The decision to become a clergy member is a lifelong vocation, but in some churches it comes with a reasonable paycheck. The Episcopal Church is one of many churches operating in America that pays its clergy members, including bishops, very competitive salaries. Bishops in Episcopal dioceses have an annual salary that is determined each year when the diocesan budget is completed. Episcopal bishops also earn a number of additional benefits, including housing and travel.
In the Episcopal Church, the salary paid to the bishop presiding over a diocese is determined by the diocese and paid through that diocese's annual budget. Depending on the resources of the diocese, a bishop may draw a salary that nears or exceeds $100,000 per year. The proposed 2011 budget for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina requested an annual salary of $105,590 for the diocesan bishop, not including housing and other benefits. A 2009 story in "The Washington Times" reported that Peter J. Lee, retiring bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, earned a quarterly salary of $63,000, or $252,000 per year, including the cost of all other benefits.
American Clergy Average
Comparatively, Episcopal bishops earn a much higher salary than other clergy working at American parishes, regardless of religious sect. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for American clergy members was $48,290 per year as of May 2010. The highest average salary levels were earned by clergy working in the District of Columbia, who earned $61,100 per year as of 2010. The next highest average clergy salaries were paid in California ($60,260 per year) and Nevada ($59,920).
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Episcopal bishops also draw a number of employment benefits in addition to their regular salary. This typically includes a housing allowance, utilities, health insurance, retirement pension as well as travel expenses. The 2011 budget for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina proposed a total of $98,140 for housing and other benefits that year. Other expenses incurred by an Episcopal bishop, including office supply purchases, car leases or entertainment, may also be covered depending on the diocese.
Episcopal Pay Grades
Many Episcopal dioceses have instituted pay scales for their clergy members depending on their position and the number of years which they have served within the diocese. Although bishops typically earn the top pay grade within a diocese, different diocese have pay scales that could pay a priest more than a bishop in a different diocese. For instance, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington paid $116,262 per year in 2010 to rectors with 25 years of experience at congregations with an income in excess of $840,000. By contrast, a first-year rector in the Washington diocese at a congregation with an income below $129,000 earned $39,820 per year in 2010.