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GA 2010: Neither poverty nor riches … nor ratios

The 219th General Assembly voted 530-96 today (July 9) to approve a report on pay equity called “Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the Church.”

            Earlier in the week that report had been amended, after much discussion on issues of fairness and justice, by the assembly’s committee called Social Justice Issues A:  The Promotion of Social Righteousness. That committee made some changes from the initial recommendation that came from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, which had written the original report.

            The amendment removed the goal of achieving, over a period of time, a 5:1 ratio between the highest-paid and lowest-paid church employees, beginning with the General Assembly Mission Council staff.

             Debate over the motion surrounded the issues of justice and fairness in equity of pay, with the practical realities of needing to consider compensation as one factor impacting the ability to attract quality talent. Gloria Albrecht, co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness policy, which authored the initial report, estimated that current ratios are in the range of 8:1.

Discussion centered on several questions, such as:

· Is it an issue of justice to implement ratios that ensure that there is some level of equality in compensation, as a witness to a culture that is often overly focused on money?

· Or is it an issue of stewardship to hire the best people for the job, no matter the cost, to ensure that it is done well?

· Does the PC(USA) need to be able to pay salaries, whatever the cost, in order to ensure that it can recruit the most qualified candidates for a given position, or should those candidates be more motivated out of their desire to serve and sense of call than solely financial compensation?

Committee members and the commissioners in plenary wrestled with these questions before approving the resolution without requiring ratios. Though it removed ratios at the denomination’s national staff level, the motion did not remove language related to presbyteries in the report. This language urges, but does not require, presbyteries to consider minimum and maximum terms of call.

            Congregations that choose to exceed the maximum terms of call would be urged to contribute to a fund to be used to support pastors in congregations unable to afford the minimum terms of call. The resolution also asks each presbytery to determine current ratios between the highest-paid and lowest-paid pastors in the presbytery.

Committee 10 also took the following actions:

[10-01] On Protesting the Blatant Disregard for the Sanctity of Our Lord’s Name in Motion Pictures and Public Broadcasting, passed as amended.

[10-02] On Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the First Social Pronouncement of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., passed as amended.

[10-03] On Urging the United States Congress to Cap Interest Rates on Credit Card Lending, passed as amended.

[10-06] A Resolution to Study Violence Against Women and Children on the Mexico-U.S. Border, passed as amended

[10-07] A Resolution to Explore the Intersection of Gender and Race, passed as amended.

[10-08] A Resolution Supporting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), passed.

[10-09] Living Through Economic Crisis: The Church’s Witness in Troubled Times: A Social Involvement Report for the 219th General Assembly (2010).

[10-10] Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the Church, passed as amended.

[10-11] Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K–12), passed as amended with comment.

[10-12] Commissioners’ Resolution. On Ending Violence with Impunity Against Women and Girls, passed as amended.

[10-13] Commissioners’ Resolution. On Renewing the Commitment to the Use of Inclusive and Expansive Language for God and the People of God, passed as amended.

[10-14] Commissioners’ Resolution. On Usury, passed as amended