The Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog organization, recently released its list of “100 Highly Paid Christian Ministry Executives.” The Foundation based their salary information on IRS Form 990. However, since churches, synagogues, and mosques aren’t required to file Form 990, they don’t have to provide any salary information. Thus, highly paid clergy like Joel Osteen do not appear on this list.
The top earner? David Cerullo, the CEO of Inspiration Ministries (radio and television stations) earned $7,319,371. No. 3 on the list is J.C. Watts, Jr., the CEO of Feed the Children, who earned $1,870,000 (I do wonder how many children you could feed with $1.8 million).
Franklin Graham earned $740,704 as CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, a relief organization. But he is also president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which claims to be a “church,” which means his salary there is not reported to the IRS. I’d bet his total income is well over a million a year (see Mark 10:23).
It’s not just conservative Christians who earn the big bucks. Andrea Kelly, the Head of School at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, N.Y., earned $635,702.
For comparison, the most recent UUA salary guidelines recommend about $113,000 as the top salary for a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving one of our largest congregations in an area with the highest cost of living. I serve a small congregation is a less expensive region, so guess what — my salary is well below that.
Dang. I should have ditched Unitarian Universalist ministry and gone into Christian broadcasting or Christian relief work.