I was able to participate in an special program after graduating seminary that allowed me to take an appointment for a year in the British Methodist Church. I was a pastor in a circuit and was in charge of three churches there. I am not sure if the system has gone through any changes since my coming back, so I can only speak to the year experience I had.
During that time we were paid once a quarter and the check came from the denomination, not the local church(es). The salary seemed decent, not great, but that a person could live on it. I do not know if a person could be the sole income provider for a family of four, but for two newlyweds it seemed okay.
Also, everyone got paid the same, except for two small differences. Those non-ordained clergy received a slightly less salary and those who held Circuit Superintendent positions got paid slightly more. The reason I was told they received slightly more was because of the added paperwork. When I talk about more and less it was only £1000-£2000. (at current rates that is roughly $1600-$3200) difference between the regular ordained salary.
A common salary did not erase all the competition within the ministry. There were appointments that were looked highly upon and others that weren't (which I learned is why they invited Americans over, to take those less than appealing appointments).
What is intriguing about this type of system is that it does remove the salary away from the appointment process. A $40,000 salary congregation could now receive the leadership and gifts of a $60,000 or even $90,000 minister. It would hypothetically level the playing field in the appointment process.
Here is my catch with this idea, how much would you pay? What would the best salary be? Currently the minimum salary for an Ordained Elder in a full time appointment in my conference is, $38,095. The highest salary in our conference gets paid over $140,000. That is a $102,000 difference between the newly ordained and the "best" or at least highest paid appointment. If my memory serves me right, the average salary for the conference is between $55,000-$60,000.
Does this mean that if we moved to a equal compensation type of plan that ministers would need to get paid that average? Is that too much? Some would say yes. The fact is our minimum salary for a full time ordained elder is only $18,000 more than the poverty line. For a family of four the poverty line is at $22,050. Yes that is $18,000 more but with the cost of our health care plan in our conference (a family of four will be paying over $12,000 a year to be covered by the conference health care) that brings us really close to that poverty line.
It was my impression too that in the British Methodist system many of the spouses worked in order to provide for their family as well. I remember some saying that they could not really make it on the pastor's salary alone.
If we moved to an equal compensation system what would be the salary? There are a ton of other hurdles that would need to be focused on and answered as well. I will name those in the next post.