Thinking Out Loud

November 18, 2011

Stop The Presses! Crystal Cathedral Now Favors Catholic Bid

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:44 am


Until yesterday, it looked like Chapman University was the Crystal Cathedral board’s favored suitor.  But as the Thursday deadline appeared, the board told the judge it preferred the offer from the Orange County diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

An Associated Press story at AP’s own website notes:

Some Crystal Cathedral members fear their church will dwindle if the 40-acre grounds are sold to the diocese and they must move to a new location. They noted that congregants emptied their pockets to help build the elaborate building and many planned to be buried in the nearby cemetery.

Others fear the broadcast that funds 70 percent of the church’s revenue will lose viewers if moved to a different, less striking setting.

“That’s our church — the Crystal Cathedral. We bought and paid for it,” said Bob Canfield, a 73-year-old general contractor who joined the church five years ago. “We feel like we’ve been raped of our ministry.”

For many congregants at the Crystal Cathedral, the church building designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson and made up of 10,000 panes of glass has become intertwined with the church’s identity.

“They’re no different than any other business. They have to market themselves, and they have a particular branding and they’ve put all their eggs in that basket,” said Richard Flory, director of research at University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. “That would be a difficult transition for them to make.”

…continue reading here…

A version of the same story by the same author, Amy Taxin,  in, of all places, The Taiwan News notes the logistics of the purchase would involve a building ‘swap:’

Chapman’s $59 million bid includes provisions for the church to continue using Crystal Cathedral and oversee the cemetery while ceding other buildings to the university to expand its health sciences offerings and possibly start a medical school.

Not so under the diocese’s $57.5 million offer to turn the sanctuary with seating capacity for 3,000 into a long-awaited countywide cathedral and offer Crystal Cathedral congregants use of a smaller Catholic church up the street.

The diocese has tried to assuage congregants’ concerns by preserving a chapel on campus for interfaith use and insisting they will honor existing contracts for cemetery plots regardless of a person’s religious affiliation. The glass-spired Crystal Cathedral _ which lets worshipers see the sky and palm trees through the walls and ceiling of the church _ would remain intact but undergo interior renovations to create a central altar and baptismal font and other structures to serve Catholics’ needs.

“We have promised to maintain the integrity of that beautiful piece of architecture,” said Maria Rullo Schinderle, general counsel for the diocese.

In exchange, Crystal Cathedral congregants could move to the 1,200-seat St. Callistus Catholic church less than a mile away _ a cream-colored sanctuary lined with wooden pews and adorned with a stained glass window on the ceiling.

Parishioners at St. Callistus, who would be asked to make the switch, said they could worship anywhere _ in an enormous sanctuary or tiny room.

“My faith does not depend on a building,” said Rosemary Diliberto, 84, on her way to morning Mass at the ethnically diverse church dotted with signs in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. “God is God, wherever we go.”

…continue reading here…

The story continues…

Update:  …and in the end, the judge awarded the sale to the Roman Catholic diocese.  Details available at this Orange County Register story from 7:00 AM PST, Friday.  As the story continues to develop, there is other news concerning the Cathedral’s denominational covering, The Reformed Church of America, first noted here in a reader comment below.  More on that here in a separate post.


  1. Stop the presses:^) The court has awarded the sale to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
    Have a look at Sheila Schuller Coleman’s video on the Cathedral website or the Hour of Power.
    This lady is party to the mismanagement that put this congregation into bankruptcy and she is acking like people can expect a miracle.
    I guess the board (Schuller clan) meeting got contentious and the courtroom wasn’t a fun place to be either.

    Also, to me the bigger news is that the Reformed Church of America is severing ties with the congregation.

    Sometimes I think it’s best that congregations close up and move on.

    Comment by Bene D — November 18, 2011 @ 6:36 am

    • I’ll update this later this morning when some other work gets done. Your last sentence is gold and applies to churches both big and small.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 18, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  2. Schuller & his church can now be part of the Catholic fold, for good.

    Comment by abey — November 19, 2011 @ 4:43 am

    • The Catholic diocese is buying the building, the congregation is not for sale. However, you raise a good point. I wonder if there are people so emotionally bonded to the building that they wouldn’t care what type of service was being conducted?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 19, 2011 @ 8:49 am

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