Friday, February 28, 2014

The golden calf

I'm going to preface this post by saying that where their standard of living is concerned, I don't have a different yardstick for clergymen and laymen. I don't think it's acceptable for laymen to live like the Vanderbilts but unacceptable for clergymen to live like the Vanderbilts. 

In the church we sometimes witness cash cows mating with sacred cows to produce golden calves. Offhand, the two kinds of scandals to which religious institutions are liable are financial and sexual scandals. Of course, that's hardly unique to religious institutions. But in the case of, say, government, you can add abuse of power–among other things.

Some religious figures found empires. There's then the question of who they bequeath their empire to. Many treat their "ministries" like estates, which they will to their sons, viz. Frankin Graham, Gordon Robertson, Richard Roberts, Jonathan Falwell, Robert Schuller, Jr.

This invites two types of corruption. To begin with, there's the vice of nepotism. Despite its pejorative connotations, nepotism is not inherently wrong. There's nothing wrong with a family business. There's nothing wrong with families employing relatives.

The problem is when a church is treated like a family business. And that's a problem for non-profit institutions generally. It's not your personal piggyback. 

A related problem is when a relative receives an exorbitant salary. Again, I'm not talking about a family business, but a religious institution or nonprofit generally. In both cases, that's a misappropriation of donations. Tithes and offerings. 

And some of the aforementioned individuals illustrate both problems. 

On a different, but related front, we're been treated to the "plagiarism" scandal involving Mark Driscoll. Actually, I think the plagiarism charge deflected a related, but more serious issue. Normally, an author is entitled to the revenues from his books. If, however, the book was actually ghostwritten by his "research assistant," then that creates an ethical problem. The church pays the salary of the research assistant, yet the pastor receives the revenues. 

Another different, but related front, is the recent case of Steven Furtick and his McMansion.  I don't know if Furtick is technically a prosperity preacher. But you don't have to preach the prosperity gospel to have that standard of living. 

Which brings me to the final comparison. A couple of years ago, the Bayly brothers did a post on John MacArthur:

Tim and David Bayly are vigorous complementarians who took great exception to the fact that MacArthur was going to use the NIV for his study Bible. I think they regard the NIV as a very insidious and effective way of infiltrating the evangelical church with feminism. That's their core objection.

But they then speculated on what would motivate MacArthur to use the NIV. I take them to mean that proceeds from his study Bible would help to secure the long-term solvency of MacArthur's empire after he retires or dies with his boots on. Like an endowment. I'm open to correction if my interpretation is not what they intended.

Phil Johnson took strenuous exception to their conjecture:

In an effort to justify the original allegation, Tim Bayly recently followed up with two additional posts on financial aspects of MacArthur's ministry:

In one respect it's a repetition of the previous allegation, with regard to alleged royalties–which Phil Johnson disputed. But it involves some additional allegations:

so after negotiating royalties (which unlike John Piper's royalties, remain a secret)... 
The national source of their non-profit's profit is the reason our IRS requires these men to divulge whether they fly first class (MacArthur does) and whether they have their own relatives on their governance boards (MacArthur does) and whether their organization pays a relative money as a business transaction (MacArthur pays his son-in-law $650,000 per year for video work) and how much they get paid by their non-profit ministry (MacArthur's non-profits pay him just about $500,000 per year, and this amount doesn't include his church pay or royalties). 
2010            2011          John MacArthur's Income 
$47,000       $103,000     (108% one-year increase) 40 hrs p/week at Masters College 
$222,000     $402,000     (81% one-year increase) 20 hrs p/week at Grace to You 
Add to the above John MacArthur's other personal income, speaker's fees, etc.: 
$200,000    $200,000      conservative estimate of Grace Community Church salary 
$200,000    $200,000      conservative estimate of royalties 
$669,000    $905,000      TOTAL ANNUAL INCOME (projected)

Then consider this increase in the annual contract John (GTY) pays to his son-in-law: 
$658,000    $694,000     Grace to You paid The Welch Group for video work (an example)
To my knowledge, these additional allegations have not be rebutted. 
Of course, if the royalties are secret, then I don't know the basis for estimating royalties, if any. But if the royalties are, indeed, secret, then that itself is problematic. 
As I read it, there's also the accusation that MacArthur is triple-dipping by collecting three salaries. 
And there's the question of his son-in-law. Is he on the payroll? Does he now receive nearly 700K per year? 
I haven't done any independent research on these accusations, but then, I could say the same thing about Franklin Graham, Steven Furtick, &c. All I know is what I read.
It would be ironic if MacArthur, scourge of charismatic prosperity preachers, emulates (or exceeds) their standard of living. Perhaps the danger of wielding a broad brush is having it splatter on the painter. 
But perhaps their documentation or analysis is inaccurate.  
I can't help noticing that the usual suspects who were defending Janet Mefferd against Mark Driscoll are now attacking Tim Bayly. But shouldn't we apply a consistent standard?  


  1. I read through Tim Bayly's latest missive, and I found his criticisms of MacArthur - and by extension GCC's elders - to be trenchant. This being said, it seems to me what's sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander, so I did a bit of web research to try to determine if Tim Bayly had "put his money where his mouth is", as it were, and posted his year-over-year income and sources thereof online, but I couldn't locate anything.

    Does anyone know if Tim Bayly has, or is planning to lay his own cards on the table so that his readers can be discerning about his income level in light of the very valid concerns he has expressed about the dangers of greed in the pastorate? Transparency would be healthy for Tim in this matter.

  2. CR, I'm a long term Baylyblog follower and Tim Bayly has put his money on the table. $70-75k per year. See here:

    And Steve - Tim Bayly would be mortified that you think he is a 'complementarian', he's not. You obviously are not that familiar with his blog!:)

    Also, are you aware that there were more parts to the story that you linked to? Phil and the Bayly's final interchange (and Doug Wilson weighs in) is in the comments of this follow-up post a couple of week later:

    There are also several other Bayly posts that form part of this story with responses by Dan Phillips and Frank Turk. Most can be found by going through the 'related posts' tab at the side.

    1. Since complementarianism represents one side and egalitarianism represents the other side, I hardly see how he'd be mortified to have me classify him as a complementarian.

  3. Regarding the Bayly's post, "Appreciation for John Macarthur, warts and all..." And since I saw that Phil Johnson responded to this post, I'd like to also respond with some factual information regarding GTY, and money and nepotism and salaries. And I will also provide proof. Hopefully this sheds some light on the discussion and pardon me if you already are aware of these things.

    The latest information that is available to the public regarding GTY's finances is within GTY's IRS 990 form for the 2011 calender year. In that year, John Macarthur claimed to work for GTY for 20 hours per week and was compensated $402,444. The Masters College and Seminary's 990 form for this same year states that Macarthur works 40 hours/week for them and earned %103,000. That's more than a half million right there. Also, I have good reason to believe that he didn't worked 60 hours per week for these organizations as stated.

    This 500K Macarthur earned in 2011 doesn't include his church salary (if he had one), book royalties (which could be extremely lucrative), speaking fees if he had them.

    From this same 990 for GTY, one can see that Phil Johnson earned more than $218,000 in 2011. And this doesn't include the money Phil earns for editing Macarthur's books. In total, 7 employees of GTY, including Macarthur, earned more than $150,000 in 2011.

    Now allow me to make a point about nepotism within GTY. First, Macarthur is President of GTY and his two sons are the Treasurer and a Director of GTY. And GTY awards annually about $700,000 to a private firm that is solely owned by Kory Welch. Who is Kory Welch? He is John Macarthur's son-in-law.

    His company, The Welch Group, receives this money for GTY's video production work. And because it's a private firm, we don't know what salary, if any, he draws from this 700K. Is there any competitive bidding going on for this lucrative contract? When I spoke to Rufus Harvey, the CFO of GTY, he assured me that there was bidding, but when I asked him to tell me who the other bidders were he told me, "We don't have to disclose that information by law." It's most probably the truth that no other bidders exist.

    If you'd like to see proof for what I've just said then go to these links.

    The finest expose on John Macarthur to date was written by a top Christian researcher named Barbara Aho of Watch Unto Prayer. This 5-part expose which is thoroughly researched is most shocking and proves (and I don't say that lightly) that Macarthur is a fraud. But don't trust me. Please read it for yourself.

    BTW, if you ask Phil Johnson about me then you'll just receive adhominem attack. Over many years he's called me every name in the book.

    I appreciate your time and indulgence,

    Bob Johnson