I understand why people want to know what entity presidents make. I do, too. If a secret email was circulating the interwebs with the salary packages and someone said I could have the password to open the email for $10, I’d probably be asking if they take PayPal or Cashapp. I am as curious as the next guy.
I have written on this topic previously and expressed my views. In my mind, my curiosity is not a sufficient reason to break protocol on confidentiality and to violate the trustee system. I do not believe that I have a legitimate claim, even as a pastor whose churches, over the last 40 years, have never given less than 10% to missions through the Cooperative Program and have led my state in Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong giving on a regular basis.
I would love to know what these men make but I am not convinced I have a legitimate right, beyond my curiosity, to demand to know.
So, I would like to ask some simple questions of those of you, including my buddy William, who believe the hoi polloi of the SBC should have unfettered access to the salary figures of our entity heads.
1. On what basis do you make this demand?
Baptists have a unique polity, which puts the operation of our entities in the hands of trustees. We have the right to elect trustees and even to recall trustees. Remember that the motion which went down in flames at the Dallas convention to ask for the resignation of several Southwestern trustees was in order and was voted on at the convention. We govern the election of the trustees but the trustees govern the policies and procedures of the entities.
The trustees should know what the entity leaders make. I’ve heard rumors that on some trustee boards only the Executive Committee knows the president’s salary. If I were a trustee and that were the case, then I would raise a ruckus. Our trustees are elected to deal with issues like this and they should know this information.
It is hard to argue with the pathos of the “the people who give have a right to know” argument, but our polity does not say that.
So, aside from the “we who give our offerings ought to know” – an argument that is emotionally satisfying but not legally or ethically compelling, on what basis do you demand to know the salaries of the presidents of the entities?
2. On what basis do you differentiate between entity heads and others?
In Iowa, the salary of every state or local government employee is published once a year. If you are paid by the State of Iowa, a county, or a municipal government, everyone gets to know what you make. Out of curiosity, I’ve looked up the salaries of friends and acquaintances who had government jobs.
Dave Cline asked a question on the previous post that was kind of brushed off, but I think it is a good one. Is there any legitimate basis to disclose the pay of the president but not the Vice Presidents? How about team leaders? If I have the right to know what the president of LifeWay makes, shouldn’t I be able to inquire about friends of mine who work there and find out what they are making?
What is the legal or ethical logic for asking for only the entity leader’s pay numbers? Again, curiosity is not a sufficient answer. If we ask for one should not we ask for all of them?
3. Is the resulting chaos not concerning?
I will admit that I’ve heard rumors about what some of the entity leaders make. I do not begrudge them decent salaries for the work they do. Some of them likely took pay cuts if they came from megachurches, even if their salaries seem massive to us smaller church guys.
I remember a regular on Voices speaking with Papal authority that it was ungodly for anyone to make over $100,000 in God’s service. I’m guessing if he moved up the ladder and got to the point where a church was willing to pay him that, his views might change. But I was shocked to see someone set a dollar amount on the Lord’s approval.
If the information I have is correct, our entity presidents make more than $100,000. Quite a bit more.
Can you imagine the caterwauling if these were made known? How many self-appointed experts are there like the commenter who set an arbitrary cap on salaries? Would people stop giving? Would it affect our ability to attract top candidates to these jobs? These questions are all speculative, of course. But I do believe the chaos of such a move, without legal or ethical warrant, makes it an unnecessary step.
Again, I would love to know this information. If you have it, please feel free to share it with me! I haven’t shared what I’ve been told here. The simple fact is that in an organization as big as the SBC sometimes we won’t know everything.
Some will see my view as contradictory since I’ve argued for greater transparency in the operations of our entities. Perhaps I am being contradictory and I do believe that too much business at our seminaries and other boards is done in secret. I spoke to one of the new entity leaders in Alabama this year and said that I was supportive of him and his institution, but there are going to be times when we reveal what he wants kept secret. That is the bloggers dance.
This, the dollar amounts our leaders are paid, just isn’t one of the things I think needs to be public. We have a system to deal with that. We elect trustees to handle that and they need to do so.
Other than curiosity and some sort of emotional appeal to “we all should know,” I’d like to hear a reasoned case for why the salaries should be made public.
My thoughts on “trust the trustees”
William and I have been hammering this for a while. Here’s my former post on why I think publishing the salaries isn’t a great idea.