Thinking Out Loud

October 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Property Sold to Chapman University

In the end, the university bid was the one the Schullers approved.

The board “had to reluctantly vote to accept a plan due to the deadlines required by the court,” Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral Congregation, said in the statement.

The story is summarized at the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The church will continue to have the use of some of the buildings, but the Orange County Register reports that the annual Christmas production won’t be happening for 2011.

Crystal Cathedral’s iconic “Glory of Christmas” pageant is unlikely to happen this year with the pending sale of the 40-acre property, even as a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the 60-year-old ministry founded by Robert H. Schuller.

On Wednesday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ board announced their decision to “reluctantly endorse” Chapman University as the preferred buyer over the highest bidder, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Chapman is offering $50 million for the campus and options to continue the ministry on the property and buy back core church buildings in five years. The university plans to start a satellite campus there which will offer health science courses.

Even the Wall Street Journal followed this epic tale.

In the suit, filed Sept. 30, the creditors insist that claims filed in the bankruptcy case—related to everything from employee salaries to alleged copyright infringement—should be bumped back in the line to be repaid. Most of the 10 defendants targeted in the suit are related to the Schullers by blood or marriage.

“R. H. Schuller used his control and influence to cause the debtor to enter into the above-described agreements that benefitted himself and his family, to the detriment of the creditors of the debtor and in breach of his fiduciary obligations to the debtor,” the creditors said, referencing deals that governed everything from compensation for a Schuller son-in-law charged with executing the church’s “Glory of Christmas” pageant to the transition that installed Robert H. Schuller’s son as senior minister for a time…

Though the founders continue to do battle with the creditors regarding their claims, they seem to be on board with the recent turn in the case. Even though their first-choice ending for the proceedings—raising enough money for Crystal Cathedral to remain in control of the entire campus—didn’t materialize, the couple are now set to “embrace Chapman,” according to a statement released Wednesday.

“If Chapman emerges as the owner of the Crystal Cathedral campus, we will welcome the future students and faculty with all that our positive faith has to offer,” Robert H. Schuller said, adding that the board’s decision to tap Chapman as the preferred buyer “took weeks of deliberation and prayer.”

End of story?  Methinks not.  The drama, which has been faithfully recorded on this blog — type “Crystal Cathedral” into the search field at the top of the sidebar — is really a multi-dimensional story involving:

  • overspending, bad management
  • a family feud gone very public
  • the lack of substance, or spiritual shallowness of the Cathedral’s core message
  • the traditional vs. contemporary (and Mainline vs. Charismatic) music wars involving congregational and choir (performance) music
  • the untold story of the Cathedral’s thriving Hispanic church

…and much, much more; though for some, the middle one, the relentless self-help message of possibility-thinking that overshadowed more profound Biblical teaching, was the Achilles Heel that eventually caused the ministry organization to come undone.

No, this story is a continuing drama.

Stay tuned.

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