Thinking Out Loud

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.

April 3, 2010

Crystal Cathedral: Is This The End?

FOR THE MOST RECENT UPDATE — THE RESIGNATION OF SHEILA COLEMAN, as of THURSDAY, MARCH 15th, 2012, CLICK HERE

FOR THE STORY REGARDING THE SALE OF THE CATHEDRAL, as of FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18th, 2011, CLICK HERE

Google can’t keep up with this continually evolving story, and keeps sending people to this 22-month old post.  For the full saga, use the search bar in the upper right hand corner of this blog and type “Crystal Cathedral” and hit “enter” and all the items related will appear in REVERSE chronological order (newest to oldest).

DID GOOGLE SEND YOU HERE? GOOGLE CAN’T KEEP UP WITH THE UPDATES ON THIS STORY SO IT SENDS EVERYONE HERE.  FOR MORE CURRENT INFORMATION TRY THESE UPDATES:

UPDATE (NOVEMBER 18, 2011) — In the end, the CC board switches horses in midstream and back the Roman Catholic bid, to which the judge agrees.  Confused?  We were, and so were the church members.  See top of this item (above the picture) for link.

UPDATE (OCTOBER 28, 2011) — The property is sold to Chapman University.  The church continues to use the cathedral on Sundays, and hopes some day to buy it back.  Update to the update:  Two weeks later, that’s not how the story ended!!  (See above)

UPDATE (JULY 9, 2011) — The story on the potential purchase by the local Roman Catholic diocese is located here

UPDATE (JULY 5, 2011) — For those of you being directed here by a search engine, the recent story on Robert H. Schuller being removed from the board is located here.

UPDATE (MAY 28, 2011) — For those of you directed here looking for the story of the sale of the property, that story is located here.

UPDATE (OCTOBER 20, 2010) — For those of you being referred here by online searches, the story on the chapter 11 filing is located here.


The money just isn’t there.

The week started out almost humorously with the suppliers of the camels, sheep and goats (oh my!) for the Crystal Cathedral’s annual Christmas production looking for the church to settle a bill for around $56,000 US.

The Orange County Register, which keeps close tabs on events at the large glass church reported earlier this week:

Kristina Oliver, who owns Oliver Livestock Co. in Hemet, says the cathedral owes her more than $56,000. For 29 years, her family has been supplying the pageants with live animals – camels, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys – a much-touted feature of the Glory pageants.

Oliver sent a letter to Sheila Schuller Coleman, founder Robert H. Schuller’s daughter, who is now the head of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. In the letter, she talked about her daughters ages 3 and 1, her husband who has been battling cancer and the danger of her losing their home if she doesn’t receive the payment.

“I’ve been completely ignored without so much as a courtesy of a response or explanation,” Oliver said. “I understand the church has been hurting for cash…but the way I’ve been treated, with no courtesy or professionalism, is unacceptable.”

But like a snowball rolling downhill, the story — and the amount of indebtedness — kept growing as the week went on, with the San Jose Mercury News reporting this on Thursday:

Three businesses have sued the Crystal Cathedral megachurch for more than $2 million combined in unpaid bills.

The church has a $55 million budget deficit and recently conducted layoffs, sold church property and reduced the number of TV stations airing the “Hour of Power” telecast.

From concerns of $56,000 on Monday to $2 million by Thursday.

Is it possible that it’s all over?  And what would a trustee or receiver do with a large glass church?   The church campus, in Garden Grove, California is on a scale that makes this story reminiscent of the collapse of Heritage Village in Charlotte a decade ago.    That was the property belonging to Jim Bakker and the PTL Club, now belonging to Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries and the current home of former Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley.

Right now the church needs a savior — in both senses of that word.   It needs someone to walk onto the stage who can rescue the facility and the ministry from financial demise.   Is such a person out there?

It’s ironic that it could end this way; that this could be Robert H. Schuller’s legacy.   Google his name and you find countless news stories, testimonials and bloggers quoting his pithy sayings as though they were the Word of God itself.    Perhaps building his ministry on God’s sayings — the Bible — might have brought a better ending.

From this perspective, the possibility-thinking church is running out of possibilities.

See updates above for links to more recent information, including the two most recent ones above the title.

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