphans and terrorism victims, and now he acquiesces to a 6 figure salary? Harumph!!
Did I mention that he's a monk?
#9 Vicki Vyekoff on 2006-12-21 19:19
"The salaries listed in the organizational chart are well in line, actually moderate, compared with the norms not just in expensive New York but throughout most of the country given the level of education, professional .........."
BUT, what do they use this money for? Much of their expenses are covered "TAX FREE" by the OCA, Diocese, or local parish (in the case of clergy). Yes they may not own the property, but all services, utilities, maintenance, appliance repair, etc, are free, usually income tax free, and sales tax free.
#10 Anonymous on 2006-12-21 19:43
Very very good questions!
#11 V on 2006-12-21 20:24
In general I agree with Rebecca's analysis. If you want to attract the best candidates at any level, you should be willing to pay them what they are worth.
Historically the Church has had quite a few wealthy and powerful bishops, including St. Nicholas and St. Basil (though I believe they were independently wealthy long before they became bishops). The idea of a bishop making a 6 figure salary, by itself, should not cause outrage.
The figure does seem high, however, in light of the fact that so many parishes have so much difficulty paying their priests a reasonable salary -- and considering that most of the priests have families to support.
I would much rather the outrage be directed at the fact that so many priests are woefully underpaid, rather than outrage at the perception that the metropolitan is overpaid.
#12 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-12-21 21:06
I agree with the comments by Rebecca Matovic and Fr. Ted Bobosh. The Metropolitan, while a monk, should no longer live in a monastery as a bishop, but in his diocese, preferably close to the central administration, and has responsibilities that are both continental and international as well as diocesan. The support proposed for his ministry (I detest the word, salary, as it implies the Metropolitan is in the employ of someone else) is commensurate, if not more on the modest side, with his responsibilities and appropriate for the NYC area. The Vs among us wouldn't even dream of accepting that level of responsibility in the secular world for such a sum as laid out in the pay scale appendix of the report; the Vs would provide the Metropolitan with home grown cabbages and cucumbers from time to time and make sure he is always barefoot, dressed in tatters, and unwashed - a mentality that must die just as the mentality of the Nikolai's of this world must die.
Since the financial Best Practices are referenced in the reorganization plan, it would behoove the central administration to put the final touches on Best Practices on a fast track to the OCA website. I see the 2007 proposed budget is out. Good. Transparency, transparency, transparency! Syosset is listening! Give credit where credit is due.
#13 Terry C. Peet on 2006-12-21 22:52
Mark S., or anyone else who may be able to compile the info: do we know what our fearless leader's aggregate income is from all OCA-related sources (OCA, diocese, St Tikhons, et al), including salary, stipends, value of housing, utilities paid, food, clothing, and other perqs., etc.
We can probably leave out fair market value of servants, since it seems appropriate that the Metropolitan have some personal assistants working with him so he can focus on his ministry and in prayer (assuming he's not spending his time otherwise).
#14 V on 2006-12-22 08:33
Is the OCA a "corporation" which needs to competitively compensate its Metropolitan or is it the "Body of Christ" and as such unlike any other social construct?
If it is the former, then by all means apply understandings approprate to that model. That would mean a 6 figure income and cadillac-lifestyle for the "top manager" is not at all incongruent.
For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinals are referred to as "Princes of the Church". Over and above the necessities for performance of their duties and provision for healthy living, these leaders enjoy many luxuries of all kinds. Every Roman Catholic has heard the old joke which points to the fact that "When you become a Bishop, you never again eat a bad meal". That the executive leaders of that Church live in mansions and enjoy luxuries of many kinds is not regarded by most of its members to be incongruent with the specific teaching of Jesus Christ which describes how presumably all of his followers, Cardinals Bishops or laypersons, would use or forego the vast array of good things available in this world.
But if a "corporation" is not the OCA operational model, if instead the Church is the "Body of Christ", a uniquely different social construct called into being to witness to Christ's teaching, a different reality applies. Then the leader is expected to be an exemplar for the members in his freedom from desire for the "pomps and vanities of the world". And, if the specific teachings of Jesus Christ about the use of this world's goods apply to the "greatest" as much as they do to the "least" among us, then a 6 figure income and a cadillac-lifestyle is clearly incongruent.
Before anyone rushes to call the preceeding a "Puritanical" approach, let me be clear about the distinction I am making between necessities and luxuries. The leader of the OCA needs to be provided with what is necessary to the effective fulfillment of his role and a healthy lifestyle. This allocation of funds most certainly will differ depending upon the cost of everything in the location where his the goods and services must be obtained. Anyone who has lived on either coast knows the reality of that. But luxuries, on the other hand, are those things that by definition are not necessary in any circumstance.
Each of us is called to decide which goods of this world are necessities and which are luxuries in our own lives as we make decisions about how we allocate our own funds.
It seems obvious to me that in allocating funds to support its leader, the OCA is not exempt from this evaluation.
#15 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-12-22 09:54
Yes, St. Nicholas' family was wealthy. And he gave it all away to the poor and deserving. He certainly did not pursue wealth by pilfering church funds intended for the poor and needy of his community. I dont think we can make an analogy of the current situation in the OCA with wealthy Byzantine Bishops of centuries past.
#16 John Nicholas on 2006-12-22 12:19
"It looks as though the Mt. has been receiving a 6-figure salary"
Dear V: The figure for 2006 does not include the comma.
#17 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-12-22 13:35
MH makes about $18K in salary from the NY/WA diocese. The house he lives in is that of the bishop of EPA. Since Bp Tikhon is not permitted to live in the home provided for him by his diocese, he continues to live in the home provided for him by St. Tikhon's Monastery.Bp Tikhon's home is nice, certainly not as nice as the home the Met's archdeacon lives in. Thus MH is costing the OCA additional money because he refuses to live in Syosset.
We should not begrudge MH his pay. It costs a great deal to commute from South Caanan to Syosset once-a-week.
#18 Anonymous on 2006-12-22 15:58
Some people have mentioned that our metropolitan -- whomever he may be -- ought to be compensated with a competitive wage and such a competitive wage ought to be based on
1) his education,
2) where he must live to do this job, and
3) the type of management that he is expected to perform,
4) the need to travel in his role as Met.
. . . . .
1) The current Met. received a degree (undergraduate, right?) from Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh focusing on business administration and secretarial science. Then, after a tour in the USArmy, enrolled in Saint Tikhon Seminary where he graduated in 1963.
No offense intended, but that is not a six figure education. So, Point Number One is essentially inapplicable.
2) Long Island is expensive. (Rural PA is not so expensive.) But, as Manhattan, NY resident Vicky Vyekoff noted, our salary for the Met. is indeed a healthy compensation. Point Number Two is partially applicable, but doesn't yet land us at six figures.
3) Let us not forget that we elect our Met. from among the bishops. (Theoretically, he need not be a bishop when elected, but practically, this is how we do it.) This isn't a grand search from among millions of candidates whom we need to entice to take the job with the promises of a better deal than what they had at their previous firm. We aren't competing with other Synods to find and acquire the best primate available. And, it would be a curious thing -- especially in this discussion, on this site -- to ignore the quality of management that the Church has received over the years. So, as I see it, Point Number Three is inapplicable.
4) The Met. does not need to travel at his own expense. The OCA, as we learned at the last All American Council, was using a huge travel budget. So, Point Number Four is inapplicable.
The responses that people have posted show that they are scandalized by this large salary, paid out when the national church organization was running out of money and "had to" steal from widows and orphans, "for the good of the Church." Not all such scandal can be attributed to people who do not understand financial compensation. Not all such scandal can be attributed to envy.
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
#19 Rev. Barthjolomew Wojcik on 2006-12-22 17:41
"Did I mention he's a monk". Well done V's!
But so are ALL of our thrice-dipping Synod members, monks:
1) diocesan salary and percs, 2) OCA monthly stipend and percs, and 3) all those profitable parish-celebration visits and glorious anniversaries!
Perhaps the reorganization team can publish a job description of hierarchs and (as in some corporate reorganization) require all current "employees" to reapply for their jobs. That'd be some fun!
#20 Poorer than monks on 2006-12-22 18:18
Folks, Folks...look at history when it comes to compensation!
We paid our management team of old 1.7 millsion dollars to manage the OCA, PLUS thier salaries! We let them jetset, travel, eat the finest meals, and travel first class. And we expect to save money and raise the bar?
Anyone for 1099ing the folks who cannot account for the money? We still ahve a few days to make it "compensation" and have them pay the taxes!
Amazing! Sinply amazing. Theres a surprise at every turn. This scandal is more exciting than a box of cracker jacks! Its loaded with prizes!
#21 Joseph Weekid on 2006-12-22 23:06
One of the first things all of us should stop and realize is that transparency is something precious. It isn't attained by attacking salaries of the people that help make transparency possible for the first time in history.
I'm ashamed that anyone would so quickly attack things like a specific salary. I would hope the MC helps establish and agrees to the salaries and compensation of personnel. That is an objective question. For all of us to start in on salaries is really wrong at this juncture. If you have concerns about how much the Metropolitan is paid, contact your MC representative.
Wouldn't it be great if the OCA administration is on track to really start meeting the simple objectives like reporting results and running zero budgets and successful audits? This is the positive I have hoped for. Releasing a timely and public budget is something we should all be jumping for joy about.
If this forum becomes nothing less than a dartboard for budget specifics, count me out. I don't formulate, accept, or approve the budget and don't want to....
The purpose of this website is "To inform members of the OCA of the origins, nature and scope of the allegations concerning financial misconduct.." It isn't to work on ways to cut costs for the administration. If it is, I'm gone. One of the most important things for the OCA to do to avoid financial scandal/misconduct is to produce timely budgets and financial reporting against budget and forecasts.
I'd like to congratulate the OCA administration for delivering a timely and public budget. My next objective measure is a successful audit, or a letter concerning expected problems attaining such in the spring of 2007 for 2006 FY. I also have an expectation to see a compilation report for 1st Quarter 2007 by April 30, 2007. Obviously, releasing a balance sheet to the general public is part of my objectives as well.
It'd be great if I'm only reading the tea leaves.
#22 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-12-22 23:13
it is our business to pay a just compensation within the canonical norms and dictates social responsibility.
It is the business of the payee, monk or not, to use his income, as the rest of us, in a Godpleasing manner.
"Let him without sin throw the first stone."
We are not privileged with the duty to define financial holiness for another, Primate included.
If the remuneration system of our dioceses and national church allow for "double-dipping" behind the scenes, as it were, and this is scandalous to the faithful, then it ought to be fixed so one appropriate salary is drawn. (Can't believe someone dislikes the term salary for someone with the responsibility of a Primate!)
This is definitely within the realm of the MC. Clergy-compensation by "town-meeting" is an unfortunate and degrading process.
Rdr. John (Tracey)
#23 Rdr. John (Tracey) on 2006-12-23 00:04
I have already conceded as much. The point I was trying to emphasize is that there is nothing in our theology that says that our priests and bishops are (*supposed*) to be poor. On the contrary, our theology teaches us that we should be setting higher standards for ourselves than what we expect from others. Yet in reality the commonly-held expectations of how generous our priests and bishops are supposed to be are very very high -- unreasonably high in my opinion. If the laity as a whole (and I include myself personally) lived the standard of generosity that we regularly expect of our priests, our priests and their families would be eating like kings.
#24 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-12-23 01:28
This reminds me of an old joke I once heard. A Franciscan friar visited the Vatican one day and he was given the royal tour by the Pope. When the Pope showed him the enormous riches stored in the Vatican vault, the Pope said, "I guess we no longer have to say, 'Silver and gold have we none.'" To which the Friar responded, "Yes, but you can now no longer say, 'In the Name of Jesus arise and walk.'"
As a priest I have struggled to support my family on the meager wages the parish paid me. We often went without the necessities -- when my children were little, our big expenditure was "pizza" on Sunday evening. If we had enough money, we could provide them "pop" with it. My children wore hand-me downs gleaned from the bags of parishionners who were kind enough to give us the clothes their children did not want anymore. Now, as a mission priest, I have been forced to work two jobs plus my job at the parish just to keep my children in clothes and the electricity running at my house.
When I read the salaries given to those who work in Syosset, I was amazed. Words cannot express my sense of betrayal: a single man who seldom even has to eat his own food (remember, when he travels all of the food is provided by the parish he visits), let only pay for children's clothes, braces, doctor's visits, etc. who claims to be the "servant of the Church" and the leader of priests who are barely making poverty-level wages. It is ungodly.
You also have to remember the honorariums that the primate receives when he visits a parish. We were told that he expected well over $1000 when we talked about having him visit. I am assuming that this money is in addition to the 100,000+K he receives as part of his salary.
That is not right! It is immoral.
#25 Anonymous on 2006-12-23 10:26
1K - Dept of Christian Witness and Service
5K - Office of Humanitarian Aid/Adoption Referral
12K - Christian Education
32K - Evangelization
158K - internal newspaper
Thousands for tribute and not one penny for defense.
#26 Sniveling Underclerk on 2006-12-23 14:15
I just cant believe the Metropolitan get such a large salary. And that does not include all the perks. Free housing, food, driver and being paid to visit the poor parishes. Plus hotels etc when he travel to Russia all to often.
The same goes for a lot of the parish priests. Perhaps the housing etc should be taken away and they should be paid a salary only comersate with the area they serve. They also get a lot of money for the blessing of homes, graves, preforming weddings, funerals, and baptisims. And the poor older women feel badly for them and give me addition money. It is time for a sweeping change in the way we pay our priest. They are quick to point out it is not a job (HA HA) but it really is a job to most of them. A job to be paid as much as they can possible get from the parish. And the salary of an individual does in no way reflect what quality of person you get. Take a good look at the top corporations and the trouble they are in. And the CEO's were paid top salaries with perks aglow. And now Japan is surpassing these corporations by making a better product. I think oca had better take a good hard look at the leaders and demand the truth. The leaders are so good at quoting the bible perhaps they should read it and use some of the quotes about truth. Confession is in order for the lot of them.
I say let the people keep their money in their pockets. That will work wonders on the so called leaders. And fast.
#27 John Macenka on 2006-12-23 18:41
The sense of entitlement must change. This is part of the problem surrounding so many aspects of an Orthodox view of leadership. Bishops and priests being prima donas; expecting to be treated like royalty. Yuk. No wonder the Protestants had such a problem with all this within the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic worlds. It was and still is rightfully deserved criticism. Let's stop supporting prima donas and start doing what Christ would have us do.
#28 Anon. on 2006-12-24 06:29
It doesn't seem right that the Metropolitan has a large salary when all of his expenses are paid by the OCA / diocese. The Salvation Army pays each Officer 100 $ over the official poverty line, they provide appropriate housing, a vehicle, health benefits, and pension. It doesn't matter if the officer is a territorial commander (bishop), core commander (Priest), or even the General (Patriarch / Metropolitan). I do not believe that this type of compensation is inappropriate. For the Metropolitan to take in double salaries as a Monk in a vow of poverty seems obsurd and an abuse.
#29 Tyrone on 2006-12-25 09:10
We must prove that we can handle transparency. While certainly I think the compensation of the hierarchs must be examined, it should be examined and the criteria for compensation set by our representatives, the Metropolitan Council in conjunction with the Holy Synod.
I think it important to develop a philosophy of compensation that sets forth a relatively impartial way of determining what needs the Church provides, and what needs the hierarch should take on personally, then compensate them for those needs. While true our hierarchs are tonsured as monks, most have never lived a monastic existence. It's foolish for us to think they should live an ascetic existence when their tonsure is a function of their office, not their individual calling.
It seems to me that if we are providing a driver, possibly a cook, a car, food, clothing, shelter, health and travel expenses, with an allowance for retirement, we have met the basic needs of the hierarch. An allowance for books, incidentals, maybe even (God forbid) entertainment should be nominal.
Same can be said for our priests -- minus maybe the driver and cook, and additional compensation for family needs, particularly a car and clothing, and the education of their children. How can a priest's salary send children to college? Simple fact is, it cannot. We either need to pay them for such items, or provide a church-sponsored scholarship for the children of our clergy.
The short answer is we (the Church) should provide for the need, or provide compensation for the need.
Having said all that, I believe our hierarchs (and clergy) should be examples of how to live "in the world but not of the world". Certainly we're getting a lot of in the world and of the world from some of our current shepherds.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#30 Marty Watt on 2006-12-26 12:17
Take the housing allowance from priests? You must be joking, please say that you are. As the child of a priest, I lived in a rectory. You can't be serious that this represents a princely sum of money. You say that priests get a lot of money for the blessing of homes, graves, preforming weddings, funerals and baptisms? You're kidding, right? I don't believe the compensation for those services has changed much in 25 years. Our priests don't get that much money for that, a few generous parishioners may give extra at times (and our priests love you for it) but that doesn't cover the countless times that a priest will do his duty for simple love of Christ. I truly hope you don't think that is a lot of money for a priest. So why stop there, why not go after their benefits? Just chip and cut away. Believe me, I saw the tears, felt the fear, and had the same worry of my parents when the money ran out before the end of the month. It tears them up inside. And he would go on, doing his duty for the love of Christ.
I am also offended that you try to elicit guilt from a priest by insinuating they demand the offerings of an old woman. Those who do demand offerings will get their just rewards but the vast majority of our priests are good men who give back to their churches far more than they receive.
I do agree that we should change the way we pay priests. How about start paying them a living wage? Here is a challenge. According to the data collected by salary.com the AVERAGE compensation for a pastor across the United States is $78,690. Can we say in honesty that all parishes come close to that? If we do, maybe we can get some of our clergy off public assistance and they can worry about our souls rather than the feeding of their family. Our priests never heeded the call of Christ to get rich. Why can't we treat them with a bit more respect rather than tear them all down?
Your words struck a very deep chord within me. Your words, your actions cut deeply into those who serve you. I'm just glad that the words and actions of the vast majority of our priests try to help us with the salvation of our souls rather than the destruction of our lives.
An Offended Priest's Kid
#31 Anonymous on 2006-12-26 12:21
Let us attend, DEF. +Herman does not deserve the credit you give re helping to make transparency possible; he did absolutely nothing of the sort---he was outed, pure and simple.
As for blaming the MC for so grossly inappropriate a salary, its our Monk-In-Chief who accepts this salary; the buck stops at the top. If the MC thinks so highly of our hierarchical head honcho that it offers and approves so bizarre a compensation scheme (don't fret over the word "scheme," y'all; it has a non-pejorative meaning), one can as easily ascribe blame to the MC as naive awe or even innocent glee. But, for Him-Whose-Mitre-May-Be-Too-Tight, as a monastic, and esp. as one who oversees priests whose families suffer poverty, as el Jefe de una institucio'n religiosa whose coffers are robbed by its stewards, the actual accepting of such an act by the MC---be it an act of gratitude, innocence, ignorance, negligence, or complicity---is where the focus properly belongs. Leadership, spiritual or otherwise, subsumes this concept of responsibility.
Follow the money. Follow the money.
#32 Anne A. Nemos on 2006-12-26 23:00
Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but I don't understand. Please clarify.
#33 V on 2006-12-26 23:08
I owe you and perhaps others an explanation why I do not like the word “salary” when speaking of clergy financial support. Salary invokes the word “employee” and that further invokes the word “job.” Job, employee and salary are not appropriate terms when speaking of a spiritual calling (vocation), clergy (deacon, priest, bishop) and financial support of their ministries. When we interact with secular institutions such as banks and the IRS we perforce use secular language, but internally we are speaking of ministries and callings that are scriptural in their beginnings. Use of secular jargon such as “salary” obliquely affects how we perceive the people who are called by God to serve and ultimately how we treat them. Clergy are not hired hands, but servants who willingly accept an internal spiritual call by God to serve His people. So that some of these servants, usually priests and bishops, are available to God’s people 24/7, we free them of the need to earn a regular wage and do so by providing them with financial support for their ministry. Clergy are not employees; deacons and priests are placed in parishes by their bishops (not hired by the parish council) and bishops are elected or selected, depending on the internal workings of a national or local church. If we persist in using secular language it will continue to contribute to the anti-clericalism that punctuates the life of the church.
It is well known that financial support for our clergy in the OCA is miserly. If our priests were supported a little more generously in order to place them more above the poverty line, we could and should dispense with the custom of paying the priest for every wedding, baptism, and funeral that he performs.
You may not agree with what I am saying, but I hope you understand
#34 Terry C. Peet on 2006-12-29 08:08
I'm with "Offended Priest's Kid" who I applaud for their courage and forthrightness.
Most parishoner's/congregant's don't have a single solitary clue how the compensation breakdown goes when it comes to clergy (either Protestant or Orthodox). A housing allowance is NOT a perk, by any stretch of the imagination.
If Regular Joe were to take his own salary and examine it, he'd see how much is for housing, how much is for food, how much is for medical, etc. It's called a budget.
I will say this to Regular Joe, if every parishioner/congregant tithed, there would be no need for our blessed clergy and their families to be on welfare. They would be fairly compensated. And, Glory to God, there would be plenty left over to pay the parish bills, and maybe - just maybe - put enough in a reserve fund for emergencies.
And don't tell me Regular Joe can't tithe. Just look how much Regular Joe is paying for internet connection, satellite TV, and the car.
God says to bring the first fruits into the storehouse. Until Regular Joe starts doing that, he/she has no opinion that is worth listening to.
(Former Protestant Minister's Wife, now Orthodox)
#35 Philippa Alan on 2007-01-02 12:28
i am new to the OCA, and my path to this wonderful way of worship, and to the most loving and faithful parish that i have been recieved into here in New York, are the only threads that keep me and my stewardship part of it all, because i am truly disgusted with what is taking place. I, as a Christian, cannot grasp that the office for Humanitarian aid will be closed, yet our leadership will continue to be well compensated- I am a young person, and this is such a terrible feeling I have for this Church, if not for my parish priest and community, i would most certainly have left long ago, all my enthuisiasm and hope with me. What a sad statement for a Church that seems to need it. With love through Christ, john
#36 john on 2007-01-02 20:39
I'm not sure I agree with you one bit.
What is the work of the OCA central administration? Let's be fair a minute.
If the OCA does 4 charity drives per year and one of them is for humanitarian aid, one is for seminary, one is for mission, and I'll be extra kind to your sentiment and do the other one for charity. Let's say each drive brings in 75k. This would suggest the OCA collects 150k for humanitarian aid.
Now, let's look at the costs. In order to administer to the collection, accounting, distribution and decision making, at least one person for distribution and other administration would have to be hired at a wage that is fair in New York. Let's say the costs of all payroll and benefits for the position is 50k, which is probably barely fair.
Just to have a plan administrator in place costs 33% of the distribution amount. That doesn't even touch on other costs to administer such a plan.
Now, you can change that around and suggest the Metropolitan be the administrator, but then he'd give all the money to someone like to IOCC anyway because the responsibility would be too great, and you'd still have the other costs like audit and accounting related items.
The business of the central administration is largely making sure the clergy needs of the people are met; not giving money away to the poor. The truth is that giving should be done on a local level, where the people agree with the way monies are distributed and the administrative costs are relatively small related to the giving.
That isn't to say Charity Appeals/giving should never happen, but only if it can be done without costs that are too high.
Reducing programs that don't really meet the primary objectives of a central administration is one the wisest decisions the OCA can make and I support it.
In the past, we have been very critical of the expense side of this issue, fair play suggests we not bite the administration on both ends, and damn them on one end for expenses too high and then on the other end for dropping a program. This is no different than cutting taxes and then complaining when the roads are bad.
#37 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-01-03 10:18
I agree with this.
The fact is the special appeals had degenerated into a fund-raising opportunity divorced from the stated purposes. Better that the central church stop doing them than leave in place an opportunity for money to flow -- that flow of money necessitates overhead and has provided the temptation for it to be diverted.
If instead the central chuch declares certain themes for fundraising and promotes them through its various communications tools and makes materials available for local production and distribution, but leaves the implementation of the appeal to the local churches, this could be an easier, less burdensome process and end up doing greater good.
So June remains seminaries month, but the local parishes forward their donations to the seminaries directly. Likewise for charities month, they make a selection of local causes. And maybe we add an appeal specifically for IOCC and money is forwarded directly to IOCC. If there's a desire to have a measure of overall effectiveness, each parish can report the funds raised to the central administration and it can be reported on a national level.
In fact, if these functions devolved to the local level, I think we could begin to build more energy around them. Certainly in our current circumstances (hurting from the years of abuse) it will be easier to build enthusiasm and support for these worthy and necessary causes at the local level than it will be to build trust in the national administration to implement the appeals.
Our goal should be for the church as a whole to engage in charitable giving and activity, to challenge ourselves to put resources in the right places, not specifically to make the central church administration into the vehicle for these activities.
More and more, I believe that simpler we keep the goals and focus of the central administration, the better. So much of what has gone wrong, although motivated by individual greed, was at least in part fueled or supported by grandiose visions of the OCA as THE autocephelous American church with a need to establish and maintain a certain "profile." Better that we focus on who and what we truly are -- yes, the autocephelous American church, but with an understanding that that means we are a tiny group of some 30 - 40,000 active members, with perhaps five to ten times that number vaguely identified with us in some way. That we are a group of 600 or so largely struggling parishes each called to be a beacon to our local communities. That the purpose of the central administration is primarily to make things work well in those local communities -- coordinating benefits for clergy, coordinating clergy issues among and for the dioceses, creating and distributing resources for the parishes (music, educational materials, fund raising support, etc.), maintaining certain necessary and valuable national resources (archives, website), and engaging at an appropriate level in inter-Orthodox and ecumenical activities. If the central church could do that minimum well, with appropriate balance, that would be a major accomplishment. If the Metropolitan [speaking of the office, not a particular person] could become a leader setting forth a vision for the church that would be realized in the life of the parishes, that would be even better. Anything beyond that seems to me wasteful and potentially dangerous.
#38 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-01-03 15:31
I agree with much of what you are saying. However, there is one more purpose that is paramount: mission work. The last commandment of our Lord was a commission to do mission work. If the Church is not doing mission work, then it is not obeying the last commandment of Christ.
Doing mission work has an added, side benefit. If the Central Church needs more money to do what it must do, then the answer is not to squeeze more blood out of the existing turnips. It is to get more turnips (and other vegetables), i.e., broaden your base of support. More people.
#39 Name withheld on 2007-01-03 18:41
ARE PRIESTS REALLY UNDERPAID?
IRS Publication 517 refers to Taxation of Ministers/Clergy. An ordained minister qualifies for "Dual Status" treatment for income tax purposes. The income earned as a church employee for performance of religious duties is treated as (1) employee wages for income tax purposes, and (2) self-employment income for self-employment tax purposes.
Self-employment income applies to services that are not performed as an employee (honoraria for baptisms, weddings, funerals, blessing of homes), and associated expenses.
Parsonage/housing allowances along with the "Deacon Rule" [IRS 265 (a) (1)] are extremely important in Dual Status Treatment of Income and Expenses for the Clergy as well as an Accountable, or Non Accountable Plan.
The parsonage allowance exclusion -- from taxes -- includes amounts spent to provide a home for the ordained minister and his family. Expenses considered in computing parsonage allowance:
1. Rent and principal payments, cost of buying a house, and downpayments.
2. Taxes and interest on home. These expenses are also allowable as itemized deductions for the clergy, but allowed by the
IRS. This means that although church pays the real estate taxes, the priest can claim the same amount on his personal
income tax. return.
Yes, again, let me reiterate -- the priest can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on their individual returns, even
though they are included in the parsonage allowance paid by the congregation. Accordingly, clergy receive a double tax
3. Insurance on the home.
4. Repairs and upkeep of the houme.
5. Furniture, appliances, vacuum, TV, washer, dryer, beds, etc..
a) Insurance on the contents of the home.
b) Repair of furniture and appliances.
6. Decorator items, curtains, rugs, pictures, etc..
7. Utilities -- heat, electric, non business telephone, water, cable TV, sewage charge, garbage removal, etc..
8. Miscellaneous -- lawn mowing, cleaning supplies, brooms, lightbulbs, etc..
The proper treatment of the housing allowance is important since the amount is not subject to regular income tax. It is best to "over designate" the housing allowance to allow for unexpected expenses and increases in utility costs.
Because the parsonage allowance is not taxable, it must be included as income when determining a priest's total income, and comes heavily into play when the Deacon Rule is applies. The language used to define the Deacon Rule would take an Einstein to understand, and, I feel, even he would have a problem. Just let me say that the "housing allowance" falls within the definition of the Deacon Rule. Best to give an example of the income of a priest under the Dual Status Treatment. Please do not laser you eyes on "Salary" only, which I believe may be the reason that priests are considered poorly paid.
. Salary ------------------------------- $20,000
. Parsonage -------------------------- 10,000
. Expense Reimbursement
Accountable Plan ---------------- 2,000
. Expense Reimbursement
Non Accountable Plan --------- 3,000
. Weddings ------------------------ 2,000
. Baptisms ------------------------ 3,000
Total Income -------------------- $40,000
. Employee Business Expense -- $ 3,000
. Self-employment Expense ----- 1,500
In this example, I include both Accountable and Non Accountable plans. I'll explain this later in the form of a suggestion.
You will note in the example that the total income is $40,000; the parsonage allowance, $10,000, which is 25% of the salary. Therefore, 25% of the salary is tax exempt. If the parsonage allowance were $20,000, then 50% of the preist
s salary would be tax free.
Also in the example, the priest has $3,000 of unreimbursed business expenses. This means that 75% of the $3,000 ($2,250) is deductible. However, this can be avoided by having the church adopt an ACCOUNTABLE business reimbursement plan.
In this regard -- Accountable and non accountable plans -- are all other information given above, I strongly suggest that priests make an appointment with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who is experienced with the preparation of filing an income tax return for the clergy as per IRS Publication 517, and the use of the Deacon Rule. [RC 265 (a) (1)]. The CPA would explain the accountable and non accountable plans and what should be done.
Call several CPA's ask if they are familiar with what I have presented, and if they have any clergy clients, and if so, how many. This process should tell you that the CPA designation means, truly, a Certified Public Accountant and not Cleaning, Pressing, and Altering.
Now -- let's return to priests being poorly paid. If one were to see a salary of $20,000, I would certaily agree. But take into account a priest's financial position -- year after year -- after his tax return is computed, employing the Dual Statue treatment, the Deacon Rule, and using the accountable plan which the CPA would explain. Match this vis-a-vis a layman.
A Priest does not pay for:
. Rental of home.
. Cost of buying a home.
. Mortgage and Interest.
. Taxes -- which the priest can claim on his individual tax return enought though paid by the congregation.
. Decorator items, curtains, rugs, pictures, etc..
. Utilities -- heat, electric, sewer, water, trash, etc. In fact, should the cost of fuel oit rise substantially as in the recent past -- say, from $1,200.00 per year to $2,000.00 per year -- that $800.00 increase is the equivalent of the priest getting a raise -- a bonus. This applies to all other utilities, as well.
Also, any repairs to the house are done, generally, by the parishioners, not by the priest.
Additionally, take into consideration a travel allowance, phone allowance -- which could include payment of both business and personal use.
A number of parishes foot the bill for the entire amount of the priest's social security payment, and not 50% which the laymen employee must pay.
Moreever, the priest does not pay any federal or state taxes which would be applicable to the many items listed above. Bear in mind that these federal and state taxes are included in the above items when paid by the laymen in after-tax money.
I know of a priest who was so poorly paid that he was able to afford sending a son to St. Vladimir's and Columbia University; a daughter to Pierce Business School; and another son to Columbia University. I know: He was my father.
#40 defedetz on 2007-01-04 08:53
I couldn't have said it better, Rebecca. Charity begins at home, as we know, and a parish directly involved in charity to its community is a parish that has no trouble fundraising or providing volunteers and doing outreach.
#41 Paula Brkich on 2007-01-04 09:16
i appreciate your thoughtful reply, and some points are well taken, and i will read them and reflect on them some, however, there are "humanitarian" issues that a central administration that leads Christs Church should have direct influence with- to eliminate this part of our central administration, without fighting to keep it an integral part of what our Church represents, to me as a young person learning from my leaders as I grow in Christ, is dissapointing, when I find myself viewing the hierarchy as just another "corporate" organization. perhaps I am misguided in my views, but it just sits wrong with me. In Christ, john
#42 john on 2007-01-04 16:11
The archdeacon is not the met's driver. We pay someone else to be his driver.
As for +Herman paying for the archdeacon's house....did HE pay for it or did WE? Does anyone know where the money came from? That is a serious question.
And don't anyone mention a canon to me. Isn't there a conon that says that a bishop has to live in his diocese?
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely"
#43 Linda Weir on 2007-01-08 11:03
Thank you for providing this analysis, however you miss a couple of important facts:
First, the value of any deduction is only that amount by which it exceeds a standard deduction. Second, an article I read today (1/8/07) in the Christian Science Monitor indicated the income needs for a family of four in Oklahoma is $33,000. I can only imagine what those needs are on Long Island, or in Southern California where JUNK homes cost $400,000.
In any event, your scenario if the taxpayer were NOT a priest would result in a tax bill of $998. W-2 income of $38,000, less adjustments of $4,500, gives Adjusted Gross Income of $33,500. Non-food unreimbursed business expenses are 100% deductible, by the way. Standard deduction and personal exemptions for a family of four totals $23,530. Net taxable income is $9,970 resulting in a tax due of $998. If you assume the children qualify for the child tax credit, the total tax due is zero. For the purposes of this example, an individual needs a taxable income exceeding $18,350 before any taxes are paid. Even then, the value of the parsonage/rectory would need to be greater than the $10,330 standard deduction before it becomes of value.
Now, let's run the same numbers for your example, but as a priest:
W-2 income is $20,000. Still get standard deductions, standard exemptions, so taxable income is zero.
Difference between priest and non-priest: zero. Neither pays tax in your scenario.
I would like to see a reasonable budget for a family of four for the $25,000 per year this scenario provides. Perhaps if they only have one car and the kids pay their own insurance and gas, and if they shop at thrift stores for clothing.
By the way, the consult with the CPA will cost around $100, plus another $100 if the CPA prepares the return.
Your analysis demonstrates something very clearly: even with the value of tax-free "in-kind" income, like a parsonage/rectory, we don't pay our priests nearly enough to provide for them and their family.
I think you make the case quite well for what a Bishop's salary should be, though.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#44 Marty Watt on 2007-01-08 18:15
I'm not sure where you conclude the tax benefit is worth so much. If you add a bit to the assumption, assuming a family of four with two children under age 19, neither your hypothetical priest, nor an "average layperson" with identical income will pay any taxes. The housing deduction doesn't exceed the standard deduction, so no benefit to the priest. The "average layperson" would have $9,970 in taxible income, but any tax would be entirely offset by the child tax credit.
Actually, the housing issue doesn't become significant (say, $500 difference in tax bills) until the pay is well into the $60K range.
Your scenario provides all housing costs plus $25,000 per year. That's about $2,000 per month ($1,800 per month after tithe). Perhaps that is sufficient for a priest, although I think most families would struggle with that - a single car repair might absorb the whole month's income. Not to mention the odd band trip or mission project for the younger ones.
I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor (1/8/07) that indicated one non-partisan group in Washington estimates the actual salary required to support the needs of a family of four, in Oklahoma, is $33,000 per year. In Ohio, where I live, that amount would most likely be higher.
I agree that priests are not in it for the money, nor should they be. Our obligation is to provide for their needs, and the needs of their families. In this day and age, in our society, that means providing the priest and his family food, clothing, shelter, transportation (including insurance), healthcare, some small means of entertainment (even $20 a week at the used book store is over $1,000 per year!), and for them to provide an education for their children and some for retirement for themselves and their spouses.
Actually I think we should pay our priests based on the number of dependents they have. Under this model, Bishops should make the least!
We need to establish criteria rather than numbers. A food and clothing allowance (based on the number of dependents), shelter provided through either a rectory or a housing allowance equal to the median home price in the area, a car plus a spousal car allowance if there is a spouse, healthcare, automobile insurance for the priest and family, 1/10th the cost of a four year degree from a state school for each child. Anything to stop quibbling over the amounts.
I'd almost rather see priests paid by the Diocese. Ecclesiastically, they act in the stead and only with the blessing of the Bishop. It makes sense they should rely on the bishop for pay, allowances, and benefits.
In scripture times, there was a communal attitude -- everyone tossed everything into the common purse, and you took what you needed to cover your minimum necessitites. Perhaps a return to that model is appropriate.
By the way, the consultation with a CPA would cost around $150, and an additional $150 for doing the tax return. That's the cost in the midwest -- Northeast US and California prices would be 1.2 to 1.5 times that amount.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#45 Marty Watt on 2007-01-08 23:22
I apologize to all for the double posting. My browser froze while submitting the first, and so I re-wrote and resubmitted the second.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#46 Marty Watt on 2007-01-10 08:51
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