CHARLOTTE — Evangelist Franklin Graham told his staff last week that he wants to give up his pay as head of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, saying his calling to the ministry "was never based on compensation."
Graham's decision Friday to ask the BGEA board of directors to stop paying him came a day after a Charlotte Observer report raised questions about the size of his compensation from the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse, the Boone-based international relief agency that Graham has led since 1979.
In 2008, his two salaries, two retirement packages and other payments from the ministries totaled $1.2 million. That included $669,000 from BGEA, where, in February, 55 employees were laid off -- more than 10 percent of the staff. Revenue at BGEA dropped 18 percent last year; at Samaritan's Purse, it climbed 11 percent.
Graham, 57, will continue to draw his salary and benefits from Samaritan's Purse, which totaled $535,000 in 2008.
After the Observer began asking questions about his compensation, he asked the boards of the two ministries Tuesday to suspend contributions to his retirement plans until the economy bounced back.
In a memo to BGEA employees Friday, sent just before the end of the workday, Graham announced that he had asked the BGEA board of directors "to consider that I work for no compensation. I feel that God has called me to this ministry, and that calling was never based on compensation."