Thursday, October 22, 2009

Almighty Dollar

Without accountability, power corrupts.

It’s a truth as old as time, but Southern Baptists have yet to learn it.

We have seen this truth played out over and over again in the countless cover-ups of Baptist clergy sex abuse. And we also see this truth played out in the financial arena of Baptistland.

Even in these tough times, good hard-working people continue to put money in Baptist offering plates because they believe it will be used to spread the gospel and because they’ve been taught to tithe.

Shouldn’t those people be entitled to know how many of the hard-earned dollars they put into offering plates are actually being used to pay the salaries of Southern Baptist executives? Shouldn’t they be able to at least find out how much those top executives are making?

Wouldn’t you expect that ANY nonprofit organization would be required to disclose the salaries of its top executives?

Yes? So why don’t people demand the disclosure of salaries in the Baptist organizations that take their money?

I think it’s because people tend to automatically trust religious leaders.

And rather than honoring that extraordinary trust with transparency, Southern Baptist leaders exploit that trust with secrecy.

BaptistPlanet recently offered some insight into the dollar figures that likely hide behind Baptist officials’ secrecy. It had to go back almost two decades to get some numbers -- that’s how near-impossible it is to get information about Baptist executives’ salaries. But in a 1991 book, BaptistPlanet found 1990 salary information, and reported this analysis on it:

Five top SBC executives at the time were paid more than $100,000 a year. Specifically, the book said:
[The Wall Street Journal's R. Gustav] Neibuhr said the controversy was forcing SBC agencies to cut their staffs and postpone salary increases. salaries and fringes for the top executives of three boards and seven agencies. Five earned well over $100,000. The five, according to [Southern Baptist Advocate Editor Bob] Tenery, were Lloyd Elder, President, Sunday School Board, $157,086; Harold Bennett, President-Treasurer, Executive Committee, $151,079; Larry Lewis, President, Home Mission Board, $113,583; Keith Parks, President, Foreign Mission Board, $113,000. The Annuity Board declined to report renumeration (sic) for its newly-elected president, Paul W. Powell. Tenery further noted that the top six men at the Sunday School Board, where Tenery is a trustee, were paid $715,475 in salary and benefits. ‘Does this appear as if Southern Baptist employees have been denied a raise?’ Tenery asked. ‘It is apparent that we take care of our workers quite well.'
Even simple adjustments for inflation for the equivalent positions today result in very comfortable salaries for all. Such adjustments do not consider the implications of the subsequent revelation of extravagance by Bob Reccord while he headed the SBC’s North American Mission Board …. Reccord funneled $3.3 million to business friends, including current SBC President Johnny Hunt, while NAMB staff was downsized. His severance package of two years’ salary plus benefits reportedly exceeded $500,000.

A 2005 Associated Baptist Press article
noted that even members of the SBC’s own Executive Committee must sign a pledge not to reveal employee salaries. Details from Reccord’s rein emerged only because NAMB marketing director Mary Kinney Branson escaped without signing the standard agreement.

Decades roll past and Southern Baptists are systematically kept in the dark about pay for their denomination’s executives. Now why is that?"


Writer said...


I agree that all salaries should be public knowledge. That is common practice in the majority of SBC churches, the small churches.

I do have one issue to raise. You have seen fit to replicate a post from Baptist Planet which includes the statement "Reccord funneled $3.3 million to business friends, including current SBC President Johnny Hunt, while NAMB staff was downsized."

I am greatly disturbed IF this statement is true. Where is the proof that supports such a statement? If you have it, then produce it. If not, then an apology is in order to Dr. Hunt. I await your reply.

Les Puryear

gmommy said...

OK... THAT makes ME vomit.
An apology is IN ORDER from Christa and Les Puryear is WAITING...if proof for something he is greatly DISTURBED by isn't provided.
So quick to make demands.

There are MANY who are GREATLY DISTURBED by ministers who use their positions to prey on the innocent,the weak,and the wounded. There are too many ministers who willingly turn a blind eye to their crimes. Too many who cover for them.
Proof has been given many times. I for one am greatly disturbed by the deflection, minimizing, and re victimizing by Baptist clergy.
I think an apology is in order for this WAY before Christa owes an apology to Dr Hunt.
The arrogance and self importance is choking me!

Anonymous said...

Les, Have you read Mary Kinney's book? She worked at NAMB during the Reccord years.

A lot of money flowed to cronies by way of special projects and deals to sell to churches, etc.

The people who need to repent are those big names living off offerings who signed the support letter for Reccord.

Her book also outlines much more efficient ways for Baptists to engage in missions than to give it to support the celebrities.

And ask yourself why Christa has to prove it? Why aren't all budgets including salaries of leaders available to the SBC membership? (That would include the personal slush funds such as Reccord had)

Writer said...


Sorry to make you vomit.


Yes, I've read Kinney's book. I have no idea how accurate it is but I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

I still haven't seen one shred of evidence to support this post about Johnny Hunt. Still waiting...

BTW, I support a database for the scum who are sexual predators. I'm not the enemy here. I just don't like to read unsubstantiated accusations against anyone. Unless proof is coming, then this post is dangerously close to libel.

Keeping it real...


Christa Brown said...

IF indeed you are “greatly disturbed,” then make a bit of effort. Mary Kinney Branson and BaptistPlanet have already done the hard work for you. All you have to do is follow the links that were provided, read Mary Kinney Branson’s book, and peruse the documents in the appendix.

As for your suggestion that “an apology is in order”. . . my instinct is to say “don’t even get me started.” But I’m going to give you just the tiniest hint of my thoughts anyway. I find it puzzling that so many Baptist pastors are often so quick to concern themselves with wanting an apology for some Baptist high-honcho (without even having any basis for knowing whether an apology is in order or not) and so seldom show even the slightest concern about the need for an apology to those who have truly been so horrifically wounded in Baptistland.

Where is the apology to people wounded at Bellevue for the many Baptist leaders who continued to praise pastor Steve Gaines despite the fact that he covered for an admitted clergy child molester and despite the fact that he even allowed the child molester to serve as a counselor to adults who had a history of having been molested? EVEN IF other SBC leaders can’t instruct the Bellevue congregation on what to do, they could at least provide guidance and could use their own public voices to take a stand. Instead they promote their crony at pastors’ conferences. Clergy sex abuse? No big deal. THAT is the unmistakeable message being sent, and it’s a message for which an apology is owed.

And where is the institutional apology to me for the fact that, when I was trying to locate my perpetrator, SBC headquarters wrote to me that it had no record he was in ministry . . . despite the fact that he actually was . . . and despite the fact that he was actually very well-known and well-connected . . . and despite the fact that he had spent years working as a children’s minister with former SBC president Charles Stanley and then with former Florida Baptist Convention president Dwayne Mercer. Bad enough that not one of the 18 Southern Baptist leaders I contacted did diddly-squat to help me, but couldn’t they have at least refrained from misleading me? Where’s the apology for that?

And where is the institutional apology to clergy abuse survivors everywhere for the fact that former Southern Baptist president Frank Page publicly wrote that that clergy abuse survivor support groups were “nothing more than opportunistic persons”? He said it in his role as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and he said it publicly. That means a public institutional apology is what’s in order.

Where are the countless apologies that are owed to clergy abuse survivors for the countless acts of collusion and cover-up? For the repeated public minimizing statements? For the SBC officials who did nothing to help clergy abuse survivors who contacted them and instead pontificated on forgiveness? For the bullying and intimidation tactics of Baptist leaders who sought to silence victims . . . and who usually succeeded? For the immoral secrecy contracts that were shoved in front of so many abuse survivors when they started talking?

And note that I’m not even talking about apologies for the deeds of the perpetrators. I’m talking about apologies for all the do-nothingness and sometimes downright hatefulness of so many other Baptist leaders.

And since you got me started on the subject of apologies, maybe you should go ahead and start drafting the institutional apology that the Southern Baptist Convention should make to the Baptist church kids who will be molested and raped by Baptist clergy in the future because the leaders of this faith group were too stubborn and uncaring to find a way to institutionally listen to people who were trying to tell them about clergy sex abuse in the past.

Open your eyes, Les.

Writer said...


Your post makes the accusation thus the ball is in your court to provide the proof, otherwise it is libel.

Still waiting...


P.S. If your accusation can be proven, I will be the first in line to confront Dr. Hunt.

Anonymous said...

Les, Check the links, if that is not enough for you then too bad. To demand apologies is simply silly. It does not change hearts. I agree with Christa on this one. Hunt is a big boy and totally protected. I doubt there would be any proof that would good enough for the SBC players.

To act as if there is no funny business with money in the SBC is ridiculous. Hunt has been a player for quite a while jet setting around in private jets. He likes the dough just like the rest of them while he gets on stage and plays the humble nobody. It just does not play anymore.

Still waiting for them to acknowledge the perverts and those who protect them in the SBC......

Guess you can wait with us.....

Anonymous said...


Hunt/SBC would sue Christa?

They would not want discovery.

Christa Brown said...

Read Mary Kinney Branson's book again. Look at the documents in the appendix. And if you want more proof, then go talk to Mary Kinney Branson. You know what they say in Texas: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. The proof is there, but no one else can open your eyes for you.

And given that you're so "greatly disturbed" by this, why don't you ask officials at the NAMB why they don't waive any rights under the secrecy contracts they made other departing NAMB employees sign? Maybe then, more people would talk. And why did they even make such secrecy contracts to begin with?

And by the way, Anonymous got it exactly right when he asked why is proof even needed? Why isn't all the financial information about how SBC money is spent completely and totally transparent?

And one more thing, Les. Please don't come onto my own blog and accuse me of libel. Number 1: It's obvious you don't know diddly-squat about libel law. Number 2: It just ain't right - not on my own blog. If you want to accuse me of libel, then do it on some other blog.

Anonymous said...

P.S. If your accusation can be proven, I will be the first in line to confront Dr. Hunt.

October 23, 2009 9:36 PM

Wouldn't matter. You are not a mega church pastor so who would care at the SBC what you say.

Anonymous said...

"Number 1: It's obvious you don't know diddly-squat about libel law."

Incredible how many SBC pastors throw that threat out these days.

Christa Brown said...

"They would not want discovery."

You're exactly right, Anon.

Christa Brown said...

"Incredible how many SBC pastors throw that threat out these days."

Yeah. It's not exactly my first trip around the block with it. Or my second. Or my third. Gee whiz . . . I guess I've just lost count.

Writer said...


Ok, I took your suggestion and looked at the links. Kinney documents a payment of $92K to Hunt. I'll get my copy of her book out and check to see if there is more information.

If you have her email, I would like to have it. You can email me at


Although I'm no megachurch pastor I am not without influence. Just sayin...


Christa Brown said...

"Kinney documents a payment of $92K to Hunt."

'Bout time you noticed this. But it seems you were more than willing to accuse me of libel and to suggest "an apology is in order" before you even pulled the book off the shelf, huh?

$92K is the amount referenced in the link BaptistPlanet provided - also my own prior posting. (You might want to read the BaptistPlanet posting again.)

As for Mary Kinney Branson's email address . . . it's right there in her book. I suggest you look at that book yet again.

john said...

In the 80's a group of small church pastors confronted one of the SBC big guys about the outragous salary and benefits he was going to receive. His response, "I cannot be held accountable for what they want to pay me!" A group of ten or so of us got up and left the meeting.
Later I was told that these high salaries were necessary to attract the best qualified. When I reminded them that this was suppose to be a ministry they told me I just did not understand the "Christian business world".
My opinion, when the Lord's ministry ceases to be a mimistry and becomes a business the Lord ceases to be a part of it! [Kind of like too many churches and religious institutions]

Writer said...


I retract my earlier statements. Thank you for pointing me to documentation. I apologize for questioning your credibility. Please forgive me.


Christa Brown said...

Many thanks for the retraction. Apology accepted. I hope you'll follow through on what you said about being "the first in line to confront Dr. Hunt."
My best wishes to you.

gmommy said...

Thank you Les.

Jim said...

You're a good man and I hate to break the news to you brother, but you have no "influence." The "mega boys" are not interested in the opinions of a small church pastor from North Carolina. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Oh, they may let you hang with them at a few meetings, especially if they need to use you to appear to be concerned about small churches. However, they will not let you play for extended periods of time in their sandbox and they will not pick you to play on their A-team. Like I said, you are a good man and I know you love Jesus without reservation. The difference between you and "them" is you still believe the church is the "Bride of Christ," and is an agent of spiritual reconciliation in the world. The "mega boys" experience the church as a business over which they can have executive control and which pays them very well for their service. It's not about God, it's not about salvation, and it is certainly not about an authentic Great Commission is about the bottom line; it is about the Almighty Dollar. Please, Please don't try to "have influence" in that arena. Be the small church advocate you have always been and challenge those pretenders every chance you get. You and others like you represent our Lord's Church. The "mega boys" represent themselves; church is just their business.

Ramesh said...

Some additional links on Mary Kinney Branson's book:

Mainstream Baptist [Dr. Bruce Prescott] > Podcast: Mary Kinney Branson Interview.

Father's Press > Mary Kinney Branson.

Ethics Daily > Insider Book Details Waste at NAMB.

Ethics Daily > Former NAMB Head 'Saddened,' 'Grieved' by Book.

SBC Outpost [Marty Duren] > Book Review, “Spending God’s Money,” by Mary Kinney Branson.

Amazon > Spending God's Money: Extravagance And Misuse In The Name Of Ministry by Mary Kinney Branson

Ramesh said...

Ethics Daily > Insider Book Details Waste at NAMB by Bob Allen [Jan 17th 2007].

Though Reccord's starting salary was much higher than the last president of the HMB, Branson writes, he branched out into writing and speaking for profit. Focus of the agency shifted from telling stories of missionaries to promoting Reccord, she says. Money was spent on flying Reccord and his wife to London for the premiere of "The Chronicles of Narnia" and expensive vacations guised as executive retreats. Reccord funneled $3.3 million to business friends, while NAMB staff was downsized. All power was vested in micro-managing vice presidents, paralyzing competent staff. Decisions were based on ego and power struggles instead of solid business.
While there are some things large agencies, do well, like training international missionaries, she says, other tasks are handled better at the state or local level. She points out that out of a budget of $126 million, only 32 North American missionary families were fully funded by NAMB.

"Wouldn't it be great if we gradually stopped feeding the mega agency dinosaurs, possibly moving 1 percent of our giving each year from national to state/association/church level--until we reduced our national and international agencies to a reasonable size?" she asks. "I believe Southern Baptists could give much less than the current $190 million to national and international cooperative efforts and see no measurable difference in advancing the Kingdom. And if that money were redirected to effective ministries, we could see a positive difference."

When scrutinizing those who spend your mission money, she recommends: "If we pay for it, we have a right to know what it cost. Salaries, severance packages, buildings and anything else paid with contributor dollars should be public record or at least available on request, with no hoops to jump through to obtain it. If any organization will not tell you how they're spending your contributions, why not give to an organization that will?"

"If you're not driving the bus, make sure you know who is," she continues. "And be sure they're not asleep at the wheel. Check out the involvement of trustees, board of directors or whoever is assigned to oversee the operations of paid staff. Make sure they're asking the hard questions and not just accepting periodic free trips to the agency's main headquarters."

Branson says it is difficult but not impossible to scrutinize large agencies. Waste and dishonesty can occur in a smaller organization, but it's more easily discovered.

"Statistics vary," she concludes. "Exceptions abound. But the basic formula holds true more often than not: The extent of misuse is directly proportionate to the distance between the giver and the spender. And it's up to you and me to reduce the distance."

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the apology. But your initial response represents why we have this problem in the first place. Very few want to believe our exhalted leaders are what they really are. So many want extensive proof (which is usually hidden well and anyone who knows and dares speak up is ruined. Mary Kinney retired before she wrote her book and did not sign one of those agreements they made others sign later)

Pascal made a similar point in his time about priests and professors and how they wear their long robes and pointed hats and this gives them an air of credibility when they are actually corrupt.

It never occurs to us that the power and money we give these men actually corrupts them and renders them spiritually dead. They have an appearance of godliness with NO power of the Holy Spirit. It is all image, smoke and mirrors.

I agree with Jon, don't try to have influence with these men. It is about Christ. The best we can do is warn folks to run from this and seek a true Body of Christ where being a lowly servant is what people will recognize as the Way of the Lord.

The SBC as an entity is spiritually dead. It is just that no one wants to admit it.

Anonymous said...

"My opinion, when the Lord's ministry ceases to be a mimistry and becomes a business the Lord ceases to be a part of it!"


Christa Brown said...

"But your initial response represents why we have this problem in the first place. Very few want to believe our exhalted leaders are what they really are."

Good observation, Anon. When someone speaks about unpleasant facts or allegations against a religious leader, the response is almost invariably to disbelieve and attack the accuser while circling the wagons around the religious leader. And without any sort of independent oversight, the wagons usually stay circled pretty tight and the truth seldom sees the light of day.

Anonymous said...

And your assumption that all mega church pastors and mega churches are corrupt is insidious at best. You're just looking to find something wrong with everyone so take this blog for what's its worth--nothing.

Anonymous said...

And your assumption that all mega church pastors and mega churches are corrupt is insidious at best. You're just looking to find something wrong with everyone so take this blog for what's its worth--nothing.

October 24, 2009 12:40 PM

The very system that it takes to grow and maintain a mega church
produces corruption. It becomes a focus on maintaining the huge organization. It has to. Then that system becomes the norm and is sold to folks as normal and because they know nothing of the Word, they believe whatever those with a title tell them. People are enamoured with worldly success...especially the mega. They really do believe that huge numbers, huge buildings and many programs are God's blessing.

Most who attend mega's are very proud of their huge church, the buildings and success. It is called churchianity.

You just do not recognize it as corruption from a biblical standpoint. We all know the focus in the early church was building huge buildings and making sure the Apostles and elders had huge salaries. Right?

No, the money in the early church was used to help other believers in the Body even in other cities. Some of it was used to spread the Gospel. Paul did not take money so as not to be a burden to others. But he had a huge burden for those in the Body who needed help.

You can argue with me all you want. I was a consultant to the mega world for many years. I saw the corruption up close and personal. Most people do not care. My job is the warn them that most mega's have nothing to do with the Body of Christ. As more and more have wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit, they are leaving mega's.

As the economy gets worse, more and more will wonder why they are propping up pastors making 300,000+ a year.

You see the exact same mentality maintaining the SBC.

BTW: Find me more than 10 Christian Evangelical mega churches before 1970. Then do the historical math mapping the rise of the mega church.

It is an interesting study. And we both got suckered.

Writer said...


Thanks for the advice.


BaptistPlanet said...

My apologies for having come late to this thread.
I was unaware of it until after I had in effect left all the heavy lifting here with regard to Reccord's payments to Johnny Hunt (as detailed by Mary Kinney Branson).

When accounts involving payment of money to well-known individuals are published, they are typically challenged immediately, if they are open to challenge.

Mary Kinney Branson's account was clear and has been widely discussed.
Even so, prior to our last reference both of us made strenuous efforts to find evidence of challenge to the passage discussed here, and found none.

Note also that late-coming challenge in a case like this is rarely persuasive.

In any event, the reference was properly sourced, and we would have been delighted to clear up any confusion about the sourcing, had we been asked.

We always are.

The suggestion that libel was involved, while subsequently retracted, was nonetheless unfortunate. It tarred everyone involved and without just cause at any step.

It was however good to see Les Puryear "agree that all" SBC salaries.