Among clergy couples, the career of the woman tends to get bogged down in family responsibilities while her husband's work generally advances without such interruptions, a United Methodist-sponsored survey has found.
The mean salary for husbands in full-time parish ministry was $11,693 compared to $10,694 for their wives, said the Rev. Richard N. W. Ruach in a preliminary report on his survey work.
As the couple's careers progress, the gap in salary and opportunity for advancement widens, he said. It is usually the wife who opts for part-time ministry or turns down promotion possibilities in order to assume the care of children and other house-hold responsibilities.
Women clergy seemed to start out at higher salaries than men only to lose ground later on as their career aspirations are displaced by growing family obligations.
The survey involving 125 full-time, United Methodist clergy couples was taken by Ruach for the church's Division of the Ordained Ministry. It is part of Ruach's doctoral dissertation in Sociology at Indiana State University in Terre Huate. His wife, Susan, is the pastor of a United Methodist church in suburban Seelyville, where they both live.
The decision to sacrifice part of a career in the interests of family obligations, "is not a bad value in itself," Ruach said. "But in the survey, the women took it more often than the men."
In the country at large, women in the national work force earn about 58 percent of what men do, compared to a 91 percent ratio among Methodist clergy couples.
Nevertheless, he said, "the women clergy, who are by and large a very liberated group, are playing secondary roles."
Ruach said, "The data do establish beyond a doubt the sexist character of the appointment and salary attainment system . . . the women clergy, who are by and large a very liberated group, are playing secondary roles."
As an example of the sexist assumptions at work in the system, he cited the different career implications of part-time ministry for United Methodist men and women.
A part-time job entry on a man's resume can lower his full-time salary expectations by $600, he said. Ironically, the same experience can increase a woman's income expectations by $900.
Because part-time work and concommitant family responsibilities "fit in with the female role," Ruach noted, "it doesn't necessarily mean a lack of commitment on the woman's part in the male ideology of our society. But if a man is part-time, it may be interpreted as a lack of commitment.
On the other hand, the survey showed that "if a church is growing, a man's salary can go up twice as fast," Ruach said. Income seems to grow at a rate of $77 for each new member in a church pastored by a man but only by $39 a head in churches pastored by women.