The Council of the North will ask the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to address the issue of the “continuing erosion” of the salaries and benefits of its clergy brought about by the failure to adjust rates for inflation and to bridge the compensation gap that exists between its member dioceses and the rest of the church.
(Comprising 11 financially-assisted dioceses, the Council of the North administers the Anglican Church of Canada’s grants for northern mission — $2.5 million for 2004. The council includes the Arctic, Athabasca, Brandon, Caledonia, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Keewatin, Moosonee, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon and a group of parishes in the central interior of British Columbia.)
An Anglican priest in the North gets $3,600 less in minimum stipend than his or her Presbyterian counterpart and $2,000 less than his or her United Church counterpart in the same area, according to a study on equitable compensation policy prepared by the Council’s compensation committee. It takes a Presbyterian cleric eight years to reach the top stipend, while it takes his or her Anglican counterpart 25 years.
To further illustrate that clergy in the North are disadvantaged and “shortchanged,” Rev. Rodney Clark of Quebec, a member of the compensation committee, cited Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee as an example: “Caleb has been a bishop for a long time. His episcopal allowance (for expenses related to his duties) of $8,000 was set in the mid-’80s. By not having that allowance indexed across time he has been underpaid in non-inflation adjusted dollars by a little more than $76,000.”
He added: “The compounding effect has been that a faithful cleric or lay person serving in the house for the last 25 years has been underpaid by almost $100,000 in non-adjusted inflation dollars.”
“This is a national scandal that must be named,” said Bishop Anthony Burton of the diocese of Saskatchewan, chair of the Council of the North.
Mr. Clark said that the policy of not adjusting the length of service (LOS) and responsibility allowances (RA) “has had a very substantial impact upon the laity and clergy” of council dioceses. “We can’t catch up. That’s gone. The very least we can do is to draw a line and say we will no longer allow LOS and RAs to erode in value.”
The committee outlined a set of recommendations to standardize and prevent the erosion of the salaries and benefits of council members, among them, making sure that RAs are part of synod budgets of all council dioceses and increasing the base of the RAs each year by 30 per cent for bishops, 20 per cent for administrative archdeacons or their equivalents and 15 per cent for deans and regional archdeacons.
Canon Mike Lowery of the diocese of Brandon, chair of the compensation committee, cautioned council members not to expect CoGS to resolve the issue quickly, saying that in 1987, the council had petitioned the National Executive Committee (CoGS’ predecessor) to allow it to move from minimum stipend to a salary range scale but that nothing materialized. “The will wasn’t there and I suspect the will still isn’t there.” (CoGS meets in Mississauga, Ont., from Nov. 26 to 28.)
Bishop Burton urged the council, however, to press its case. “I want a way where we don’t just stew and be miserable and do nothing about it and we’ll come back and just do it again and again,” he said. “I would like a plan to come to some form of resolution. At the end of it the decision may be, ‘we live with this injustice.’ At the end of it, we may want to challenge other parts of the church and say, the way we do ministry at the moment is unsustainable.”