Who Pays Your Clergy?

Church leaders have huge demands from their flock even when some receive no pay cheque

Earlier this year, Rev Can Johnson Ebong, former chaplain at St Francis chapel, sued Makerere University for failure to pay him his salary arrears. He said the university owed him Shs 11m. The case is still in court and he cannot say much about it, he told The Observer.

But the fact that he went to court for salary arrears raises the question: who pays your priest? Should preachers expect something in return when spreading the gospel or should their reward be in heaven?

Fr Josephat Ddungu says that ordinarily, for the Catholic faith, priests are not supposed to be paid.

“Here we are paid for being the university employees. But in other churches, we aren’t supposed to receive a salary,” says Ddungu, the chaplain at Makerere University’s St Augustine chapel.

It is the same for the Anglican church, according to Canon Hannington Mutebi, the assistant bishop of Kampala diocese. He says they offer a service not expecting pay.

“It’s like an allowance you can’t really call it [a] salary. You can’t compare it with what civil servants or those working for private companies earn,” said Mutebi.

Yet some priests are extremely rich, to the bewilderment of their followers. A pastor in Najjeera, Wakiso district, told us he encourages his flock to bring a tenth of what they earn to church. For Pentecostal churches, financial policies differ from church to church depending of the congregation’s size and capabilities.

Some churches pay preachers and other ministers an allowance from the tithes and offertory, while others don’t pay at all. The Observer also learnt that a similar system works in the mosques Imams get an allowance depending on the mosque or congregation they are in charge of.

A believer close to the Kololo mosque administration said when the mosque collects an offertory during Friday prayers, it contributes towards running the mosque activities, including paying the Imam, but this is usually not enough.

Some preachers quote the bible as saying they should be cared for because they are doing God’s work.

About.com Christianity, an online journal, says preachers ought to be supported. It quotes 1Timothy 5:17-18 as saying: “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘you must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain’.” Those who work deserve their pay, the journal says.

According to Battered Sheep, also an online journal on Christianity, the bible also says church leaders should never burden their flock to pay a salary.

“Although they [priests] may have periodically received gifts of food, clothing, and even some monetary assistance at times, there is no historical evidence to suggest that such pastors were given a full-time salary sufficient to meet their financial needs and obligations,” says the journal.

Even though Paul, as an apostle, had the right to financial support, he repeatedly established a pattern of not asking or demanding money from the churches which he served, the journal says. This was because for the sake of the gospel, he did not want to burden the poor Christians.

Well, many preachers today will also argue, Paul neither married nor had a family, unlike priests today who not only have immediate familial and physical needs, but also countless dependants.


While they have no official salary, preachers are confronted with wide demands. A church goer whose child has been sent away for school fees, one with a sick child or the one who wants to buy something will look to the clergy for help. But without a salary, how do they deal with them?

Canon Mutebi says most churches have a way of dealing with such people. “Sometimes, giving is faith-related. Give and it would in turn do well to you. However little we earn, it’s a blessing earning,” he said.

At All Saints cathedral, he says, there are systems where people who are demanding for help from a church leader can be helped. He said the Compassion ministry is dedicated for that.

“Of course we can’t help the whole country this can take care of such cases to reduce the burden on church leaders.”

He said when you come to church and give, a certain percentage of that offertory is reserved for helping needy church Christians. Msgr Gerald Kalumba of Christ the King Kampala church says not all demands from Christians are genuine – some lie to get money. Nevertheless, he said, the church looks at the situation and gives what it can.

Makerere University’s Ddungu believes even when they don’t earn it is godly to give whatever they have as gospel preachers.

Source : The Observer

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