Thinking Out Loud

December 1, 2011

Vatican Approves Crystal Cathedral Purchase

This is the Roman Catholic Church in Garden Grove which would effectively be swapping properties with the Crystal Cathedral over the next three years. More details, interior picture — click here.

The Pope has rubber-stamped the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County’s purchase of the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.  Again, the OC Register leads the way with coverage of this story:

GARDEN GROVE – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange received the necessary approval this week from the Vatican to proceed with its purchase of the Crystal Cathedral at $57.5 million, officials said Wednesday.

The Pope’s approval, which came on Monday, is the last hurdle the diocese had to clear before sealing the deal, said Monsignor Douglas Cook, the diocese’s Canon Law expert and rector of Holy Family Cathedral in Orange.

The Vatican’s order giving its blessing to the diocese is known as a “nihil obstat” in Latin, which means “nothing stands in the way.”…

Monsignor Cook said the process to get the Vatican’s approval was long and complex. The cathedral’s purchase had to be voted on by two advisory committees under the Bishop of Orange.

“They voted on it several times because the price kept changing,” he said.

The diocese then sent over a thick dossier detailing its financial plan to purchase the Crystal Cathedral among other things, Cook said.

“The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy Office then came back to us with some questions they had,” he said. “We sent the answers and shortly thereafter, received the approval.”

Cook said these procedures are in place to make sure there are checks and balances at all levels.

“The Vatican’s role is basically to make sure that we have thought of everything – the rationale and the financial plan – before we undertake something of this magnitude,” he said…

Continue reading at OC Register

Photo: JOSHUA SUDOCK, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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.

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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