(Photo: AP Images / The Orange County Register, Joshua Sudock)
Some members of the Garden Grove, Calif., Crystal Cathedral congregation are outraged after receiving an email asking them to deliver meals for the sick wife of the cathedral’s wealthy founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller.
The email, sent to Bible study groups and church elders by administrators, requested that meals be dropped off at the cathedral's Tower of Hope where the Schullers' limo drivers would be waiting to pick them up, the Orange County Register reported Thursday.
The Rev. Schuller's wife, Arvella, has reportedly fallen ill with pneumonia.
The Crystal Cathedral claims more than 10,000 members and broadcasts "The Hour of Power," the longest-running television church service.
Cathedral spokesman John Charles told the OC Register that the request for meals was simply an effort to encourage the Schullers, who are both in their 80s. He noted that congregants have supported other members in the past in similar ways when an illness was involved.
"We didn't want people going to their home because they are very private people," Charles told the Orange County newspaper. "That's why we asked that the food be dropped off at the tower so the limo drivers can pick them up and deliver them."
The Crystal Cathedral filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2010 (after experiencing financial difficulties since 2002), in what is a controversial and much publicized case of a megachurch possibly going out of business.
On Sept. 30, creditors in the megachurch’s bankruptcy case filed a lawsuit against church administrators, including the Schullers, in which they are accused of borrowing money from Crystal Cathedral's endowment funds, therefore receiving good salaries even as the church was experiencing financial malaise. The suit claims that the Rev. Schuller and his relatives borrowed as much as $10 million from the endowment funds between 2002 and 2009.
On Oct. 4, Schuller denied the allegations, calling them "serious and untrue."
Some Christian leaders have been suggesting that the cloudiness surrounding the bankruptcy process is giving Christianity a bad rap.
Now, the email incident seems to have strained the patience of the Schullers' congregation.
"These are millionaires who have limos and chauffeurs," church member Bob Canfield, one of those who received the message, told the OC Register. "Why in God's name would they want the congregants to deliver meals? It's ludicrous."
The email, which CP has not read, reportedly states that the couple specifies they do not wish to receive any get well cards because they would like to "keep her (Mrs. Schuller) situation under the radar." But they would appreciate meals over the next three to four weeks, the message says, as reported by the OC Register. The email also reportedly includes instructions regarding when and where the congregation members are to drop off meals.
The message also reportedly requests that the meals be low in sodium and include fruit, meats, soup and egg dishes, such as quiches.