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.

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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