Thinking Out Loud

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

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