Why Franklin Graham’s salary raises eyebrows among Christian nonprofits

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Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, addresses the crowd at the Festival of Hope, an evangelistic rally held at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince, on January 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Allison Shelley
*Editors: This photo may only be used with RNS-FRANKLIN-GRAHAM, originally transmitted on May 20, 2015 or with RNS-CRUZ-COLUMN, originally transmitted on June 9, 2015, or with RNS-GRAHAM-REPUBLICAN, originally transmitted on Dec. 22, 2015.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, addresses the crowd at the Festival of Hope, an evangelistic rally held at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince, on January 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Allison Shelley *Editors: This photo may only be used with RNS-FRANKLIN-GRAHAM, originally transmitted on May 20, 2015 or with RNS-CRUZ-COLUMN, originally transmitted on June 9, 2015, or with RNS-GRAHAM-REPUBLICAN, originally transmitted on Dec. 22, 2015.

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(RNS) Evangelicals generally expect money they give to be used frugally. Big salaries come with questions.

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  • Ben in oakland

    Who said, “give away all that you have and follow me.”?

    Who said, “give me all that you have and follow Jesus.”?

    Who said, “it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle and it is for Rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”?

  • Jack

    What, you didn’t think any of these guys were doing it for their ‘love of Jesus’, did you?

  • He is paid what the Market will bear. It is as God Almighty has willed it. The Market is part of God’s creation as much as the seas and the trees, and it works as they do: by His perfect design.

  • “…the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 a year.”

    Does that figure include roundabout forms of compensation, such as the famous tax-free “parsonage allowances” that can be used to pay for luxurious mansions?

  • Eric

    Perhaps Samaritan’s Purse should change its name to Judas’ Purse.

  • Bernardo

    Some other comparisons:

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.
    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000/yr
    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr
    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr
    Erica Brown $134,221/yr
    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr and his “non-profit’s” investment portfolio of $1.2 million
    Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy, $400,000/yr/ea estimated
    Susan Jacoby ????

    And many “non-profits” are tax dodges fronting as religious groups i.e. Dividends, interest and capital gains on stocks and bonds held by “non-profits” are tax-exempt.

    Dr.Shriver’s salary at the Special Olympics, is $235,514/yr. which includes benefits. Twelve other directors/managers make on average $175,000/yr.

    Special Olympics has/had $38,145,655 invested in the Christmas Records Trust. Said trust apparently lost $18,757,600 in value in the 2007-2008 time period.

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  • Fran

    In addition, who said “you received free; give free? (Matthew 10:8). He is evidently not following Jesus’ counsel.

  • Greg1

    I don’t see any justification for the salary, unless of course he spends most of it traveling with his ministry. We would probably need to know more. But IF this is just pure personal salary, and he is not giving most of it away to charity, or spending it on his Church ministry, then something is wrong there. For example, the pope receives no salary, but his living expenses are paid for by the Vatican.

  • charles hoffman

    it’s called the idolatry of the mirror
    a bit of narcissism, and you actually believe that you’re being paid what you’re worth, rather than what you can twist out of your church or other non-profit

  • Jeff Wyborski

    Contrast this to the salary of the average Catholic priest, which is about $24,000/year (not including free rent at the house owned by the parish). The salary for the average Catholic bishop is about $40,000/year.

  • JohnT

    This is an outrage. My father-in-law was a minister, had a (leaky) house provided by the church, and donated at least 50 percent of his (modest) salary back to the church and other charities. When people were sick he was there, when someone was hungry they came to his house, and when someone had a personal issue he was a friendly counselor. There are good ministers out there, a group which does not include the money-grabbing Grahams.

  • Kris Schulenburg

    Franklin Graham is regularly making commentary on the secular government, laws, supreme court decisions etc. He makes his comments and judgments from the platform of a “Christian Leader” within the USA culture and society. It is fair to judge him and his finances comparatively to other Christian ministries and leaders and from the point of view of Biblical references to wealth, income, charity etc. He and his organization need to be fully transparent about his income and expenses. Does he give large amounts to charity? Does he pay his own travel expenses for Samaritan’s purse? Does he pay his assistant-personnel for office and travel out of his own pocket? If they can show such a defense, then why not disclose these things? Other wise, if he is receiving close to a million dollars annually just for his personal use / income, then SHAME on him and the ministry.

  • Don

    Yes, it would. The ministerial housing allowance doesn’t provide additional compensation. It would allow those pastor’s to designate a portion of their whopping $28,000 as housing expense and have it sheltered from income tax. There’s not much tax to begin with on a $28K salary after standard deductions, so they might end up saving a couple hundred bucks.

  • Jim

    Also, pastors must pay 15% Self-Employment Tax on the value of the parsonage allowance.

  • Sister Geraldine Marie, OP, RN, PHN

    John T’s comment says it all!
    There is absolutely no excuse for clergy receiving high salaries. Some may have families to care for but it should be done modestly and based on Biblical principles. Otherwise it is a scandal to us all!

  • Jimmy Mac

    What a load of unmitigated churchianity bullroar.

  • Caleb Smith

    Considering they have congregations of 300 people, Probably unable to fund a mansion.

  • Jimmy Mac

    Do you know what Sr. Donna Markham, OP makes in total compensation as the newly elected President & CEO of Catholic Charities USA.

  • ben in oakland

    read it again. Ronald is being quite clever. Look up poe’s law. It is his specialty.

  • Mark

    Robert Morris, Sr Pastor of USA’s 3rd largest church (Gateway-Southlake, TX) collects over $1 million church compensation plus $325K/yr in outside fees & book royalties; now says God told him to ditch his home church on Sundays. He also partners with Creflo Dollar selling DVD packages for $1200 each on James Robison’s TV show, running on Marcus Lamb’s Daystar network. College dropout, bought University from Jack Hayford using Gateway tithes and offerings, gets honorary Doctor of Letters, upgrades it himself to Doctor of Literature. Books were ghostwritten.


    Read the comments for more disclosures on how Morris deceives everyone for huge personal income only working 35 minutes a week.

  • Michael

    The salary issue would not be an issue if Billy Graham’s organisation hadn’t been letting people go for the reason of not having enough money.
    Just hope that the journalists would “dig deeper” and reveal how many long time workers were laid off at the same time when Franklin was getting a generous compensation.

  • Rusty Inman

    Perhaps Franklin could contribute some of his compensation to help fund the interment camps for American Muslims that he suggested early last week.

    Having spent a fair amount of time in Boone, NC—where Samaritan’s Purse is located—over the past 20 years or so, I can assure you that Mr. Graham is not the only well-compensated executive for his group.

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  • Gregg

    Though the issue of how much these pastors get paid is important, what is maybe even more important is what they do with the money they’ve been given. If they are tithing at least a tenth before tax and being generous toward others for God’s sake with the rest, then make all you can! But if they are cheating God and being selfish with the rest then I pray that God will have mercy on their souls come Judgement day.

  • The salary reminded me of the Titus 1: 11 “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not ,for filthy lucre’s sake.” he gives Christianity a bad name.

  • Glen Beck is not a religious leader, and how much did he return to charity?


    Christians have been giving Christianity a bad name since the first querulous old man wagged a shaky finger at a fellow parishioner and screamed “HERETIC!”

  • Clyde

    Another comparison: In his last season as football coach at Ohio State University in 1978, Woody Hayes was paid a salary of $43,000.

  • Jack

    It looks like the little tyke is back again, stealing people’s names.

  • Jack

    I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to pay him that much if his organization takes in that much money, but if I were in his shoes, I would take a lot less, because appearances matter.

  • Jack

    Well, Ben, you’re assuming that this behavior is the sole province of (1) old (2) Christian (3) men. Often that’s the case…..but not always.

  • Jack

    IN other words, there are modern equivalents of this as well.

    Among them is a curious thing called political correctness.

  • Ben in oakland

    But it IS wrong, Jack. Jesus himself said so. I think 800K a year makes him rich.

    And “it is easier for a camel…”

    well, you know the rest.

  • Josué


  • Jack

    Right, Ben….But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be rich. It means that those who are rich tend to trust in their riches rather than in God, making their money into a god.

    It is a cautionary word for any good thing we have — that we may trust in it and not in Him.

    Intellect is another example, of course. But that hardly makes being intellectual a bad thing.

    Bottom line is that the “haves” in life — whether it be money or intellect or looks or any other good thing — are in bigger danger than the rest of the population of trusting in what they have and making it into a god.

    For me, I don’t need much and I give it away…..But each of us is tempted to make something into a god…..If it isn’t money, it’s something else.

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  • Larry

    His “ministry” being largely politically lobbying efforts for attacking 1st Amendment religious freedoms and promoting abuse of rule of law by Christians.

    Samaritan’s Purse is notorious for dealing in bad faith with local supporting organizations and blatant proselytizing as part of their “aid”. Franklin Graham even found a way to act like a raging dillhole in charitable works



  • Modern American Christianity has become a total money making scam.

  • Charlie

    I’m a bit disappointed in this article written by people of “faith”. Sure looks like some folks (eerily similar to those grumbling in Matt 20:11 regarding His pay schedules) in the faith need to answer Jesus’ question in Matthew 20:12.

    It’s not up to you to decide His will.

  • Anne

    Franklin Graham is a hypocrite in several ways. He makes blatant statements about President Obama (for purely political reasons) that he knows are not true. This, of course, is bearing false witness, but I guess the 10 Commandments don’t apply to the holier-than-everyone else Graham family. The sister, Anne Lotz, does the same. Both are virulent Muslim haters.
    Billy Graham palled around with the criminal Nixon until Nixon died, never once, apparently, trying to bring Nixon to Christ. Then Graham had the cajones to preach Nixon’s funeral as if the crook was the Second Coming.

  • Troy

    It is one thing to question the salaries of high paid Christian leaders but it is not up to us to judge them. God is the only one who will judge them. Many seem to forget what christian charities do throughout the world. Outside of “first responders” who are the first to provide aid in disasters? It is Christian organizations. Where do people turn to in disasters? Christian organizations. It is good to question compensation but let’s remember our obligations to God and humanity.

  • Ralph Meloon

    I live in Alaska. My knowledge of the tremendous relief & mission work Franklin & his organizations are responsible for is first hand. The outreach is incredible. More Alaskans have been helped by his outreach here than all the other ministries put together & that might include the non-ministry State of Alaska. Example: half the village of Hooper Bay way out west burned down several years ago. The State sent out a bunch of stuff to help & it sat around for 2 plus years & was never put to use, typical Govt bungling. Much deteriorated & what was used served stupid purposes. Like refrigs being used for clothing.
    Nothing was rebuilt. People were crowded in with other families. It was awful. Until Franklin heard about it & rallied his organization to a dedicated effort that in one Summer saw the town rebuilt & literally revived from the pits. And it didn’t end there. A huge rec hall was built to provide a place for kids to gather & be kids. Play games. Eat burgers. Watch TV. And a…