Call it the stimulus package from God.
Manhattan’s Riverside Church–one of the country’s most illustrious religious institutions–is paying its new senior pastor, the Rev. Brad Braxton, more than $600,000 in annual compensation.
That’s twice what Braxton’s predecessor, James Forbes, one of the country’s best-known preachers, was getting after running Riverside for more than 18 years.
It amounts to almost 10 times what William Sloane Coffin, the legendary anti-Vietnam War clergyman, was paid in his last year as senior minister at Riverside in 1987.
Braxton was selected in a vote of the congregation last fall and is to be officially installed Sunday.
A group of church dissidents claims the members were never told about the lavish package.
Those dissidents filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last week to stop Braxton’s installation, revealing a growing divide among the church’s 1,500 members.
The Wall Street-like package, the dissidents say, is outrageous for a man of the cloth–especially when you consider Riverside’s long history of advocating social justice.
Church sources say it includes:
* $250,000 in salary.
* $11,500 monthly housing allowance.
* Private school tuition for his child.
* A full-time maid.
* Entertainment, travel and “professional development” allowances.
* Pension and life insurance benefits.
* An equity allowance for Braxton to save up to buy a home.
On top of that, Braxton immediately hired a new second in command at more than $300,000 a year.
In a hearing Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lewis Bart Stone denied the dissidents’ request to delay Sunday’s installation. The judge urged church leaders to provide the opposition a fair chance to be heard by the church membership.
“If the members of the church had known what his total compensation was when we voted, we wouldn’t have chosen him,” said Virl Andrick, a 25-year member of the church and of its budget and planning commission.
The Rev. Brad Braxton.