Value our educated clergy

“Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.”


                                       I Corinthians 9:9 & I Timothy 5:18 (from Deut. 25:4)



….and who would argue? It’s self-evidently sensible that the ox be well fed so to be able to do the work for which the farmer keeps it.  And if that means that it munches on the work, so be it.


The original reference – the one from Deuteronomy – is literally about oxen. But twice in the New Testament letters the writer quotes this richreading 20130502admonition and it’s clearly NOT about oxen – it’s about those whose work is the advance of the gospel – in today’s context, it’s about pastors.


One of the saddest parts of my now long work in the wider church are the too many times when I’ve dealt with congregational leaders who are bent on being cheap about pastoral pay.


Miserly pay isn’t the only way we muzzle our clergy, however. We are heirs of a system of ecclesiastical finance which seems to assume that ministry is a lucrative calling and that those who would enter into it ought reasonably be expected to foot the bill for getting there.


For most prospective clergy, that means paying their own way through a graduate education.


This makes no sense. The fact is, if we (the church) value an educated clergy (and we ought to!), then we (the church!) ought to significantly share in the cost of that education.  The fact is, large numbers of new clergy enter in their first call carrying debt loads as high as $40,000, or $60,000, or even $80,000.  Those higher debt numbers cannot be financed on what a new clergyperson earns.  This is a system where to buy avodart online careening toward economic collapse.


A substantial book could be written about the economics of clergy compensation in the 21st century.  It wouldn’t be a pretty read.  I’m writing to suggest one small way for the people and churches of the Iowa Conference to move toward sanity (and sustainable self-interest) in this regard.  At the last meeting of the Conference Board of Directors, it was decided to authorize an annual conference-wide offering to help subsidize educational expenses for Members in Discernment who are preparing for ministry in seminary.  The rationale for this is as straightforward as not muzzling the ox while it treads out the grain – if we (the church) want competent and highly trained ministerial leaders, then we must share in the expense of making that happen.


It’s the same rationale as for the CUE offering (the offering for the support of the three Midwestern UCC seminaries – Chicago, United and Eden) – the CHURCH benefits when clergy are competent, faithful and well trained.


Later this year you’ll receive additional information and support materials for the inaugural ingathering of this new offering. Promote it enthusiastically in your congregation.  DON’T cannibalize the CUE offering for this….we need both (and more, to be honest).


I don’t know how much my fellow clergy appreciate being compared to oxen….at least it’s not as bad as being compared to sheep!! It’s right to care for our animals – whether they work for their keep or not – and it’s right to care for our spiritual leaders – we owe them no less!


Thanks for your generous support of this new offering! God bless you!


Rich Pleva
Conference Minister
The UCC in Iowa

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