Friday, January 15, 2021

OCA gets serious about clergy compensation

One thing that perplexes people is the vast compensation differences between jurisdictions. You have often had the GOA and Antiochians on one side, Serbs and OCA somewhere in the middle, and ROCOR at the other end. So it's interesting to see the OCA apply a Median Family Income-based approach to clergy compensation. But what I found really admirable was this line:

"Whether a parish priest is or is not married, does or does not have children at home, and whether or not the parish priest has a spouse that does or does not work is immaterial in setting the salary for the job of the pastor."

Some parishes try their darnedest to take care of their priest and his family. They take it as a point of personal pride that their priest is able to feed his family, send them to school, pay medical bills, and not worry about things unduly so that he can be freed to be on-call 24 hours a day to shepherd his flock. But many more parishes are looking for a "deal." So it becomes a situation where anything a clergy family may or may not have goes to some imaginary compensation tally. In response the priest and his wife spend much of their time on defense and their children are told not to mention where they are going on vacation or mention a new bicycle or wear jewelry to church. In short, compensation becomes adversarial.

And attempts to ratchet the tenseness of monetary discussions is as often as not harmful to the next priest. If Father Nikolai is able he chooses not to take the housing allowance because he already has a home or he might choose to not have the parish fund his health insurance because it is covered in some other way. Naturally, the funds that should go there go elsewhere. And when the parish finds that the next priest, Father Sergei, requires the complete compensation to diocesan standards, the parish balks. Father Nikolai has done the parish no favors and he has most certainly made Father Sergei's situation in a new parish assignment that much harder. As I once heard recounted from a priest placed in a similar situation when he spoke to a member of the parish council, "You better be worth it." Hardly the footing anyone wants to start his job on.

The OCA has set a standard. Parishes are free to do more than the standard, but there is no confusion here. If you want a priest, you must care for him. If you are unable to do so, you are not a parish. The missions and mission stations of the OCA for so many years are going to take on a different role it looks like. And while jurisdictions will still not find parity with one another for many years to come, I am more inclined to place Metropolia alongside the GOA and Antiochians where a mature approach to clergy compensation is concerned than I ever have before.

(OCA) - The Office of Pastoral Life, chaired by His Grace Bishop Alexis, has released updated Guidelines for Clergy Compensation (PDF). The guidelines cover determinations for the minimum salary of full-time clergy in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America, housing allowance, vacation, and other necessary expenses when determining compensation. These updated guidelines were blessed by the Holy Synod of Bishop at their recent meeting in November of 2020 and replace the previous guidelines from 1995. An additional document outlining the Clergy Housing Equity Salary Program for clergy who live in parish-owned housing is also provided.

Questions regarding the implementation of these guidelines should be directed to the respective Diocesan Chancellor.


  1. "The OCA has set a standard. Parishes are free to do more than the standard, but there is no confusion here..."

    Good for them. My experience as a treasure and board member has been enlightening. It turns out in many parishes there is a 20/80 or 25/75 split. 20 percent of the members are contributing 80% of the balance sheet. This split is not along the lines of income either - some relatively well off families give little, and middle/working class income families are firmly in the 20%. Beyond this, the more upper income the family is, the more likely (exceptions of course) they are to be, what's the word, "scrupulous" about the priest's income, his time, general parish expenditures, etc. All this is tied up in culture/history of Orthodoxy in america (no matter the jurisdiction), but much of it is tied to simple faithfulness to the Gospel.

  2. Yes, now that so many are "staying away in droves" we up the ante?

  3. This is encouraging. The mission parish that brought me into the Church was constantly struggling with its finances. Our priest and his family had the patience of Job and endured a great deal that in all honesty they should not have had to.

  4. Afraid there will be no way still to enforce any standards in OCA parishes, most of whose PCs feel they are entitled to exempt themselves ‘because of hardship’. The bylaws are so frequently put aside and bishops do not own the churches. This is a deep flaw in the design of the OCA.

  5. Based on the track record of theodosius, herman, and jonah do you blame them for keeping ownership of their churches they raised the money, they raise the money,,,,so why, in some cases, turn over millons to possible miss management. For example I heard a rumour that six n y area greek parishes were destined to be closed to raise money to cover possible miss use of archdiocese funds. True or not true, this can be Scarry. Back one hundred years ago in the oca when Moscow tried to take over, those churches owned by the diocese were in danger and many had to defend against law suits. So this subject is a double edged sword.

  6. How does this apply to deacons? In my experience, the deacons that I have served with told me that they had to work other jobs because none of them received compensation for their Church service. Almost all of them have other jobs (the exception was the deacon who serves at a women's monastery, probably because they serve Liturgy every day and need him so often that it makes sense to pay him). Have deacons been considered in the guidelines, or were they only designed with priests in mind?