Crystal Cathedral Mega Church Files for Bankruptcy
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," has filed for bankruptcy in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million. In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.
The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart, church officials said. "Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever," Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters Monday outside the worship hall. "Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception," she said.
The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple. Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.
Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church's "Glory of Christmas" manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed. "The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, 'You can't tell us how to run our business,'" Oliver said. "I'm upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table."
Crystal Cathedral was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. It features a soaring glass spire and is an architectural wonder and tourist destination. The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries. Church leaders said the telecast and Sunday services will continue while in bankruptcy.
Crystal Cathedral and other megachurches have suffered from the recession and reduced charitable giving. The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the "Hour of Power." Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors' committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.
Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said. "What we're doing now is we're trying to walk what we preach, we're paying cash for things as we go," he said.
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QUOTES ABOUT ROBERT SCHULLER
"Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral is part of The Reformed Church in America (RCA) This is the oldest denomination in America and has it's roots in the Dutch Reformed Church. Robert Schuller has patterned his ministry after the teachings and self-based psychology of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale had pastored the Marble Collegiate Church, which is also a Reformed Church. Like Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Shuller is also a 33° Mason."
"Sometimes referred to as 'the evangelist without a gospel'. Known for his unorthodox and heretical, pseudo-Christian teachings. In Schuller's message, man, not Jesus, takes center stage. In violation of the Bible's teachings, and in a calculated departure from orthodox Christianity, Schuller is a religious pluralist. His views on this issue are considered heretical, because religious pluralism violates one of the central teachings of Christianity, namely that salvation is received only by accepting Jesus Christ."
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October 24, 2010 'OH BROTHER' UPDATE
Published: Oct. 24, 2010
Updated: 4:12 p.m.
Crystal Cathedral founder asks for help
By DEEPA BHARATH
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
GARDEN GROVE – Speaking to Crystal Cathedral congregants for the first time Sunday after the megachurch filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, founder Robert H. Schuller sent out an emotional plea for help.
Sheila Schuller Coleman with her father Robert H. Schuller delivers her sermon on Sunday. "Do any of you feel that you're indebted to this man?" she asked during her sermon. Coleman now heads the Crystal Cathedral ministry that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Schuller, 84, talked about a tornado that flattened his father's cornfield and home in Iowa when he was a teenager. He said his father was the only farmer who rebuilt. "I learned from my father that tough times never last," Schuller bellowed, his voice echoing across the glass house. "Tough people do." SWchuller's voice choked up with emotion as he told worshippers that his church has faced several challenges over the last 60 years. "I need more help from you," he said. "If you are a tither, become a double-tither. If you are not a tither, become a tither. This ministry has earned your trust. This ministry has earned your help."
His daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, who heads the ministry with her father, explained to congregants why the church is in debt and why they had to file for bankruptcy protection. "Our debt, including our $36-million mortgage, is close to $50 million," she said. The church, faced with mounting debt, has been selling off its assets and has also canceled its iconic "Glory of Christmas" and "Glory of Easter" pageants this year. The Cathedral has also been torn by internal strife since the founding pastor's son, Robert A. Schuller, quit as senior pastor after ideological differences with his father.
On Sunday, Coleman assured church members that with good, "Biblical" money management, they will be out of bankruptcy soon and start a new chapter. Coleman said she knew that some of the vendors are suffering because they did not get paid in time. But she told congregants that they cannot play favorites when it comes to which vendors they can pay first. "We have to pay all of them and we can't pay them all at once," she said. "So, we are coming up with a payment plan." Near the end of Coleman's message, church members gave Schuller a standing ovation.
Jean Hess, a 30-year member who is also a greeter at the church, said she was touched by Coleman's message Sunday morning. "Sheila is really trying hard and she is a good person,"Hess said. "But, I think, to get back to where it was, the church needs to look outside of the family to find a true leader." William DeVries was visiting the church with his family from Arkansas. "We've watched the "Hour of Power" for years," he said. "This is an inspirational church that has preached to people internationally. This is a tough situation for them. But I think they will survive." Doris Bailey, a five-year member, said she believes the leaders are sincere and confident that the church will weather this crisis. "Sheila spoke from her heart," she said. "I feel the church will be OK."
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Robert H. Schuller's son and grandson, Robert A. Schuller and Robert V. (Bobby) Schuller, speak out on the bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral.