Every other year, Southern Baptists produce a compensation study for the benefit of church personnel committees seeking to pay an equitable wage to their ministers, support staff and custodial workers. However, currently, no such study exists to report the compensation of our Southern Baptist executives. This lack of accountability deserves an immediate remedy.
Why do average Southern Baptists need to know these salaries? In recent years, every other aspect of our financial stewardship has come under intense scrutiny. We have discussed the need for greater individual gifts, church gifts and state convention gifts, engaging in a full-blown effort to send more money to the nations through our various mission funding channels.
The implementation of GCR-related strategies at both IMB and NAMB have resulted in hundreds of layoffs through downsizing measures. Similarly, within state conventions, spending has been slashed not only to balance budgets, but also to forward greater amounts through our national and international mission boards. In the context of such enormous financial sacrifices, we must examine whether or not our denominational executives are partnering with us in applying these belt tightening measures.
Stewardship of Offering Plate Money (OPM)
Occasionally, one hears the argument that only CP receiving institutions are responsible to Southern Baptists for their financial stewardship. In other words, the claim is made that since LifeWay and Guidestone operate as businesses and do not receive CP funding, they are somehow exempt from the usual rules of accountability. But why would we ever expect them to receive CP funds in the first place when they are not missions organizations or educational institutions? Southern Baptists simply fund them through different channels of support.
Through various church budget line items distributing Offering Plate Money (OPM), average Southern Baptists are responsible for funding all SBC executive salaries. Church Missions Budget line items provide the Cooperative Program funding source for IMB, NAMB, ERLC, all six of our seminaries and the Executive Committee. Church Education Budget line items provide the funding source for the majority of LifeWay’s income. Church Personnel Budget line items provide the funding source for Guidestone’s income. Thus, all of our entities are accountable to Southern Baptists for their responsible stewardship of OPM.
SBC Entity to Business Comparables Inadequate
In some cases, the organizations owned by all Southern Baptists boast of multi-million dollar budgets. Paying the executives of these organizations on the basis of comparable responsibilities in the business world or among other non-profit organizations may not represent the best possible comparison. Business models generally credit the executive with producing profits, just as non-profits credit the executive with fund-raising efforts. But in the case of denominationally loyal churches contributing through LifeWay and Guidestone, the donations are not coming in based on the name of the executive in office. Rather, Southern Baptists have grown habitually accustomed to supporting these organizations over many years. Should we really pay these executives like businessmen? Or should we pay them like ministers handling denominational administration?
Setting a POTUS Cap on SBC Executive Compensation
While this proposed cap is admittedly arbitrary, I do not believe we should compensate any Southern Baptist Executive, whose salary derives from the OPM of all Southern Baptist Churches, at a level higher than that of the President of the United States.
Obviously, individual churches would be free to exceed such a cap, since they are only accountable to their own individual church members. But when it comes to positions funded by all Southern Baptists pooling our resources together, I believe it is reasonable that we not compensate anyone more highly than the President, who earns a salary of $400,000 per year plus $169,000 for various expense accounts, totaling $569,000.
Presently, I am fairly certain that at least two or three of our entity Executives are being compensated at a higher level than the President of the United States. If anyone would like to help me explain these truths to the women in our WMU circles collecting coins in baby bottles to support missions, I would love to hear your most articulate defense and would be more than happy to read them your letter out loud.
Transparency Agenda Survey Results
In a recent poll of SBC Today readers, we asked Southern Baptists to indicate if they “approved” or “disapproved” of the idea that we “Disclose the compensation for our entity executives.” With 177 respondents, 76.84% approved of such disclosure. Why not give Southern Baptists the information necessary to evaluate our stewardship of resources at the top end of the pay scale within organizations we mutually support through our offering plate money?
This article addresses Item Three of the Ten Item Transparency Agenda. You may READ the Transparency Agenda or COMPLETE the survey yourself. To read the articles reporting results from the other survey items, see the links below: