July 17, 2009
By KEN KUSMER
INDIANAPOLIS — One of the nation's largest Christian denominations is addressing the nation's financial crisis with what it hopes will be a spiritual teaching moment as well as a cost-saver.
Fifty United Methodist Church bishops in the United States will roll back their salaries by 4 percent next year in what Bishop Gregory Palmer of Springfield, Ill., president of the Council of Bishops, says is a gesture of solidarity with others hurt by the global economic downturn.
The salary cut is one of the strongest statements taken yet by a faith group as U.S. churches respond to a recession that has left growing numbers of people jobless and hungry. Other denominations have eliminated jobs, frozen salaries or canceled mission trips.
United Methodist leaders say the move, approved in May, is an acknowledgment that churches are hurting too and there's less money to go around. . .
United Methodist expert William Lawrence, dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, acknowledged that the bishops aren't saving the denomination a lot of money. Nor are they asking pastors or other staff to make similar sacrifices.
Rather, he said, they're making a "tremendously important witness."
"It's a strong symbolic message by the bishops, absolutely," Lawrence said.
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