SBC Plodder Featured in Forbes on Clergy Housing Allowance

Forbes contributor Peter J. Reilly enlists the writings of retired Southern Baptist pastor and blogger William Thornton, a.k.a. SBC Plodder, in his article Southern Baptists Against Clergy Tax Abuse. Reilly begins:

Southern Baptists Against Clergy Tax Abuse (SBACTA)  is not a real organization.  I just made it up.  There is no question, though, that if it did exist who its spokesman would be.  The Reverend William Thornton who blogs on Southern Baptist Convention issues under the title SBC Plodder is the man.  I have been following his blog for sometime now.  He has gotten me hooked on the conflict in the SBC between Calvinists and anti-Calvinists.  I just love fights that I don’t have a dog in.  I started following him because of his writing on the parsonage exclusion, which should be back in the news, but somehow the rest of the media is missing it.  The parsonage exclusion allows ministers to receive some of their compensation in the form of a housing allowance that is exempt from income tax.  There is a lot of doubt about the constitutionality of the provision, but until last week’s ruling in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, nobody has ever been able to get standing to challenge the provision in federal court.  (It is hard to get standing to challenge somebody else’s tax break.)

I’m not going to get into the constitutional question in this piece other than to observe that much as I admire constitutional purists, I am not one myself.  I also think that constitutional purists are actually rather rare.  Activists and advocates tend to use the Constitution like a drunk uses a lamppost – more for support than illumination.

It appears to me that SBC is the denomination with the most at stake in this fight. ->Read the whole thing.

Brother Thronton is right to voice concern over the clergy housing allowance, but no one else seems to be talking about it. Most of the 40,000+ Southern Baptist churches are not mega-churches; not even close. I understand that most Southern Baptist churches have 200 or less in attendance on Sunday mornings.

Reilly may be onto something with his tongue-in-cheek suggestion of “Southern Baptists Against Clergy Tax Abuse (SBACTA).” In other words, maybe more Baptists should give some attention to the taxing matter of clergy housing allowances.


tagged as , , , in Baptist,Christianity,politics,Southern Baptist

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert Baty September 4, 2012 at 9:24 am

I am a member of the Church of Christ and Peter J. Reilly has featured some of my writings on the issue for some time now. I think I may have got him hooked on the issue after he published his article on the horn-playin’, tax-cheatin’ Phil Driscoll.

The Churches of Christ, though hardly competitive size wise with the SBC, not only has a dog in this fight it also has played an important part in the historical development of the issue in that it was George Bush and Omar Burleson who put the squeeze on the IRS on behalf of Abilene Christian College, during the Nixon years, and got up that administrative rule that has allowed the “basketball minister”, and others, at places like Pepperdine to claim the income tax free ministerial housing benefit.

And so the Churches of Christ have become more like the “nations round about” and what some consider abuse of the housing allowance has grown even more over the last 40 years.

2 Mark September 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Robert, thanks for the comment. Have the Churches of Christ organized any type of movement to address this issue?

3 Robert Baty September 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm


As far as I know, and I am about the least informed regarding such things, I don’t know of any organized interest to address the issue.

I have tried to stimulate interest and public discussion, but have mostly been met with resistance.

As to the Bush/Burleson deal, the “powers that be”, in my experience, would just as soon not have the full story on that made public. Try getting some straight answers on that from the schoolmen and see how it goes. For those who know, there is a long history of controversy amongst the Churches of Christ regarding such “institutional” issues; a context that makes having that Bush/Burleson deal in place, for the money, makes them look like…..can I say it……hypocrites.

I suspect there may be rumblings about, behind those proverbial closed doors, but they don’t talk to guys like me about such things.


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