Best Paid Pastors Make Hundreds Of Thousands To Millions Of Dollars Annually
From church closings and foreclosures of houses of worship across the nation to the limited number of clergy jobs for new rabbis, imams and pastors, the recession has hit religious Americans just as it has affected the tens of millions of the country's jobless.
Even before the recession, most spiritual leaders of small towns and big cities across the United States earned meager salaries, with annual pay for Catholic priests and imams ranging from $25,000 to $30,000 and the average Protestant pastor making $40,000 a year, according to a recent survey.
Yet, even in difficult times, some churches and pastors are soaring. While not a definitive guide, HuffPost Religion has has compiled a slideshow of some of the best paid pastors in America. For several, their high income comes not only from employment as pastors, but also from TV appearances, book sales and charity management.
For the lucky few, being a pastor can mean being a multi-millionaire.
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland, who runs Kenneth Copeland Ministries, was <a href="http://www.christianpost.com/news/grassley-concludes-senate-probe-of-prosperity-televangelists-48383/" target="_hplink">one of several televangelists whose finances were investigated</a> from 2007 to 2011 by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. <a href="http://biblebeltblogger.com/index.php/religion/kenneth-copeland-strikes-oil-and-gas" target="_hplink">According to an article by the Associated Press that ran in 2008</a>, "His ministry's 1,500-acre campus, behind an iron gate a half-hour drive from Fort Worth...includes a church, a private airstrip, a hangar for the ministry's $17.5 million jet and other aircraft, and a $6 million church owned lakefront mansion." The article later added that while Copeland has not released up-to-date salary statements, "the church disclosed in a property-tax exemption application that his wages were $364,577 in 1995; Copeland's wife, Gloria, earned $292,593. It's not clear whether those figures include other earnings, such as special offerings for guest preaching or book royalties." (Photo via Shelly Katz, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images). <strong> This slide has been updated.</strong>
Creflo A. Dollar
Creflo A. Dollar is Senior Pastor of World Changers Church International, one of the nation's biggest churches which has locations in Atlanta, New York and several other cities. He also hosts "Changing Your World" on cable networks. While Dollar -- his real name -- has not released his salary information, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/15/nyregion/15prosperity.html?ei=5088&en=9d7efe139515771f&ex=1294981200&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">New York Times reported</a> that he drives a Rolls-Royce, is transported in a private jet, owns a million-dollar Atlanta home and a $2.5 million Manhattan apartment. Above, Dollar is at a signing for his book "8 Steps To Create The Life You Want" at Borders Books and Music in Chicago, Illinois on January 24, 2008. (Raymond Boyd, Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
John Hagee, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and CEO of Global Evangelical Television, has made a comfortable living as a pastor. <a href="http://prospect.org/article/john-hagees-controversial-gospel" target="_hplink">According to an article in The American Prospect</a>, Hagee, "before he converted his nonprofit Global Evangelism Television into a church in 2004 (thus relieving him of the obligation to file a publicly available tax return), was known to be the highest-paid nonprofit executive in San Antonio, making nearly $1 million a year." The article also mentions Hagee's 2000 book, "God's Candidate for America," "published by his nonprofit Global Evangelism Television, which that year used tax-exempt donor money to pay Hagee nearly half a million dollars in salary and deferred compensation for sixteen hours of work a week. Hagee earned another $300,000 from his church." Above, Hagee speaks during a visit with evangelical Christians to Ariel Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory on April 3, 2008. (Jack Guez, AFP / Getty Images)
Charles E. Blake
According to the <a href="http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/church-of-god-in-changeover/Content?oid=1140677" target="_hplink">Memphis Flyer</a>, Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ "earns a $900,000 salary and owns a 10,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills while most of his congregation lives in impoverished South Central Los Angeles." Above, Blake appears during The Recording Academy's 2005 GRAMMY Salute to Gospel Music at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. (Arnold Turner, WireImage)
Evangelist Benny Hinn, known for his energetic "miracle crusades" that are attended by thousands of people where many claim to be healed of disease and disability, rarely talks about his own wealth. His organization, Benny Hinn Ministries, has not released his salary, but Hinn <a href=" http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/2783/120/" target="_hplink">said in a 1997 CNN interview that he earned between $500,000 and $1 million each year</a>. With his continued fame and sold-out crusades, it's likely that he is still a well-off man. Above, Hinn prays during a service at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu on Jan. 11, 2002. (Ronen Zilberman, AP)
The pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, the country's biggest church, is also one of the richest pastors in the nation. Joel Osteen stopped taking his <a href="http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/CNBC/TVReports/PreachingMessageSelfWorth.aspx" target="_hplink">$200,000 annual salary</a> several years ago after being critiqued for his massive wealth. But he has made tens of millions of dollars off his numerous books. He and his wife, Victoria Osteen, <a href=" http://houston.culturemap.com/newsdetail/07-04-10-after-move-to-river-oaks-joel-osteen-wants-to-sell-tanglewood-land-for-11-million/" target="_hplink">moved to a luxurious $10.5 million, 17,000 square-foot mansion</a> in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston in 2010. Above, Osteen (left), leads his congregation in prayer for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Beside Osteen are Soemadi D.M. Brotodiningrat, Indonesia's ambassador to the United States, center, and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe. (Pat Sullivan, AP)
Bishop Eddie Long, who <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/under-god/post/bishop-eddie-long-returns-to-the-pulpit/2012/01/17/gIQAon4Q8P_blog.html" target="_hplink">recently returned</a> to the pulpit at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church outside Atlanta after being accused of sexual abuse, has been a leader in the "prosperity gospel" movement, in which pastors and believers say God will bless the devout with riches. According to a <a href="http://www.ajc.com/news/2005-ajc-report-bishop-619032.html" target="_hplink">2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation</a>, "during the period between 1997 to 2000, Long received more than $3.07 million worth of compensation and benefits from his non-profit charity, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries Inc." The investigation found that his compensation included a "$1.4 million six-bedroom, nine-bath home on 20 acres in Lithonia; use of a $350,000 luxury Bentley automobile" and "more than $1 million in salary, including $494,000 in 2000." Above, Long speaks on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta. (John Amis, Pool / AP)
According to a 2010 investigation by Dallas news station WFAA-TV, pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Dallas lived in a 10,000 square-foot, $1.5 million home by the city's Lake Grapevine. "Records show that Young was paid $240,000 a year as a parsonage allowance; that's in addition what sources say is a $1 million yearly pastor's salary," <a href=" http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/Prominent-Pastor-Linked-to-Luxury-83600192.html" target="_hplink">the station reported</a>. Above, Young sits in the sanctuary with a Fellowship Church.com sign projected on a giant screen. (Irwin Thompson, Dallas Morning News).
Franklin Graham, who is the son of Billy Graham and the president of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, had a total compensation of $1.2 million in 2008. Criticism over his high compensation during a slowed economy led Graham to announce in 2009 that he would give up new contributions to his retirement plans from the two organizations he leads, <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/10/franklin_graham_moves_to_addre.html" target="_hplink">according to McClatchy Newspapers</a>. He also announced that <a href="http://staugustine.com/stories/101109/nation_101109_046.shtml" target="_hplink">he would give up his salary</a> from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Above, Graham appears at the The 41st Annual GMA Dove Awards at The Grand Ole Opry House on April 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond / Getty Images) <strong> This slide has been updated.</strong>
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has made tens millions of dollars off his books, such as "A Purpose Driven Life." He's made so much that, in 2005, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99529977" target="_hplink">he returned 25 years of salary to the church and stopped accepting new paychecks</a>. Warren and his wife say they are "reverse tithers" who give away 91 percent of their income to charity and live off nine percent. Above, Warren speaks with moderator Steve Gunderson during a session of the Clinton Global Initiative September 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images). <strong> This slide has been updated to reflect the percentage of his money that Warren gives to charity.</strong>