Sunday, July 26, 2009

Colorado Springs Gazette Reporter Mark Barna Discusses The Issue Of Unpaid Clergy In The LDS Church

On July 26th, 2009, Colorado Springs Gazette blogger Mark Barna discussed the resignation of Rev. Brad Braxton from the evangelical Riverside Church in New York after some congregants filed a motion to prevent him from being officially installed as senior pastor. The outcry was driven primarily by reports that Braxton’s salary was more than $600,000 a year.

This provoked a column by him entitled, "The Pulpit: Work without pay has rewards, Mormon leaders say", where he further addressed the issue of clergy compensation by citing the example of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a church successfully run by mostly unpaid "volunteer" clergy. The only Church leaders who get compensation are members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, who are in full-time dedicated positions; each member of the Twelve supervises a different major aspect of Church operations.

Barna interviewed several local Mormon leaders. Mark McConkie, the president of the Colorado Springs Stake, said, “We work from sheer conviction... .Not taking a salary protects us from the sin of greed, the temptation to bend to popular causes”.

Bruce Rands, bishop of the Colorado Springs’ 18th Ward in the Fountain Stake, is an attorney in private practice. Like most bishops, he spends 25 to 35 hours a week tending to their wards by performing administrative duties, counseling members, preparing an occasional sermon and overseeing church events. Rands said that if Mormon church leaders were paid, or if salary were based in part on congregant donations, there would be a temptation to “preach things that are pleasing to the ears of men.” Rands added, ...“we want to preach the doctrine of Christ”.

Not only does Rands get no compensation for being a bishop, but he also made an initial financial sacrifice to accept the calling, giving up an "iron rice bowl" job as an assistant DA. Here's why: Rands foresaw that he’d face a conflict of interest with his job as a Fourth Judicial District deputy district attorney. As bishop, Rands would be hearing confessions from ward members, but as a deputy DA, he was sworn to report knowledge of a crime. So if someone confessed a crime to him, Rands would be obligated to report it to authorities. This could violate traditional clergy confidentiality. So he resigned from the DA's office, then opened his own law practice. [Ed. Note: Bishops are still obligated to report certain crimes confessed to them, like sex offenses, for example.]

Mark Barna then directs us to go to his blog, The Pulpit, for more details. Scriptural justification for the no-pay policy is cited, to include I Peter 5:2, ”Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”, and II Nephi 26:31, "But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money, they shall perish.”

The idea of perfectly-coiffed televangelists like Rod Parsley, Paul Crouch, and John Hagee raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary per year is a bit obscene. However, there are many paid pastors who make far less and who are humble followers of Christ, giving back more spiritually than they gain materially in tithes and offerings. So a paid pastor is NOT automatically a corrupt pastor.

However, one additional advantage to the LDS refusal to maintain a full-time professional clergy is that it affords us the opportunity to rotate a larger number of people through the various bishop and stake president positions. A bishop typically remains in place for no longer than five years. The end result is a larger group of trained leaders who can provide effective direction, particularly during times of crises. This explains in part why Mormons in predominantly-LDS area organize so quickly and efficiently to cope with natural disasters.

Mark Barna is a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette. He has previously written about Mormons; an index to his columns is available HERE.

1 comment:

Mormons Are Christian said...

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles.