Dozens of bishops in the United Methodist Church recently volunteered to take a pay cut as an act of solidarity with Americans struggling in the economic downturn.
Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops, reported recently that 50 active UMC bishops in the United States will have their salary reduced by four percent next year instead of increased as planned.
"One of the reasons for our recommendation is that our salaries are set by a formula ... and because of the schedule for the setting of those salaries, our salaries as bishops are always about two years behind the actual trend of clergy salaries," explained Bishop Michael Coyner of Indianapolis, who is part of the church's finance council, in a note to Indiana pastors and leaders.
"Since 2007 and 2008 were 'good years' for clergy salaries, our salaries as bishops were scheduled for an increase in 2010. But all of us bishops know that 2009 is a tough year and 2010 will likely continue that trend, so we did not want to be receiving increases in 2010 while others might receive the same or even lesser salaries," he added.
The four-percent pay cut that the bishops will be taking translates to difference of $4,700, which will bring the bishops' salary back to the 2008 level of $120,942.
"None of us bishops are going to starve, and this cut in my salary will not change my giving habits, but it is a good reminder that many people, many pastors, and many congregations are going through tough times," commented Coyner.
Despite the bishops' request for pay cuts having been made in May, UMC's Board of Discipleship and Board of Global Ministries were still forced to eliminate 50 positions in June and also cut $4 million from its 2009 budget.
Overall, more than 90 jobs have been cut this year by the UMC.
Besides UMC, another large protestant denomination that has made budget or staff cuts is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), which has laid off about 10 percent of its total staff from its headquarters and reduced nearly $4 million in expenses from its 2009 budget. Salary increases are also being frozen in 2010.
But not all churches are scaling back on their budget despite decreases in tithes and offerings.
In a survey for Christianity Today International's Your Church magazine, 40 percent of church leaders said economic conditions have resulted in a drop in weekly giving by two percent or more.
But despite the loss, more than a third of respondents said they expect their current church budget to increase by at least two percent. Only about a quarter of church leaders said their church budget will decrease. Another one-third of respondents expect their church budget to stay about the same.
"As the demand for more complex ministry solutions increases, more money will be required to fund the ministries that will meet those needs," commented Ben Stroup, a blogger for LifeWay Christian Resources, late last month. "There comes a point in the lifecycle of every organization when it becomes fiscally responsible to add additional streams of revenue to support the growing ministry of the church."
Notably, the recent survey by NationalChristianPoll.com found that 33 percent of churches say all of their principle sources of income are from tithes and offerings.
Christian Post reporter Jennifer Riley contributed to this article.