How much money does a pastor need to make before it looks *really* bad when he says he’s not in it for the money? Six figures? A quarter-million dollars?
How about $880,000?
That’s how much Franklin Graham (below) made last year heading up the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse (a Christian relief organization), according to the Charlotte Observer:
Graham’s total compensation last year from the two charities was more than $880,000, including $258,667 from BGEA.
That total is less than the $1.2 million he received in 2008, but it’s still more than some nonprofit experts consider appropriate.
This comes after he said in 2009:
“I feel that God has called me to this ministry and that calling was never based on compensation,” he wrote then in a memo to the BGEA staff.
(It’s amazing how God “called him” to a ministry with his last name right on the letterhead, isn’t it?)
But that was the right move! Graham was doing just fine for himself running Samaritan’s Purse, so saying no to a salary from BGEA was a generous offer that required little sacrifice on his part.
But the BGEA board of directors resumed paying him a year later, to the point where he’s now making more than $250,000 from that group alone. (He makes plenty more from his other job.)
“It gives the appearance that he went back on his word and can’t be trusted,” said Ken Berger, a nonprofit consultant and former CEO of Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits for donors. “It’s worrisome. It appears sneaky.”
You’d think these organizations were headquartered on Wall Street.
It’s true that Samaritan’s Purse is a massive organization — and directors deserve to be compensated — but there are larger non-profits out there, doing similar work, whose leaders make significantly less than he does. (And it’s not like they’re going around touting their Christian bona fides.) You could also argue this compensation is coming at the board’s urging, not his own, but Graham could easily have said no, referring back to what he said in 2009, living off of his other salary.
This isn’t merely about greed. If he’s doing two jobs, and doing them well, you could certainly make the argument he deserves to make whatever the board wants to give him. But when you’re one of the most public faces of Christianity in the country, why not show how you’re different than most traditional directors? Even Pastor Rick Warren has famously talked about how he “reverse tithes” — giving away 90% of his salary and only keeping 10%. It sounds great and most people never even notice that his 10% is likely greater than most Americans’ 100%.
(Incidentally, Graham is best known outside his Christian circles for his bigoted anti-Muslim statements. He’s like Donald Trump: The nastier he gets, the more certain kinds of horrible people love him.)
So I go back to the question I asked up front: How much money do you need to make when you publicly say everything you do is for Christ?
Graham’s answer seems to be “More.”
If only there existed a Bible verse to lead him in another direction…
(Image via Facebook)