CoGS to form working group looking at wages across whole church

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Bishop Larry Robertson, of the diocese of Yukon, urges Council of General Synod (CoGS) to look into wages across the national church at a presentation on living wages Saturday, June 24. Photo: Marites N. Sison

Mississauga, Ont.
A working group will be formed to gather information about the pay of employees across the Anglican Church of Canada with the ultimate aim of achieving fairer compensation, Council of General Synod (CoGS) resolved Saturday, June 24.

CoGS voted in support of a proposal put forth by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to form the group, which would consist of himself, general secretary Archdeacon Michael Thompson and three other members of CoGS. The mandate of the group, Hiltz said, would be to gather the information needed to support a fuller discussion of the issue and guide decision-making around it at the next meeting of CoGS in November. CoGS is the executive body of General Synod, the chief legislative and governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The proposal actually arose out of a presentation by Thompson on an examination of wages of national office employees he had carried out with General Synod Treasurer Hanna Goschy. That examination, in turn, had originated out of a question posed at last November’s session of CoGS on whether General Synod had ever passed a resolution mandating a living wage for its employees.

Thompson said he and Goschy were able to confirm that all the salaried employees of the office of General Synod are receiving more than the living wage. They also found, however, that a small number of contract employees had, while receiving well above the provincial minimum wage, been paid less than a living wage. As a result, the base hourly rate for contract works at the national office has been adjusted upward, he said.

Technically, Thompson said, a living wage is defined as what two full-time adults would need to support themselves and two children, although he and Goschy, he said, used a slightly different metric based on individuals.What we decided is we would not consider the kind of metrics of how many adult employees there were in the family and how many dependents they had, but we would treat the living wage as a base for individuals who are working for the General Synod.”

In response to Thompson’s presentation, John Rye, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, asked about wages across the national church. Thompson responded that, while he acknowledged non-stipendiary ministries in the church to be “an ongoing deep concern,” General Synod has no authority over the employment practices of the dioceses that employ these priests.

Canon David Burrows, of the ecclesiastical province of Canada, then suggested that CoGS direct the House of Bishops to discuss the matter. Larry Robertson, bishop of the diocese of Yukon and a member from the province of British Columbia and the Yukon, also argued for what he called more leadership from CoGS on the issue.

“I just find, over and over again, that our clergy are subsidizing our mission in the Council of the North” through the financial sacrifices they make, he said. “I’m glad that the employees at General Synod have a living wage, and they should have. But all of our people should have a living wage. And it is this body that should be concerned about it.” (Of the 295 clergy in the Council of the North, 134 are unpaid, according a report delivered at the 2016 General Synod by Michael Hawkins, bishop of Saskatchewan and chair of the council.)

Thompson said that if CoGS wanted to start “a really thoughtful conversation that will result in change,” it should make sure it has ample information from the dioceses about the compensation not only of clergy but of licensed lay workers and other employees. “I plead that we have a conversation that’s loaded with information, so we know what’s really going on,” he said.

After CoGS approved the proposal, Sidney Black, Indigenous bishop for Treaty 7 territory in the diocese of Calgary, encouraged CoGS to include on the working group an Indigenous member who has had experience of non-stipendiary work, given the high number of Indigenous non-stipendiary clergy in the church.Hiltz replied that the group would include such a member.

Editor’s Note: The original story incorrectly identified Larry Robertson as bishop of the diocese of the Arctic. He is the diocesan bishop of Yukon. 

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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