Thinking Out Loud

December 27, 2012

Money for Llamas and Donkeys and Sheep, Oh My!

Christmas pageant authenticity

A provider of live animals for past Christmas productions at the Crystal Cathedral is finally going to see some payment, albeit it years later.  A week ago the Orange County Register reported:

…attorneys and staffers planned to work late Friday to verify amounts and start stuffing envelopes with the checks, which should be arriving after Christmas, Ringstad said. “Creditors have been waiting a long time. We can work late into the night. The creditors deserve it,” he said.

But Robert H. Schuller, who will also receive some money in this round of settlements, has filed an appeal of a judge’s decision over money he feels is due him for damages, which some reports have indicated includes payment due for royalties for books he authored. (It’s all very confusing!)

While that story isn’t finished yet, it is, in the meantime, a great victory for people who rent sheep, camels and cows to large glass churches.

Not-so-related llama video. (13 million views!)

 

May 5, 2012

Crystal Cathedral: Cast of Characters

This is St. Callistus Catholic Church, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which just bought the Crystal Cathedral, and a possible future home for the present Crystalites. Confused? I hoped you would be; that’s why you really need to read this article

Apparently some of you are bewildered, as you have every right to be; so here, as a public service, is your guide to who’s who in the ongoing story; and a refresher for those of you who know.

[Note: Some of this may be less than reliable.]

Robert H. in happier times

Robert H. Schuller is the founder of Garden Grove Community Church which later became better known as The Crystal Cathedral.  His self help messages are known for short rhyming catch-phrases like, “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch;” “It takes guts to get out of the ruts;” and “If it bleeds it leads.” (Maybe not the last one.)  He is married to Arvella, whose contribution to Hour of Power includes rewriting classic hymns so as to contain less emphasis on the blood of Jesus and more emphasis on possibility thinking. (“What can wash away my sins? Elbow grease and much detergent…”)  Robert H. is no longer active in ministry; we’re not sure what he does on Sunday mornings currently, but it may involve sitting at home and watching Joel Osteen.

Hour of Power is the broadcast ministry of the church.  These days, it is actually the Half-Hour of Power. TV stations carrying the program now require prepayment, not unlike self-serve gas stations which after midnight want to run your MasterCard first.

The Crystal Cathedral itself was recently sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.  That’s Orange as in Orange County, California; not a reference to the Orange Lodge, which is decisively Protestant. “Now the building will be a true cathedral;” people were heard to say. How dare Protestants use the word “cathedral” when it isn’t.  Apparently in order to use the word, there must be a bishop’s chair, or bishop’s throne.  The furniture at the big glass church on Lewis Street was apparently lacking as the money for chairs was spent on the fountain.  Over the last few weeks, the church has experienced a bit of revival in terms of attendance; which is rather unfortunate timing.

Robert A. Schuller, sometimes referred to as Robert Anthony is the son of Arvella and Robert H. He is married to Donna, who sometimes reads this blog, so we’re going to tread carefully with this paragraph. In 2009, after unceremoniously leaving the Crystal Cathedral in a controversy involving his rather annoying habit of preaching from the Bible, he became chair of Comstar, a media company that has been slowly buying other media companies including FamilyNet and American Life TV, the latter now known as YouToo (a name often easily confused with that other popular site, Facebook) which combines elements broadcast television with video uploading. (Correction: YouToo is actually always confused with Pinterest.) Last week, for the first time in years, Robert A. showed up at Crystal Cathedral after getting lost on the freeway while heading for Calvary Chapel.

A room at the Anaheim Marriott. The ballroom is believed to be much larger.

Sheila Coleman Schuller is the eldest daughter of Robert H. and Arvella.  (They have three other daughters.) She often gets confused with pop singer Sheila E. The former early childhood education specialist became lead pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, proving that you really don’t need much in the way of theological training to pastor a megachurch. (See yesterday’s post here.) Last week, nearly 100 people showed up to hear her preach at her new venture, Hope Center of Christ, or as the cool people say, Hope Center OC; which meets downstairs at the Panda House Restaurant on Harbor Blvd.  Okay, just kidding, they really meet in the Crystal (there’s that word again) Ballroom of the Marriott Suites Hotel.

Disneyland is a theme park located just blocks away in Anaheim, California.  It has no bearing on this article.

Bobby Schuller is actually Bobby V. Schuller, with the V. for Vernon, son of Robert A. and Donna.  Continuing the family tradition, he has a Masters in Divinity from Fuller and pastors Tree of Life, sometimes referred to, as in this blog, as The Gathering, where you can watch sermons online.  He is our last hope. (I don’t know what that means, I just thought the sentence fit in well at that point.)  He is also associated with The St. Patrick Project, whose mission is thus described at this page: “We care for the homeless, mentor kids, help feed the hungry, and support the arts. We encourage hope.”  He showed up at big glass church last week sporting a new haircut.

Angie Schuller Wyatt is also important to this story, but this has taken far more time than I had expected.

Anthony Schuller, son of Robert A. has not posted anything to his blog since February, 2010, and is believed have changed his last name to Zaguenni. He is pursuing a career in international missions so he can get far, far away from Orange County. In the meantime, you might find him catching some rays at Laguna Beach.

Well, I hope that helped you on this Saturday morning as much as it helped me stay away from garage sales, swap meets and flea markets.  If you have any questions, check with the Orange County Register, they have all the answers.


Important trivia to know:  American Life TV was once owned by the Unification Church, aka The Moonies.  source As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

Even more important: The five manual organ at the big glass church, with its 16,061 pipes, is the largest in the world. source  If you push the button labeled “Doublette 2′ ” the organ starts playing the song Never Gonna Give You Up with baroque accompaniment.

March 15, 2012

Sheila Schuller Coleman Lauches Hope Center of Christ

It was, after all, the United States’ first true megachurch. So when things at the Crystal Cathedral began to unravel a few years ago, this blogger thought it all worth mentioning even when others didn’t or wouldn’t, which resulted in much unexpected traffic.

But then, in the last few days, as the whole saga seemed to reach the final chapter, it all seemed rather anticlimactic. First there was the resignation of Robert H. and wife Arvella, widely reported. Then, on Sunday, the rather sudden announcement at the second service by daughter and pastor Sheila Coleman that it was her final service at the iconic Southern California church.

The Orange County Register story linked above chose to headline the story, “Schuller Coleman leaving; Crystal Cathedral congregation faces split;” but indeed, with only 700 in attendance at both services — many of them tourists — how do you split a congregation so small and still leave much left?

But out of the ashes, something new begins.

First, the word, that Sheila and brother-in-law Jim Penner would begin a new work, Hope Center OC — with the “OC” standing for “of Christ” while of course also intoning “Orange County.”  Another detail nested in the story:

She indicated she had received a $50,000 donation from a supporter to help with the move – “a heck of a lot more than what mom and dad” had when they started, she said.

But the location is still TBA, as in “to be acquired.” The elder Schullers announced that they would neither be going with Sheila nor continuing to attend whatever takes place at the famed church on Lewis St. in Garden Grove.

“How we will express ourselves in worship remains up in the air,” Robert H. and Arvella Schuller stated in the release.

Schuller: The Next Generation

At this rate, grandson (Robert A.’s son; pictured right) Bobby Schuller’s church, The Gathering (aka Tree of Life Community) might have more people in attendance next Sunday than either iteration of what met last Sunday, a concept that would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago.

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion finds the reporting on the story “hollow,” and suggests that even knowing more about the contents of the sermon that Coleman delivered, or what music was sung that day would give us a better picture of Sunday’s events. Whereas I’m somewhat relieved that the story is over, he finds so much more waiting to be told.

Like, for example, Robert Anthony’s take on the whole thing. The younger R.S. has been wisely silent throughout this process, but I’m sure he has both substantive ideas and strong emotions about all that’s taken place. Would the Crystal Cathedral ministry still be intact if the original succession had lasted? We’ll never know.

Perhaps Terry Mattingly is right. This is a continuing drama. The same day that Sheila Coleman and Jim Penner posted their video, this video appeared:

Favorite quotation from the video, “…Many have told me that I redefined the Christian message.  I had to…”

Had to? Yes, the gospel that the church preached for centuries was wholly inadequate. It needed, apparently, new possibilities.

And apparently it still does. Stay tuned. This story is not over.

November 18, 2011

Reformed Church of America Moves to Sever Ties with Crystal Cathedral

St. Callistus Church ain't the Crystal Cathedral, but, with its overhead stained glass window, it ain't too shabby either.

As noted earlier today at Bene Diction Blogs On, not only has the iconic Crystal Cathedral decided to accept the offer of the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County, but the church’s parent denomination, The Reformed Church of America, has decided to end a decades-long relationship that had always existed outside of normal denominational protocols and paradigms.

First story first, as reported at the Orange County Register:

Late Thursday evening U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kwan issued the ruling, acknowledging the tremendous work put in by Chapman University, the diocese’s competitor, which offered as much as $59 million for the 40-acre Crystal Cathedral campus. The diocese will get the property for $57.5 million.

Under the diocese’s plan, the ministry will be able to lease the core buildings – including the cathedral and the Tower of Hope – for three years, at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for years two and three. They also will be able to lease the school building for $10,000 a month until the end of school year 2013.

After three years, Crystal Cathedral Ministries and the school will move to the 10-acre property on Lewis Street where St. Callistus is now located.

Several longtime congregants who supported Chapman’s bid in an effort to remain in their home church left in tears after the judge announced the decision.

…continue reading here…

This has to beg the question: Will there be enough congregants left to continue in the large glass church for three years?   The same news story noted:

Congregants, who left the courthouse tearful and disappointed, said they felt betrayed.

“The cathedral’s administration and the board have really stripped us of our ministry,” said Bob Canfield. “In the end, it was all about the money. The congregants have lost their ministry.”

Chuck Stalter called the decision “the death of the church.”

“There will be a mass exodus tomorrow,” he said.

Other issues raised in the discussions included a perceived superiority of Catholic churches in general to maintain burial grounds.  Many former members of the Crystal Cathedral are buried on the property while others have expressed that intent in their wills.

The denominational issue, while it won’t be the focus of many mainstream news reports today, is in some ways significant, though most will view it as a rather anticlimactic move that has been a long time coming.

[R]epresentatives of the Reformed Church in America say they are in the process of discontinuing their relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

Scott Treadway, president of the Reformed Church in California, says the cathedral’s goals and mission, including worship style, are not in line with those of the denomination – leaving them with no choice but to discontinue their long and unique relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

“We have resolved that the governance requirements of the (Crystal Cathedral) and RCA are mutually exclusive, and discussions are underway toward a gracious parting of ways,” he said in an email response.

The Reformed Church’s relationship with the Crystal Cathedral was unique because the cathedral had grown into much more than a local community church when it became a worldwide television ministry, Treadway said.

So an agreement was forged, he said, where the Reformed Church continued to ordain the ministers, but that the ministry and property were administered solely by Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Although the agreement worked well for many years, the relationship became stressed when “there was a dissonance in ministry direction, music style, bankruptcy and risk to the property,” Treadway said, referring to the ministry’s shift from traditional music to a praise style of worship.

“It became an unsolvable mess,” he said.

…complete story here…

Back to the building and property sale, the church’s lead pastor continues to hold on to optimism in the face of what is probably insurmountable obstacles:

Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder’s daughter, sought to reassure members and supporters of the iconic house of worship Thursday night, saying “there is still time for God to step in and save Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

“Lest you think it is too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you that it is not too late for a miracle,” said Schuller Coleman, the church’s director of ministry and mission.

…continue story at CNN Religion…

Sadly, this last pronouncement shows that the story is not over, and really won’t be over, until the church comes to terms with the idea that its time has passed.  We do not, in the Evangelical world, have a protocol for shutting down churches smoothly.  People get emotionally bonded to land and buildings, when in fact, our love and devotion should be directed toward Jesus Christ.

Many other stories in this saga are available on this blog:  Use the search bar in the upper right corner and type “Crystal Cathedral” and hit enter.  Results will appear in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest.

July 5, 2011

Schullergate Continues

The architect who designed the Crystal Cathedral was an openly gay man. 

You probably didn’t need to know that, but otherwise, the gist of the Orange County Register story on Sunday is that Robert H. Schuller has been ousted from the board of the Crystal Cathedral he founded all those years ago.

GARDEN GROVE – The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who started his ministry in an Orange drive-in theater more than five decades ago, has been voted off the board of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which has been torn apart by debt and familial disharmony for the last several years.

Sheila Schuller Coleman - daughter to Robert H. and sister to Robert A. (OC Register Photo)

The church has not released information about the board meeting where Schuller, 84, was ousted, but his son Robert A. Schuller, who was himself forced out of the cathedral by his sisters and brothers-in-law three years ago, confirmed it Sunday.

He said his father wanted to enlarge the board, which was not received well by the others.

“A majority of that board consists of paid employees of the church and that’s a serious conflict of interest,” Robert A. Schuller said.

None of the board members or church officials could be reached for comment Sunday.

Schuller said his mother, a board member, voted against it, but was in the minority.

“It’s a very sad day and unfortunately, I know how that feels,” the younger Schuller said.

The article also hints that the family infighting which led to the departure of the younger R.S., Robert A Schuller, shows no sign of letting up:

Robert H. Schuller has been at odds with his daughters over how they have chosen to run the church. The cathedral recently switched over from a traditional worship format to a Gospel-style choir – much to the chagrin of many long-time members. Coleman also required choir members to sign a covenant acknowledging Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

For readers here, the issue is very simple:  How do show honor and respect to the person who founded a ministry organization while at the same time recognizing that at a certain age it might be time to step aside?

But equally important is the question, With a power shift to the next generation, is there justification for at the same time changing the ministry’s brand identification and core values?

Thanks again to the OC Register for relentless close-up coverage on this ever evolving saga.

Related item on this blog:  A Good News Story About The Crystal Cathedral

Previous Schullergate story:  CC Land and Buildings to be Sold

 

May 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Land, Buildings To Be Sold in June

In a desperate bid to eliminate debt, an Irvine, California real estate partnership will acquire the land and buildings and then grant the church the option to lease back the facility for 15 years.   The church has been cutting back expenses, but membership, weekly attendance and revenue have kept falling faster than the cutbacks.

The debt relief could also allow what the Orange County Register terms “23 insiders” to continue to live in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.  Although it limits salaries, there isn’t mention of the ever conspicuous “housing allowances” paid to key staff.  The newspaper reports:

Greenlaw Partners would pay $46 million for the cathedral and surrounding buildings, leasing back the cathedral to the ministry. Most of the cash would go to creditors.

After four years, the ministry would have the right to buy back the cathedral, parking lots and most other buildings for $30 million. Greenlaw would get the right to build apartments on some of the 30-acre property…

…The key to the plan is real estate development. Greenlaw wants to build apartments – potentially hundreds of apartments – on what are now parking lots, low-slung buildings and lawns near the corner of Lewis Street and Dawn Avenue.The deal is critical to the ministry’s precarious financial health. Each apartment Greenlaw builds would knock $20,000 off the price the ministry pays to get back the cathedral and its core buildings. In an example cited in court papers, 400 apartments would reduce the repurchase price by $8 million…

…The family of founding Rev. Robert H. Schuller would give up some of its financial power over the cathedral to an independent board. Although the elder Schuller and his wife, Arvella, would sit on that board, an executive board controlled by outsiders would set the ministry’s budget and would also appoint the chief financial officer.

In addition, the bankruptcy plan limits the salary of the ministry’s chief executive officer, Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, to $69,525 a year.

The church owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors including many longtime vendors who provided services for its annual Christmas and Easter pageants. Church administrators say the cathedral will continue its local worship services, community outreach programs and its weekly “Hour of Power” broadcasts. Also, the plan will immediately eliminate both the church’s mortgage and the majority of its vendor debt, they say. Any remaining vendor debt will be repaid over the next 42 months, officials say….

Continue reading the story at OC Register.

Crystal Cathedral staff are quick to lay the blame on economic factors, but readers of this blog know otherwise.   While megachurches elsewhere are booming, the difference lies clearly in the message preached.  Even though some identify the big glass church as within the parameters of Evangelicalism, the church’s “positive thinking” teaching more resembles that of mainline Protestant churches — most of which are also seeing rapidly declining numbers — if not, on some Sundays, coming across with a message that would be fully acceptable to most Unitarians.

The cathedral’s court filings’ blame its financial troubles partly on “unsettled leadership” but mostly on the recession.

However, a financial statement filed Friday shows that the ministry’s losses predate the recession…

Perhaps they predate even the founding of the church.  Let me explain.  Like Chicago’s Willow Creek, the Crystal Cathedral was founded on the basis of a door-to-door survey.  But while Bill Hybels’ neighbors (a) didn’t want to be asked for money and (b) wanted to be anonymous or not singled out; those in Schuller’s survey made it clear they didn’t want to be judged, or preached condemnation.  On that premise, and under the influence of Norman Vincent Peale, Robert H. Schuller embarked on a message of self-improvement that at times is indistinguishable from that of Oprah Winfrey.  In a church-saturated country, it wasn’t the message that either those within the fold, or those outside it craved.

Evangelicals have always admired the quality of the Hour of Power’s television productions, the choir and orchestra, and the colorful list of weekly guests.   But the message was always watered down, light years away from the “full gospel” of Pentecostals, and often not even a “half gospel” that more conservative Christians could endorse.

In the end, Schuller’s own son, Robert A. Schuller couldn’t endorse it either; and the pastor, who credits a Billy Graham crusade with his own personal conversion, began a more aggressive exposition of Biblical texts, much to the dislike of some in the church’s executive branch.

The younger Schuller’s dismissal and absence from the weekly telecast was the wake up call that many faithful viewers needed to realize that there was indeed trouble in the camp. 

And so, the once mighty Crystal Cathedral limps onward, but a shadow of its former self. 

May 2, 2011

Orchestra Members Walk Out on Crystal Cathedral Concert

The paychecks they received were half of what they were verbally promised, so eight musicians representing one quarter of the Crystal Cathedral orchestra, decided to walk with just an hour remaining before showtime.*   The L. A. Times reported that the Cathedral later blamed accounting errors, but other parts of the story suggest that some orchestra members had not been paid for the previous Easter.

The impact this had, according to the cathedral, was minimal. 

About a quarter of the orchestra — including an oboist, flutist and four French horn players — walked out a mere hour before services began Sunday…

Crystal Cathedral spokesman John Charles said Easter services weren’t affected by the eight people who walked out. Checks have been sent to those who performed.

“No one would have ever known they were missing,” he said of the eight.

No one noticed the entire French horn section missing?  As a musician, that seems somewhat hard to fathom, and at least one woodwind blogger was insulted.  But not so hard to fathom is the underlying bitterness the musicians — like so many others having contracts to do work for the church — are feeling:

“This church is known for three things: an inspiring minister with a vision, fabulous music and wonderful architecture,” said oboe player Holly Patterson, one of the musicians who walked out Sunday. “Out of those three things, only one exists now.”

You can read the story at the L. A. Times; also this blogger has a friend who had to sue the church to get paid;  while a longer story in the Orange County Register, notes that a website has been formed to rally those who are fans of the church’s unique music:

A few members have started a new website, crystalcathedralmusic.net, which says its mission is to “host a gathering place for Hour of Power viewers and the local congregation interested in keeping alive the traditional music of the Crystal Cathedral.” Most of the music featured on the website is from before April 2011. The site says that some most recent music has been featured for “purposes of comparison only.”

Of course, some will argue that this is part of the folly of having paid church musicians; of having a system whereby ministry is being done so professionally, that only professionals participate; and that, in the average church, the musicians are all volunteers. Should churches use paid musicians to augment special seasonal performances, or use them regularly as do some churches?

*The choice of the word “showtime” as opposed to “church service” or “concert” was intentional.    

Click picture for photo credit.

The use of today’s discussion question is in no way intended to detract from the more obvious question: Should not churches pay their bills?

February 12, 2011

Justifying Your Paid Ministry Position

I want to return to something that was in the link list on Wednesday; and I’ll simply re-post the item and then if you didn’t read the pieces you can skim them and we’ll meet back here:

  • Okay this one was overdue.  Fox KTLA’s report begins: “Crystal Cathedral’s chief financial officer –- who received a six-figure housing allowance from the now-bankrupt church –- has retired after 33 years with the organization. Fred Southard, 75, said he believed it was time to let someone else have a chance at his job, and that he wanted to help the ministry reduce expenses.”  Yes.  Definitely.  Give that six-figure job to someone else now that there’s probably not enough money to support a four-figure job.  Of course, Southward justifies himself as the job was once “a ministerial function” albeit in “the early days.”

So what was your reaction?

Richard Deitrich (click image) writes: According to the LA TIMES this is Fred Southward's home, so you can see what $132,019 in housing allowance a year can buy - must be a pretty expensive pool guy!

This is a job that probably started out, as stated, with “ministerial function.”  There was probably a lot of contact with other church staff and many opportunities to interact with parishioners.

And I’m 99% sure I know what happened next.

Everybody got really, really comfortable.

The paychecks kept coming in.  Or maybe, in this case, the housing allowance continued. The calls got screened. The travel junkets increased. And that became the status quo.  It then continued the way it had always been and since the ministry was growing and flourishing, there was no scrutiny, no belt-tightening, no need to rethink everything.

On the other hand, I love how the guy spins it so he looks like a hero in his retirement, “I have to do all I can.”   That of course, needs to be weighed again what 33 years at the church as brought him; note the statement, ‘He owns a home in Newport Beach assessed at $2.3 million, property records show.’

Nice non-work if you can get it.

Ever since King David mentioned the gladness of going to God’s house, actually getting to serve in the temple has been a privilege.  Should there be term-limitations?  An insistence that all ministry positions be bi-vocational?

In this story, you can’t miss the irony of this statement:

“The cuts made by the church were not done quickly enough and they were not deep enough,” he said Tuesday. “There were a number of factors that snowballed to get the church to where it is today.”

Remember, Fred Southward was the children’s pastor, no wait a minute, he was the choir director, no he was Chief Financial Officer.  If the cuts weren’t made fast enough, it’s because they weren’t made fast enough by him.  That was part of his job description. That’s what executives get paid (and get housing allowances!) to do; to see the trends, to forecast the budgeting, and to make the required adjustments. Ahead of time.

In the comparison of Crystal Cathedral staff and supplier winners and losers, Fred Southward was a winner.

Bankruptcy court filings also showed that the cathedral paid out more than $2 million to 23 insiders, mostly members of the Schuller family, over the 12 months leading to the cathedral’s Oct. 18 bankruptcy. The church’s revenue dipped by about 25 percent, more than 150 employees were laid off and numerous creditors went unpaid.

…So let’s return to this article’s title.

How many other people are there out there who are on the payroll of a local church or Christian organization who have a nice gig with a plush office and would have no problem if asked to justify their salary and perks?

Bible College students are graduating and — with no experience — walking into full-time Youth Ministry positions that start at $48K.  No salad days.  No need for a second job. No dues to pay.

No wonder it’s so easy to get your ministry motivation corrupted when you’re doing it for pay. Also, let’s face it, any one who starts comfortably will expect regular pay increases; they’ll expect future placements to come with more money and benefits.

The Apostle Paul continued to ply his trade while singlehandedly spearheading efforts to take the gospel to the farthest parts of the known world. He does ask churches to set aside money to support those who preach God’s word to them. But he doesn’t seem to, as the saying goes, quit his day job.

Pastors in the third world church know nothing of salaries and housing benefits. (‘Yes, I’ll travel for three days through the jungle to attend that conference, but it’s going to depreciate my sandals and I’ll expect a mileage allowance.’)

So why do we not only do it that way here in North America, but do it to excess?


October 19, 2010

Crystal Cathedral Bows To Inevitable Financial Pressure

An hour after ABC News was reporting the Crystal Cathedral’s Chapter 11 filing, neither the religion page at USAToday or the CNN Belief blog had anything posted.   In many ways, the best the story merits is either a yawn or an “I told you so.”   Everyone saw it coming.

Everyone, perhaps except Robert H. Schuller, the founder of Garden Grove Community Church, later renamed after its architectural offspring, The Crystal Cathedral.    Many will speculate that if Schuller, Sr. had focused more on his other offspring, son Robert A. Schuller, perhaps the organization would not have met with such rapid decline.

The Orange County Business Journal quotes the present lead pastor:

“Budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession,” Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a statement.

The filing lists debts of “50 to 100 million;” under 1,000 creditors owed; and assets of $100 million.  (All figures U.S. dollars.)

But another Orange County publication, the OC Journal, has columnist Gustavo Arellano inferring that Schuller, Sr. “had it coming.”

…The world will see that Schuller ultimately influenced American Christianity the most of any pastor in OC–at the expense of his own flock and for personal benefit.

While Chuck Smith revitalized American evangelicism via Calvary Chapel, the Crouches revolutionized broadcasting the words of Christ (including Schuller’s own Hour of Power) and Rick Warren built a global megachurch without peer, Schuller put too much of his church’s focus on himself–the best-selling books, the television program, the many lectures. His message of possibility thinking and seminars for pastors made Warren possible, created the megachurch movement, and brought in millions to build his Crystal Cathedral–but while Schuller mugged for the cameras, he never did set a course of succession for his flock. If I was more up-to-date on my Scripture, this is the part where I’d quote Jesus or some prophet about vanity–oh, Ecclesiastes!–and say Schuller didn’t learn.

So what does Chapter 11 mean when applied to a church?   It’s not much different than when it is applied to a manufacturing plant or a department store.   There is a temporary relief of pressure, life goes on, and the church tries to come up with a plan.

At this point, I know some will suggest there really is only one plan:  Bring back son Robert A. Schuller.   Whether he would want to return under the present conditions is a huge variable.

But otherwise, the options aren’t that many.   Perhaps Anaheim, California will find itself with a new symphony hall or arts center somewhere down the road — after all, don’t a lot of the rundown or abandoned churches in North America eventually end up as some kind of civic facility?

Appendix:   Adding up the debt

Here’s a few of the major — and some longstanding — creditors as reported at the Orange County Register:

Infocision Management Corp.: $359,788
Lloyd Daniel Corp.: $318,500
FGS-CA Inc.: $252,992
KWGN: $206,954
World Marketing Inc.: $200,386
Thomas Nelson Publisher: $200,219
Dayster Television: $172,997
Wheelchair Foundation: $163,551
Hearst Television Inc.: $105,400
Lin Television Corporation: $90,567
Kristina Oliver, livestock supplier: $56,000
Gray Television Inc.: $55,522
Sharon Crabtree, managed props for pageants: $20,000
Carin Galletta, public relations: $16,000
Bruce Johnson, drycleaner: $11,500
Juliet Noriega, wardrobe supervisor: $10,000

July 21, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The Christian Internet:  Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamentalist, Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical sites all sharing cyberspace and competing for your attention.   Here’s a few we visited this week…

  • Our own link list cartoon this week is Joe McKeever at Baptist Press.

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