Members of the California-based Crystal Cathedral ministries seem to be more and more anxious about the church’s bankruptcy case, with some expressing fear that losing their decades-old house of worship might damage the integrity of the church. The decision of whether the property will be sold to a Catholic organization or to a local university with Protestant roots is to fall tonight.
After the 10,000-member strong Garden Grove, Calif., Protestant megachurch was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010, following a long financial struggle, the founding pastor, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who manages the church together with family members, was forced to put the landmark glass-pane-covered property on the market in September.
Currently, two Orange County institutions are battling to purchase the 50-acre property in a Santa Ana bankruptcy court – Chapman University and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. On Wednesday, Chapman University increased its bid to $59 million, in a challenge to the Diocese's of Orange's $57.5 increase offer made Monday, as reported by CP.
The Schullers prefer the university, which has a Protestant background. Yet the Catholic diocese has been increasing its bids aggressively throughout the case, and is currently the highest bidder.
As the final decision is scheduled to take place Thursday, church members, who have reportedly been attending all hearings, have been showing signs of nervousness about the future of their 50-year-old church.
If Chapman University wins the case, it promised to offer the congregation an option of a $1-a month lease, or a more expensive $25,000-a-month lease with the possibility of a buyback in 5 years, local media reported. Most importantly, Chapman's offer would allow the congregation to continue assembling on its premises.
Chapman University President James Doti reportedly said during Monday's hearing that the school is willing to offer the core buildings, including the cathedral, the Tower of Hope, Memorial Gardens and Arboretum for the $1-a-month lease.
Doti has also expressed his respect for the Crystal Cathedral congregation and its long history, as well as the attachment that church members show towards their signature church building.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange's proposal would give the Crystal Cathedral congregation three years to move out, and provide the option of moving into the diocese's current campus, where the St. Callistus Catholic Church stands, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Some members, however, could care less about either purchasing bids.
"That’s our church — the Crystal Cathedral. We bought and paid for it," church member, Bob Canfield, 73, told The Associated Press 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 filed for bankruptcy.