Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Pastor’s $600K compensation package

There is something fundamentally wrong with paying a pastor $600K to lead a church. The ostentatious display of wealth for a religion that is supposedly build on service and charity is as out of place as diamonds on a skid row bum. At least some of the parishioners had the good sense to file a lawsuit.

Manhattan's Riverside Church - one of the country's most illustrious religious institutions - is paying its new senior pastor, the Rev. Brad Braxton, more than $600,000 in annual compensation.

That's twice what Braxton's predecessor, James Forbes, one of the country's best-known preachers, was getting after running Riverside for more than 18 years.

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Why do men like Pastor Braxton demand such a high salary? I do not mean to offend people with this question. I am curious. Do people think that becoming a pastor is they way to grow rich? A friend once told me that the salary of a pastor should be no more than the average of the church. This seems fair. Is the average salary of Riverside Church $600K? Something tells me no.

Pastor Braxton seems like the real deal. He was a Rhodes Scholar, earned a Masters Degree at the University of Oxford, England. And earned Ph.D. at Emory University. He preaches well, and writes even better. Plus – he stood up against proposition 8. The man is good and honestly, I like him, which makes me wonder all the more about the inconsistency in his pay. Can anyone explain it?

His compensation package is generous:

  • $250,000 in salary.
  • $11,500 monthly housing allowance.
  • Private school tuition for his child.
  • A full-time maid.
  • Entertainment, travel and "professional development" allowances.
  • Pension and life insurance benefits.
  • An equity allowance for Braxton to save up to buy a home.

If he were running a business, I would not consider it odd. But then, a church is a business, right?

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