(Photo: Reuters/Alex Gallardo)
Crystal Cathedral Ministries endorsed the bid of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County and the judge approved of the decision Thursday in the Santa Ana, Calif. bankruptcy court, where the bankruptcy case of this prominent Garden Grove megachurch has been taking plac; which means that the property will not be sold to Chapman University, as previously expected.
Crystal Cathedral's founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, expressed in a statement released Thursday that church administrators now support the diocese's $57.5 million bid, impressing on observers that a final decision has been made on the 50-acre property; it will be sold to the Catholic church, local media report.
The diocese's terms require the ministry to leave the premises within three years.
Meanwhile, Chapman University, which was previously endorsed by the church and desired to use the church property as a satellite campus, has amended its bid, despite the endorsement. Chapman University offered Crystal Cathedral $1 monthly rent for the first 10 years for core buildings, which would be available for Sunday services, The Los Angeles Times reported.
On Wednesday, the university also increased the amount of the bid to $59 million.
The Rev. Schuller, who founded the ministry in 1955, said in the Thursday statement that he deeply respects Chapman University, but "the uncertainty regarding the future use of the campus for religious purposes was divergent to the call of both God and our denomination that we embraced nearly sixty years ago."
As the ministry preferred Chapman University before, even though the diocese was offering a larger amount of money, some were speculating that the Schullers did not want to pass the signature property into Catholic hands.
Schuller extended a message to the diocese during the Thursday hearing, saying, "Steward this campus. Keep it a light in Orange County that will never go out. A light that will always remind humanity how very much … God loves them and so do we," as reported in the LA Times.
Schuller, who manages the church together with family members, was forced to put the landmark glass-pane-covered property on the market in September, after the 10,000-member strong ministry was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Oct. 2010.
Many church members reportedly felt disappointed by the Thursday announcement, since it would mean they will lose their landmark church in three years.
"That's our church – the Crystal Cathedral. We bought and paid for it," church member, Bob Canfield, 73, told The Associated Press earlier on Thursday. "We feel like we've been raped of our ministry."
The news agency reported that some congregants have "emptied their pockets" trying to prevent the church from going under.
A series of financial scandals have also emerged as a result of the bankruptcy case, including an allegation that pastor Schuller and his family were receiving lucrative salaries as the church was struggling with a $50 million debt.
The case, taking place in Santa Ana bankruptcy court, has attracted the attention of church members and the Orange County Christian community, as well as supporters of Schuller's famous televised program, "The Hour of Power."
A Christian Post reader commented on the issue Thursday: "Unfortunately the crystal cathederal members that cannot hang on to their building have to realize that the truth of the matter is according to scripture...if you borrow you are the slave of the lender. I feel especially for the people that have really given of their own means to keep it. The harsh reality is that whoever decides to buy it are not the bad guys ... it’s your own bad decisions that put you there."