I noticed a comment in William’s philippic (see, William, I learned a new word) yesterday that called for something that has been called for many times before – that the leaders of SBC entities should make their salary packages public to all Southern Baptists. It was recommended as an accountability measure. This has never been an issue for me. If an entity is run well I don’t care what they pay the president. If he is running it poorly, then the issue is performance, not pay.
I would make the following observations.
1. Because of Baptist polity, the “constituency” of the entities is their trustee boards and there is no inherent right for us as Southern Baptists to know salaries. We can say we think it is best or desirable, but our polity puts this into the hands of the trustees and does not give “average Southern Baptists” any right to know what entity heads make.
2. Determining a fair salary package for an entity head is not an easy task. What is the reference point? Should he be paid like the CEO of a comparable company? Should seminary presidents be paid according to the scale of similarly sized schools? What standard do we use for determining “fair compensation?” Do we want to set the standard and pay better than others or pay less?
3. My guess is that our entity heads make “more-than-comfortable” salaries – high enough that most of us pastors will never see such numbers. Again, I don’t have a problem with that, but I would guess that if salaries were published it would be a big fight in the SBC. A lot of folks struggling to pay their bills would wonder why they are giving to support entities that are paying salaries like that. I have NO idea what any entity leader makes. Not a clue. That is just a guess.
4. It is odd that most Southern Baptists consider themselves fiscal conservatives, capitalists, and pro-business, but also assume that if an entity head is highly paid there is something nefarious going on. It’s as if when convention salaries are at issue, we buy into class warfare and economic principles we’d never vote for in our national government.
5. LifeWay would probably have to be held in a different category. LifeWay is a contributor to the CP and does not receive funding from it.
1. It is never going to happen. Entities are not going to share this information willingly. It would require some kind of convention action that would be opposed tooth and nail. Our polity does not demand it.
2. It isn’t that important to me. What matters is that entities are run well, not how much the leader of that entity is paid.
3. Here it goes…trust the trustees. We have to trust our trustees to be fair, generous, and responsible in crafting salary packages for the presidents, vice-presidents and other key personnel.
4. Personally, I want our entity leaders paid well, but not exorbitantly. My guess is that 97% of you would agree with that. The problem comes when we try to draw the line that defines exorbitant. I remember someone saying (in a comment on this blog) that no servant of God should make a six-figure income. There are a lot of SBC pastors making well above that amount – no, not me, but plenty. I’m told there are pastors making 7 figures, but I don’t really know. How can we say when generous pay becomes greed? We would agree that our leaders should be paid well but not overpaid, but we’d never agree about how to draw that line.
5. This tends to only become an issue when we are upset about a leader. If you like President McGillicutty you don’t care what he’s making. If you don’t like him. you want to know his salary so you can make a stink about how overpaid he is! Right?
How much is one of our entity leaders worth? We could argue all day and not come to a fixed amount.
This post will not solve this issue, but my position remains the same. It is not for us, the hoi polloi, to know how much the presidents make, but to elect trustees who will be responsible, fair, and generous with our leaders. They must exercise accountability and not simply acquiesce to everything that is demanded of them. As long as our current system is in place, “trust the trustees” is not just a slogan, but a way of life.
I am not always content with the actions of our trustees. I got into blogging because I was upset by trustee actions. When trustees act wrongly, we should speak our minds and ask them for answers. But ultimately, we have no choice but to let the trustees handle the issue of salaries for entity leaders and to continue their oversight of our entities.
For good or ill, we don’t really have a plan B.