Thinking Out Loud

November 18, 2011

Reformed Church of America Moves to Sever Ties with Crystal Cathedral

St. Callistus Church ain't the Crystal Cathedral, but, with its overhead stained glass window, it ain't too shabby either.

As noted earlier today at Bene Diction Blogs On, not only has the iconic Crystal Cathedral decided to accept the offer of the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County, but the church’s parent denomination, The Reformed Church of America, has decided to end a decades-long relationship that had always existed outside of normal denominational protocols and paradigms.

First story first, as reported at the Orange County Register:

Late Thursday evening U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kwan issued the ruling, acknowledging the tremendous work put in by Chapman University, the diocese’s competitor, which offered as much as $59 million for the 40-acre Crystal Cathedral campus. The diocese will get the property for $57.5 million.

Under the diocese’s plan, the ministry will be able to lease the core buildings – including the cathedral and the Tower of Hope – for three years, at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for years two and three. They also will be able to lease the school building for $10,000 a month until the end of school year 2013.

After three years, Crystal Cathedral Ministries and the school will move to the 10-acre property on Lewis Street where St. Callistus is now located.

Several longtime congregants who supported Chapman’s bid in an effort to remain in their home church left in tears after the judge announced the decision.

…continue reading here…

This has to beg the question: Will there be enough congregants left to continue in the large glass church for three years?   The same news story noted:

Congregants, who left the courthouse tearful and disappointed, said they felt betrayed.

“The cathedral’s administration and the board have really stripped us of our ministry,” said Bob Canfield. “In the end, it was all about the money. The congregants have lost their ministry.”

Chuck Stalter called the decision “the death of the church.”

“There will be a mass exodus tomorrow,” he said.

Other issues raised in the discussions included a perceived superiority of Catholic churches in general to maintain burial grounds.  Many former members of the Crystal Cathedral are buried on the property while others have expressed that intent in their wills.

The denominational issue, while it won’t be the focus of many mainstream news reports today, is in some ways significant, though most will view it as a rather anticlimactic move that has been a long time coming.

[R]epresentatives of the Reformed Church in America say they are in the process of discontinuing their relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

Scott Treadway, president of the Reformed Church in California, says the cathedral’s goals and mission, including worship style, are not in line with those of the denomination – leaving them with no choice but to discontinue their long and unique relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

“We have resolved that the governance requirements of the (Crystal Cathedral) and RCA are mutually exclusive, and discussions are underway toward a gracious parting of ways,” he said in an email response.

The Reformed Church’s relationship with the Crystal Cathedral was unique because the cathedral had grown into much more than a local community church when it became a worldwide television ministry, Treadway said.

So an agreement was forged, he said, where the Reformed Church continued to ordain the ministers, but that the ministry and property were administered solely by Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Although the agreement worked well for many years, the relationship became stressed when “there was a dissonance in ministry direction, music style, bankruptcy and risk to the property,” Treadway said, referring to the ministry’s shift from traditional music to a praise style of worship.

“It became an unsolvable mess,” he said.

…complete story here…

Back to the building and property sale, the church’s lead pastor continues to hold on to optimism in the face of what is probably insurmountable obstacles:

Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder’s daughter, sought to reassure members and supporters of the iconic house of worship Thursday night, saying “there is still time for God to step in and save Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

“Lest you think it is too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you that it is not too late for a miracle,” said Schuller Coleman, the church’s director of ministry and mission.

…continue story at CNN Religion…

Sadly, this last pronouncement shows that the story is not over, and really won’t be over, until the church comes to terms with the idea that its time has passed.  We do not, in the Evangelical world, have a protocol for shutting down churches smoothly.  People get emotionally bonded to land and buildings, when in fact, our love and devotion should be directed toward Jesus Christ.

Many other stories in this saga are available on this blog:  Use the search bar in the upper right corner and type “Crystal Cathedral” and hit enter.  Results will appear in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest.

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