Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Motion for Louisville

At this year's convention I will propose that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention compile a comparison of professorial salaries at each of our six SBC seminaries on the one hand with the most recent statistics from the Association of Theological Schools on the other hand and publish the raw data of their findings at next year's annual meeting.


John T. Meche III said...

To what end?

Bart Barber said...


I suspect that, although our bureaucrats and missionaries and other denominational workers are at or above average in the compensation that they receive for their services when compared with those in similar positions outside the SBC, our seminary professors are making far less than the average salary for such positions.

If this is indeed the case, then the people of the SBC deserve to know it, so that they can take appropriate action to live up to their responsibility to take care of these folks.

Dave Miller said...

Accurate and complete information would be helpful. I hope the motion passes.

Joe Blackmon said...

Brother Barber

Good idea. What do you think is going to be the outcome of the situation with Broadway Baptist. I quoted your SBC Today article when you published it a few weeks ago.

Bart Barber said...


All of the signs at this point give reason for optimism in the Executive Committee's handling of this situation.

Joe Blackmon said...


That is eoncourging news. I'm glad I'm not the one having to handle that, truthfully. My solution would involve challenging the leadership of that church to a few rounds of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. Did I just date myself there?

volfan007 said...


I will vote for that.


Taran said...


Is this information not already available? I suspect the ATS information is.

Big Daddy Weave said...

Don't you think a better comparison would be with other similar ATS schools rather than the "average" figures provided by ATS? For instance, I'd be interested in comparing the salary of a tenured Southwestern prof to that of a tenured Truett prof and a comparison between a prof at Wake Divinity or Duke Divinity vs. a tenured prof at SEBTS. I'm not familiar with that many comparable conservative schools...

Would you say that there is parity between the salaries of tenured profs at a given SBC seminary OR is it the case where you have a large group of underpaid professors and smaller group of extremely overpaid professors?

Doulos said...

I think you should expand it to include all staff, including senior pastors, of all churches with membership greater than 1000.

DL said...

I have another great idea. The field hands that start at noon should compare their compensation with those who start at six. I think each Christian has to decide why he's serving, and it shouldn't be because the compensation is equal with those in similar positions. Just making the comparison is implying that these professors are somehow being mistreated. But if they signed on for what they're getting, I don't see the problem.

Dave Miller said...

Scott Hart,

The profs and other agency employees are paid with Cooperative Program funds. It is reasonable that we would ask for a public reporting of their salary structure.

It is not reasonable that we would ask for such a reporting from churches that are autonomous. Only the members of such churches have that expectation.

On the other hand, Guidestone does publish the results of a salary survey that can be sorted in several ways.

Dave Miller said...


I have a question for you, which I hope you might know.

Is there a set salary structure for profs at our seminaries, or are salaries negotiated personally for each prof?

Bart Barber said...


The ATS survey is available at their website. The seminary information is not. The report should include the ATS information for comparative benefit.

Bart Barber said...


I'm open to any worthy comparison being made. I think that the results of any of them will be sufficient to keep the Southern Baptist people aware of the realities of the situation before us.

As to the question of parity, I confess that I really don't know.

Bart Barber said...

E. Scott Hart,

A good thought, but Dave Miller's analysis is correct.

Bart Barber said...


I actually agree entirely that any professor who is serving in order to get rich should do two things:

1. Get into another line of work and out of ministry, and.
2. Have his head examined, for if he took a teaching position at an SBC seminary with an eye toward lining his own pockets, he is certifiably insane.

But I think that we're in pretty good shape on this question, since our seminary professors have been underpaid since the days of the Great Depression when SWBTS professors went as much as three years without any pay at all. And yet it is not a seminary professor bringing this motion, nor to my knowledge has any seminary professor ever brought such a motion before our convention.

Seminary professors are responsible for serving the Lord and giving spiritual things of value to their students. I know that many of them have done so for me.

So, now what responsibility remains for you and I—for those who have received these spiritual things from seminary professors? We will answer to God for our faithfulness to share material things with these people. And I suspect that we have been unfaithful. But we'll know for certain the answer to that question once we've seen a report.

DL said...

I get what you're saying, I think your motives are right and pure, and I don't mean to sound insensitive at all. You said, "And I suspect that we have been unfaithful. But we'll know for certain the answer to that question once we've seen a report." I don't think knowing for sure would be a bad thing.

Writer said...


How is this motion different from the one you made in Indy and why do you think this one will be allowed when your previous motion was not allowed?


Doulos said...

I like that you want to see the CP funds used correctly.

I have yet to see a seminary professor be overpaid. Most have "sideline" jobs ie. interim pastor, book writing, etc. to make ends meet. Spouses often have a job if not two.

While I am sure the intent is accountability I think you yourself need to be more aware of what it is you are proposing. It didn't do well in Indy as Les said, and unless you can present even mildly compelling reasons why this one should make it out of committee, I don't see it coming to the floor either.

Its a windmill battle.

Bart Barber said...


This motion does not call for a "study" or any sort of action, but merely for a report of raw data. It is more difficult to construe this as any sort of a call for action to direct seminary trustees to do anything.

Bart Barber said...


Thanks for the sage reminders (although it was San Antonio, not Indianapolis, where I brought a similar motion).

Anonymous said...

Let's not be too clever here. The point of such a motion would be to create a stir for increasing salaries, and that at a time when some of our seminaries have CUT pay. You've blogged about the poor profs before.

I am confident that the various trustee boards have sufficient acumen to judge whether their profs are paid enough and to have already assessed the market.

William, looking for a motion to address the poor pastors...

Bart Barber said...


Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for pointing out that I have previously blogged on this topic. Those who click the category link at the bottom of the post will have an opportunity to read those words, which I encourage.

You miss an important point of this equation. I have high confidence in our trustees as well, but we must consider the possibility that the trustees are doing all that they can do with what they are given, but that what they are given is not enough to pay a fair wage to SBC seminary professors.

If that is the case, then the only people who could do anything about that would be the people of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But I don't really know whether that is the case, and neither do you. My motion would accomplish one simple thing: I a couple of years we both would know.

Bart Barber said...

...and then whatever we do or don't do about the situation, for that we'll answer to God.

I've a suspicion that the vast majority of poor pastors earn more than the poor seminary professors.

Dave Miller said...


I will try asking this question again.

Is there a set salary schedule for professors, or is it a negotiated thing that varies from seminary to seminary.

I am just wondering how it works.

Bart Barber said...

Sorry, Dave. My bad.

I do know that salaries vary from seminary to seminary. Each is autonomous under its board of trustees for such matters. The SBC does not have the authority to set professorial salaries (nor any salaries at any entity other than itself), but it does have the authority to determine how much money it will give to each entity.

Within a particular seminary, are the salaries a strict ladder structure or are they individually negotiated. I guess that each seminary could do it differently. If any of them have an entirely arbitrary system of salary negotiation without reference to some sort of salary structure, then I'm not aware of it.

But each seminary's "ladder" could very will differ from the next.

bapticus hereticus said...

I hope the motion is approved. How much influence do the seminary president's and agency heads have on the selection of Ex Comm members and how much influence do they have with the Ex Comm chair? If a significant amount, look for the motion to fail or be ruled out of order.

When I was rank and file, I opted for rationality. When I became a manager, I opted for power, instead.

Didn't anyone explain to you that you could have both and that the one with the other is reasonable and good?

Whose got time to justify anything anymore. Besides it would just cause conflict.

If it does, it does, but I can tell you won't ever let it get to that.




Thus we are all happy with our illusions that we are doing the best we are able and are in the hands of the most capable people.


Doulos said...

From a comment above you said, "I do know that salaries vary from seminary to seminary. Each is autonomous under its board of trustees for such matters. The SBC does not have the authority to set professorial salaries (nor any salaries at any entity other than itself), but it does have the authority to determine how much money it will give to each entity."

Since each is an autonomous entity then about the only thing you could hope to accomplish is to see how much of the CP funds is used for professor salaries. This would necessarily only be a percentage since each seminary has in place endowments to pay for much (indeed most) of the professorial salaries.

Much, if not most, of the CP given to seminaries is used to offset tuition.

Bart Barber said...


This is one of those cases, I guess, in which I see the way things could be and ask why not.

Seminary professors contribute to every aspect of SBC life.

1. They provide education without which our mission boards will not appoint career missionaries.

2. They provide education which enhances the ministries of pastors in the local churches.

3. A large number of our denominational employees in other fields of work have a degree from one of our seminaries.

My motion, as you know, deals solely with allowing the Southern Baptist Convention to know for certain what is the status of seminary professor pay. For all we know, they are paid well, or even exorbitantly. Or perhaps they are shamefully underpaid.

Whatever the situation, if there is any problem that needs to be corrected, this motion does nothing to address it. But I am confident that, faced with any sort of problem regarding the salaries of seminary professors, the people of the SBC could find a solution, even if it required a departure from past procedures for funding faculty pay.

Matt said...


Not to throw a fly in the ointment (I am in full support of your motion), but is it possible that the ATS survey data is somewhat skewed? Some of those salaries seem, well...too high to be accurate.

Bart Barber said...


The figures are accurate. They are in line with the year-after-year results of this survey, and also compare reasonably with other surveys, such as this unrelated source.

Please understand, I am not saying that Southern Baptist seminary professors must make the ATS average salary. I'm just arguing that we ought to know what that average salary is, and what our salaries are, and how they compare. And if we're paying less than half of the national average, then we ought to know about that, too.

Bart Barber said...

And here is an article on the same subject from the magazine Inside Higher Ed.

Dave Miller said...

Professor Barber, one more question.

Are agency and administrative salaries public record within the SBC?

Bart Barber said...


No. And although MY salary is published in our annual church budget, I think it important to note that I am not calling for any individual professor's salary to be published. Rather, I'm calling for a compilation of averages, the averages then to be published.

Matt Knight said...

I don't mean to move too far ahead, but I think we're seeing where this is going, so maybe it's ok.

If the goal is to find out if our professors are underpaid (which I suspect may very well be the case), what happens if you get the data? If the numbers come out and we learn that SBC seminary profs are underpaid, would it then follow that there would be some sort of movement to raise their salaries? (I would expect the answer would be "yes").

The next thing, and here's my big question, is from where does that money come? I mean that as an honest question, because the general impression that I get is that total CP giving is not going up (though I have no facts to base that on). If the pie is getting bigger, then there's no problem, but if not, what then?

Bart Barber said...


Good questions. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first thing is just to find out where we stand.

We'll face no more questions at that point than we face right now (since you've already asked them without the benefit of the report). We'll only have fewer questions with the benefit of this report.

Bart Barber said...

Let me follow up for everyone, because there seems to be a general tenor of questions along the lines of "What's the point?"

If nothing else, this will be the point. Someday, when I stand before the Master, my hands will be clean with regard to the payment of our brothers serving as professors in our seminaries. I'm doing my part. The remainder will be up to the people of the SBC. I'm fine with that.

But they deserve, whatever decision they make about fair pay for seminary professors, to make that decision with the benefit of good information before them at the time.

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: The first thing is just to find out where we stand.

bapticus hereticus: the governing individuals of the seminaries know where "we" stand; hopefully your motion will turn the wheels for "we" being actualized as "any" interested SBCer, thus the decentralization of knowledge ... and thus a potential challenge to centralized power.

bapticus hereticus said...

bapticus hereticus: if any desire the salary averages for SWBTS professors, go to

the link is to the National Center for Educational Statistics. use the Guest Level portal.