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United States

GOA Clergy Salary Scale Revealed by TNH

September 29, 2020

BOSTON –The priests of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America are the highest salaried clergy of all the Orthodox Jurisdictions of the United States, as well as of the Orthodox Church around the world, including Greece.

The National Herald here reveals the most recent scale for salaries and benefits dated July 30, 2019, which was sent by the Chancellor’s and Benefits offices to parish councils across the country:

“A. SALARY and HOUSING ALLOWANCE

YEARS OF SERVICE – REMUNERATION RANGE

Up to 5 years $ 56,496 – $ 76,488

6-10 years $ 76,488 – $ 85,200

11-15 years      $ 85,200 – $ 97,656

16 – 20 years $ 97,656 -$108,504

21-25 years      $108,504 -$116,184

26-30 years      $116,184 -$123,672

31-35 years      $123,672 -$130,824

Over 35 years $130,824 -$138,096

NOTES

a) It is suggested that the annual minimum increase in a clergyman’s remuneration include an annual cost of living increase beginning January 1st of each year.

b) When using these remuneration ranges, the Parish Council should consider the size of the parish and factor the relative cost of living for its specific geographic area.

c) In the event a parish provides ‘housing’ by making available a parish owned home, then an equitable and reasonable ‘deduction adjustment’ should be made from the Salary and Housing Allowance figures above, based on the local fair market rental value of the home being provided.

d) Any exception to the Clergy Compensation Plan Guidelines must be approved by the clergyman’s Hierarch.

In addition to the above, the parish must provide:

1) An automobile (which the parish purchases or leases) for use by the priest, with all related expenses paid by the parish.

2) Social Security/Medicare taxes (FICA/SECA) equal to the maximum self-employment Social Security/Medicare tax each year, currently 15.3% of Salary, the Housing Allowance (or rental value of a parish home), and payments for Social Security/Medicare taxes (which becomes taxable income).

3) The monthly health insurance premium for the Archdiocese-sponsored and approved Orthodox Health Plan, either single or family coverage, as appropriate. All clergymen of the Archdiocese are required to participate in the Orthodox Health Plan (OHP).

4) A minimum annual vacation of fifteen days (2 weeks), to a maximum of five (5) weeks (35 Days), taking into consideration the clergyman’s cumulative years of service to the Archdiocese.

5) Expenses for attending District/Metropolis Clergy-Laity Assemblies and Retreats, the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, Clergy Continuing Education Programs, and the Archdiocese Presbyters Council Retreat.

6) A three (3) month sabbatical leave for each six (6) years of service with the same parish.

The Priest is personally responsible for contributing 3%, 5%, or 6% of his monthly pension eligible earnings to fund his Pension Benefit.

For the year 2020, the maximum contribution amount is $5,592 (3%), $7,968 (5%) or $10,368 (6%) based on the maximum Remuneration plus Social Security/Medicare taxes.

For Pension Plan purposes, ‘monthly earnings’ is defined as Salary and Housing Allowance, plus Social Security/Medicare taxes (FICA/SECA).

Issued by: Archdiocese Benefits Office July 2019.”

It is emphasized here that the above salary scale is not always observed by the local Metropolises. In many parishes there are huge differences of salaries and benefits. Some Metropolitans in order to take care “their own boys” as the expression goes, put pressure on the parishes to give them more money, in some instances even double the amount that the Archdiocesan salary scale directs. It is misleading to believe that the priests are appointed to the parishes by the Chancellor of each Metropolis; actually it is the Metropolitan who makes the selection. In many cases the unwritten law of friendships and favoritism prevails over education, experience and talents.

In other instances, the Metropolitans turn their heads the other way. TNH has learned that there are priests with 50-plus years of continuous service in the same Parish whose annual salary does not exceed $50,000, while some newly-appointed priests start at $80,000. For example, the priests a few years ago at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York, appointed by former Archbishop Demetrios, earned the highest salary of any priest in the country, plus benefits, while other clergy lived below poverty line.

All family benefits that apply to married priests with children, also apply to the celibate priests (Archimandrites or priest-monks). The salaries of the Metropolitans are unknown all these years and all their expenses are paid.

Because the Greek-Orthodox Clergy in the United States are the highest paid among the Orthodox Jurisdictions, many converts are trying to get into the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese as priests and also seek to be transferred from other Orthodox Jurisdictions. In fact, the Archdiocese is considered “the golden fish” of Orthodoxy.

Above and beyond the high salaries and benefits is the unwritten custom of gratuities known as τυχερά, that the faithful give at the time of a sacrament – such as weddings or baptisms, and even at funerals. The gratuities are similar to the tips that the customers give to wait staff in restaurants or hotel bellhops. There are parishes that present to the faithful their financial obligations verbally or in writing when they call or visit the church office to set a date not only for a joyous occasion, but even for the funeral of a loved one. The faithful are asked to give an extra amount to the priest, the cantor, the sexton, and for the use of the church despite the fact that the faithful pay annual dues or stewardship.

In many instances, the priests have asked to include their ‘tip’ in the general expense of the funeral, as billed by funeral directors. There are also cases in which the relatives of the departed in their grief and deep pain approach the priests and give them an extra ‘tip’ in cash which they take without telling the other relatives that they have already been paid the ‘tip’ through the funeral director.

Of course the unfortunate custom of gratuities applies to many hierarchs who also get from $500 to $1,000 or more when they officiate in a Vesper Service or in a Liturgy. They might not ask for it directly, but the priests play the role of intermediary, urging the parish council to “give something to the Bishop.”

Bishops also receive ‘tips’ for various other services such as funerals, memorials, weddings, and baptisms.

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