Morris Chapman, former SBC president and Executive Committee CEO, made a motion last month in Birmingham:
A motion by Morris Chapman of Triune Baptist Church in Arrington, Tenn., to request that the Executive Committee amend the SBC’s Business and Financial Plan where necessary to strengthen the fiscal accountability of the SBC’s entities to the convention.
I don’t know what he had in mind, although I could make some guesses. No one would know more about the issue of the SBC Executive Committee’s Business and Financial plan and the fiscal accountability of SBC entities, or lack thereof, than Morris Chapman. His motion was referred to the Executive Committee where it will receive serious consideration and, presumably, a response will be made at next year’s convention. The goal of his motion was to enhance confidence in the use of Cooperative Program funds.
This was a timely motion and I’m glad he made it.
I suggest that the Executive Committee require, as a part of what our entities report to them annually, the compensation of entity leaders, including salary and housing allowance, retirement contributions, and any employment contract compensation provisions including severance, deferred payments, provision of loans, houses or automobiles, professional services, and the like. The disclosure of compensation would not be the most important part of financial disclosure but in my view would be one way to increase the confidence of the Southern Baptists and SBC churches that fund the entities, buy the books, literature and insurance, and send retirement funds for SBC clergy.
Over the years, I have been asked about this. The last I had any official figures, the compensation levels seems quite reasonable to me. Now, figures and rumors of figures are tossed around the convention, publicly and privately, of pay levels approaching a million dollars annually. I am not asserting that is the case. I don’t know. Any SBC member or church ought to know and not have to speculate
While I trust the trustees, I have more confidence in trustee action that is subject to public scrutiny rather than done in secret. Trustees operate better in the sunlight than in the shadows. Does any Southern Baptists need examples? Surely not.
This is our money. Show us where it goes in this case. The reporting would be similar to what is required for other non-profits and public corporations. Not a big deal.
Some object that this would be personally embarrassing to our entity leaders. Not much of an argument there. We have better entity leadership, across the board, than we have ever had in my years as an SBC pastor. These men should be able to function even if their pay levels were known to all. The lowest paid teacher’s aide in my school system has their name and salary published. I’m not sympathetic to the argument that we would be embarrassing our fine leaders. If the pay is so low that it is embarrassing, then, trustees, raise it. If it is so high that it would be harmful to the confidence of folks in the pulpits and pews, then, trustees, make the case for your highly paid leader.
Disclosure would create conflict among the various entities. This seminary prez is paid a lot less than this other prez, you say? So what? Let trustees make their case.
We have leaders coming from megachurches. We have to be able to pay them at the same level or higher than their church. I don’t care what pay agreement there is between any church and their pastor. That’s a private matter for the members. Trustees should be forced to make their case publicly if this is the argument being used for an SBC entity leaders. I’m not singling out anyone here. We have and have had several leaders who came to denominational positions from large and megachurces.
It’s none of your business. It’s our common, cooperative work. It’s the business of any and all Southern Baptists.
Some of our cooperative work is complex, some of our entities have thousands of employees, and some of our entities are huge enterprises with grave responsibilities. The extraordinary men who have the skills to lead such entities should be paid well and generously. Let’s just see what the figures are.
We’ve had these discussions before. The responses are predictable but I’ve never understood why pastors making a near-poverty wage, one where everyone in their church and community knows the numbers, spend so much energy arguing that the pay of our highest paid employees be kept secret. If you don’t want to know, fine.
And, it need not be said but I’ll say it anyway: this isn’t an SBC Voices team opinion. It is only that of your humble hacker and plodder, semi-retired pastor and blogger.