Flexible Housing Task Force Meeting Notes September 2, 2009

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Flexible Housing Task Force

September 2, 2009 Meeting Summary

The Flexible Housing Task force held its third meeting on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 from 3 until 8:30 pm. at Lansing Trinity UMC.  Eleven of the fourteen members were present.

The primary purpose of this meeting was to listen in person to individuals who had expressed a desire to address the Task Force. The individuals had already provided a written summary to the Task Force of their experience and/or perspective as it related to the issue of the implementation of the Flexible Housing Policy and the itinerancy of United Methodist clergy in the West Michigan Conference.

Each of the presenters was invited to have a support person with her or him, if desired, and asked to focus verbal comments around the following two questions:

A.  What would you like us to learn from your particular experience?

B.  What do you hope to see accomplished as a result of this process, and by whom?

We opened and closed each conversation in a time of prayer.

In addition to conversations with clergy and lay persons, the Task Force had an opportunity to dialogue for an hour with Bishop Keaton.  This allowed the Task Force to hear from him and his perspective in the unique and historic role as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church.

The Task Force reviewed a summary of the implications of housing compared to a parsonage as it affects pension contributions.  (See Item A below.)  We also reviewed a statistical summary that was one way of looking at a number of factors the Annual Conference motion requested the Task Force consider.  (See item B below.)  These factors were identified in the following points of the Annual Conference Motion:

  • “Address questions of equity in pension support and compensation as this relates to housing
  • Take into account issues of class and socio-economic status, gender and race as these issues relate to housing
  • Keep the conference true to the United Methodist commitment to inclusiveness as stated in Article IV of our Constitution (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church – 2008. Paragraph 4) by directly addressing how housing and residency requirements impact under-represented groups such as women and people of color.”

In preparation for its next meeting, the Task Force will gather information related to the housing/parsonage practices in other Conferences in the North Central Jurisdiction and across the UMC.  The Task Force will now begin to review the legislation the Annual Conference referred to it in light of the information and insight the Task Force has acquired in this process.

The Task Force is also developing a list of items/issues that seem to be emerging as areas for further discussion and/or attention, but are beyond the current scope and time of the responsibilities outlined for the Task Force in the Annual Conference legislation.


Parsonage vs. Housing Allowance Retirement Inequities

One historical inequity between the use of the Parsonage and the use of a Housing Allowance, particularly under the 1982-2006 Pension Plan, has been that clergy with a Housing Allowance not only have the advantage of growing equity in a home, but also, in most cases, received additional pension contributions based on the amount of the Housing Allowance that exceeded 25% of the Cash Salary.  Since Housing Allowances have tended to exceed 25% of cash salary, this gave a significant financial advantage to clergy with a Housing Allowance by means of higher contributions to and faster growth of their pension accounts, as well as the equity growth accruing through home ownership.

To a large degree, though not completely, this inequity was eliminated with the implementation of the CRSP program on January 1st, 2007, which moved a significant portion of Clergy Pensions from a Defined Contribution to Defined Benefit Plan based on years of service and the Denominational Average Compensation. Nevertheless, because there remains some portion of the pension plan which is a Defined Contribution based on Cash Salary plus the higher of the actual Housing Allowance or 25% of the Cash Salary, some additional retirement assets still accrues toward the pensions of clergy with a Housing Allowance that exceeds 25% of salary.

(Notes: One question being raised at the National Association of Commissions on Equitable Compensation is whether or not the 25% housing factor is still a valid figure to use as a basis for computing pension contributions.  It has also been asked whether it is reasonable to even add a Housing Factor to pension contributions of those with Housing Allowances since they are growing equity in a home through support of the church.  In some ways, it seems to be “double dipping.” An additional question to be considered is whether an Annual Conference can choose to simply ignore Housing Allowance figures and use the same General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Housing Factor for all clergy without regard to their living in a Parsonage or having a Housing Allowance.)

Item B

Statistical Summary for Flexible Housing Task Force

(These numbers are based on information updated as of 8-1-09)


The following statistics are compiled in response to the questions raised by the Flexible Housing Task Force and the Annual Conference motion.  They are primarily focused upon appointments to local congregations, and for the most part do not include appointments to Extension Ministries.

421 Congregations

331 Charges

Charges with Housing



320 Full-Time (FT) (76%)

251 Full-Time (76%)

49 Full-Time (19.5%)

11 (22.4%)

38 (77.6%)

101 Part-Time (PT) (24%)

80 Part-Time (24%)

36 Part-Time (45%)

15 (41.6%)

21 (58.4%)

Of the 49 FT Allowances 43>25% of Salary

Of the 36 PT allowances 30>25% of Salary

(In addition to the above, there are 5 full-time associates, all have Housing Allowances, all >25% of the pastor’s salary.  There are 3 part- time associates.  One has a Housing Allowance.)

Of the Top 50 Local Church Salaries 20 have a Housing Allowance (45%)

Of these 50 there are 6 women (12%), 3 have a Housing Allowances (50%)

Of the top 100 Local Church Salaries, 28 have Housing Allowances (28%)

Of these 100 15 are women (15%), 5 with Housing Allowances (33%)

Of the Top 50 Housing Allowances, 9 are women (18%)

They rank:  2, 3, 12, 25, 30, 31, 32, 46, & 48

Of the 331 Appointments to Local Church Charges:

42 are women (12.7%)

26 of these women receive a Housing Allowance (61.9%)

Of the 85 FT & PT charges with Housing Allowances, women are appointed to 36% of them.

There are 16 Racial Ethnic Clergy appointed to local congregations.

10 are appointed full time, 4 with Housing Allowance (40%)

4 are appointed part time, 1 with a Housing Allowance (25%)


The following implications and interpretations have received a preliminary review and reflection upon by the Task Force.  The Task Force reserves the right to make revisions to these comments in its final report to the Annual conference.

Housing Allowances are less that 20% of all Full time appointments; In the top 50 salary position, 45% of them, have Housing Allowances.

Women clergy appear to be provided an allowance in a greater % of their number than male clergy.

Racial Ethnic clergy appear to receive an allowance in about the same overall % rate as all clergy.

Of the 5 lowest Housing Allowance Amounts received, $10,500 to $13,000, 1 was a woman.  No racial ethnic clergy were in the lowest 20%.

There are 18 clergy couples. 8 of them receive Housing Allowances.  The Housing Allowances ranged from a combined total of $36,000, to one situation in which only one of the clergy in the couple was compensated, in the amount of $14,000.

There are 10 other clergy couples that have retired, gone on Incapacity Leave or are currently serving in the Detroit Conference during the last 10 years.