Big bucks, even in bankruptcy

We at GetReligion have had a few stories about the Los Angeles Times' coverage of problems at the famed Crystal Cathedral since the church filed for bankruptcy. Some good, some bad.

This post deals with both subjects but has little to do with the substance of the story.

Instead, it focuses on the questions raised by this paragraph toward the end of the story about the church's efforts to survive bankruptcy restructuring. Reporter Nicole Santa Cruz writes:

A reorganized ministries leadership will be led by CEO Chief Executive Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder's daughter, whose salary will be set at just under $70,000 a year. The church will also hire a chief financial officer whose salary will be capped at $300,000 a year and tasked with overseeing revitalization of the church's revenues.

Come again. The CFO can make how much?

I know they are accustomed to big salaries at Crystal Cathedral, but the fact that the CFO could make that much money is a bit shocking. Talk about a different kind of gospel of wealth.

To be sure, church ministry is an economic market, and the more desired one is, the more money they will command in the open market. (That's the same argument for why university presidents can make more than half a million.) Maybe Crystal Cathedral needs a big gun running their finance department because only a big gun can work a miracle on their balance sheet and income statements.

But doesn't that paragraph from the LAT story make you more than a little curious about why Crystal Cathedral could need to pay that much for a CFO? And what the going rate is for a megachurch CFO? And what religious considerations come into play when church officials make that kind of money?

One of the first things I learned when I joined my college paper and started attending journalism conferences was to enterprise stories by not just sourcing them out but sometimes reading them out. This is a perfect example.

Often, a great story will be hiding -- in this case, not very well -- in a few lines, maybe a few words, of a related story. By simply reading the news, reporters can find stories worth pursuing. Hopefully someone will see what I saw in this story and follow it up with a piece that answered a lot of the questions the LAT story raised about church compensation.


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