Racial and ethnic inequality is well documented in many aspects of daily life in the United States, such as in educational and employment opportunities, home ownership, and access to credit. Despite all the evidence of racial inequality in a variety of arenas of public life, much less research has been done on whether there are disparities between clergy of color and white clergy in terms of congregational size, congregations’ financial resources, or salaries of clergy serving congregations. We reviewed data available for several predominantly white Protestant denominations, including Assemblies of God, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Methodist Church (UMC), United Church of Christ (UCC), and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We first looked at racial and ethnic composition of clergy. For four of these six denominations, there was at least some data available on the racial and ethnic composition of clergy. Only two of the denominations, the Episcopal Church and the ELCA, provide information on both race and ethnicity of pastors and some measure of equity such as pastors’ compensation, financial resources of the congregation, or size of the congregations these pastors serve.
Whites made up the largest share of clergy in all six denominations that we reviewed, ranging from a little less than three-quarters of Assemblies of God clergy (in 2020) to almost 95 percent of clergy in the ELCA (in 2019). Among Assemblies of God clergy, 16 percent were Hispanics, while Asian, Black, American Indian/Native Americans, and people of other races made up the remaining 11 percent. Whites made up 88 percent of both Episcopal clergy (in 2021) and UCC clergy (in 2019). African Americans made up the next largest share of clergy in both denominations, with 5 percent among Episcopal clergy and 7 percent among UCC clergy. Whites made up 92 percent of all PC(USA) clergy in 2021, including clergy serving congregations and in other work settings. In the United Methodist Church, a study was conducted on the race and ethnicity of UMC clergy in 2011, but a comparable study has not been done since then. At that time, 89 percent of clergy were white, and 6 percent were Black.
An earlier post about clergy of color in the ELCA discussed how inequities persist in terms of the median worship attendance and amount of financial resources of congregations led by Black, Hispanic, and white pastors. Yet racial inequality among clergy is not necessarily the story of all white mainline denominations. The Episcopal Church is one denomination that is addressing the issue of racial and ethnic inequality within their denomination. In 2018 the Episcopal Church required their Church Pension Group to devise a way to track the racial and ethnic composition of their clergy and the extent to which there are racial inequities (if any) in clergy compensation. The denomination has taken this transparency one step further by making public the median compensation of Asian, Black, and Hispanic clergy, as well as for clergy of multiple races or other racial and ethnic identities. In 2021, the compensation for Hispanic clergy was comparable to that of white clergy, while clergy of other racial and ethnic groups received salary and benefits that were slightly higher than that received by white clergy. One caveat is that these compensation figures are for those clergy (about 50 percent) who reported their race or ethnicity.
More than anything, this review of clergy race and ethnicity reveals how little we know about clergy of color serving congregations in historically white mainline and evangelical denominations, even among connectional denominations that require congregations to provide data to their national offices on an annual basis. The challenge for many mainline denominations is walking the fine line between recognizing that racial and ethnic differences among clergy do exist, while at the same time ensuring that decisions related to hiring, salaries, or promotions are not based on clergy’s race. If denominations collect data on pastors’ race and ethnicity, they run the risk that this information will be used by others to give preferential treatment to individuals of a particular racial or ethnic group. Yet past studies have shown that ignoring the racial and ethnic identities of individuals only perpetuates these racial disparities and racist practices. Given the fact that there are well-documented racial and ethnic disparities in a wide range of areas related to well-being, it makes sense that there could very well be racial and ethnic disparities in employment opportunities and income for pastors of color serving congregations as well.
The Episcopal Church has found one solution to this dilemma by requesting that clergy voluntarily share this information but not requiring them to do so. Another option is to remove other personal identifiers from any files that include pastors’ race and ethnicity, such as their names and the names of the congregations they serve. This would allow denominational leaders to determine whether there are racial disparities in terms of clergy’s employment opportunities, salaries, and benefits while ensuring that this information is not used to identify particular clergy. Denominations face a challenge to ensure that all clergy thrive, including clergy of color, but this issue cannot be ignored if they are to follow the biblical mandate to “Maintain justice and do what is right….”
— Amy Kubichek
 Matthew A. Painter, II and Zhenchao Qian, “Wealth Inequality Among Immigrants: Consistent Racial/Ethnic Inequality in the United States,” Population Research and Policy Review 35, no. 2 (April 2016): 149-151; Chenoa A. Flippen, “Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Homeownership and Housing Equity,” The Sociological Quarterly, 42, no. 2 (Spring 2001):128; Victoria C. Plaut, “Diversity Science,”: 79; William M. Rodgers III, “Race in the Labor Market: The Role of Equal Employment Opportunity and Other Policies,” The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5, no. 5 (December 2019): 205.
 AG USA Ministers by Race, 2001-2020,” https://ag.org/About/Statistics
 The Church Pension Group web page of The Episcopal Church provides an interactive data visualization tool from which one can view national data, or data by region, as well as demographic characteristics of clergy; see https://www.cpg.org/global/research/clergy-compensation-report/#/domestic
 Angie Andriot and Susan Barnett, “PC(USA) Minister Survey Demographic Report (Presbyterian Church (USA) Research Services, October 2020), 4, 6. Survey was administered from September-November 2019.
 General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, “Clergy Diversity Proportional to Membership,” (United Methodist Church, 2011), https://www.resourceumc.org/en/partners/gcsrw/home/content/clergy-diversity-proportional-to-membership.
 United Church of Christ congregational and clergy data were provided to us by the Center for Analytics, Research & Development, and Data (CARDD) of the United Church of Christ.
 Data on ELCA congregations and clergy were provided to us by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
 General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, “Clergy Diversity Proportional to Membership”
 See data tables for “Compensated Clergy by Gender and Race/Ethnicity” at https://www.cpg.org/global/research/clergy-compensation-report/#/domestic
 Evan P. Apfelbaum, Michael I. Norton, and Samuel R. Sommers, “Racial Color Blindness: Emergence, Practice, and Implications,” in Current Directions in Psychological Science 21, no. 3 (June 2012): 205-209; Ashley (“Woody”) Doane, “Beyond Color-Blindness,” in Sociological Perspectives 60, no. 5 (Oct. 2017): 975-991; Victoria C. Plaut, “Diversity Science,”: 77-99.
 Victoria C. Plaut, “Diversity Science,”: 78-79.
 Isaiah 56:1, New International Version