(Photo: REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)
California megachurch the Crystal Cathedral now belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County after escrow closed Friday on the $57.5 million sale on a court's order.
The congregation of the Crystal Cathedral, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010, can continue to worship in the landmark campus in Garden Grove for three years at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for the following two years.
"Our goal is to preserve an already cherished religious landmark and to enhance its worship use for Orange County Catholics and all people of faith who may be inspired by this wonderful, now Catholic, cathedral," Bishop Tod. D. Brown said in a statement after the diocese closed on its purchase Friday.
In 2015, the Crystal Cathedral is expected to move out of the campus, which will then serve as the spiritual home of the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County. The diocese, which had received the needed approval from the Vatican in November, says it will ask the local Catholics to suggest a new name for the campus, "something dealing with Christ," according to The Orange County Register.
"Our God is a God of surprises, certainly the biggest surprise I've ever received from God is the Crystal Cathedral," said Bishop Brown, who is due to retire soon.
Crystal Cathedral's founder, Robert H. Schuller, responded positively. "It is time for all believers not to focus on differences, but on respect and appreciation for our common goals," he said in a statement Friday. "Today is not an ending; rather, it is a divine continuance of a beautiful, sacred campus that was dedicated to the greater glory of God."
Schuller's daughter, Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, had asked God for a miracle to stop the sale and gather the money to pay the church's debts. However, she had apparently realized in recent weeks that the sale would go through. A recent video posted on the church's website suggested that the church had not been able to raise the money to save the campus. Pastor Coleman said in the video that the Crystal Cathedral was not about the building, and if it was God's will the church might move to another location.
However, Coleman and other church leaders tried to block the sale last week by claiming that the congregation had a 99-year lease. A federal bankruptcy judge ruled that the sale should continue.
The Crystal Cathedral called the sale "the beginning of a new chapter for us." "We are exploring several options from which we will continue the many aspects of our respected, positive approach to ministry – our church worship services, the 'Hour of Power' international weekly televised broadcast, Crystal Cathedral Academy, and our various outreaches both to the local community and beyond."
The ministry also said it would look for a new location within 10 miles of the current campus. "We are excited about our future and know God will continue to use us to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the local community, our nation and the world."
Schuller founded the church with a $500 loan over 55 years ago. The construction of the Crystal Cathedral, which includes the main sanctuary designed by architect Phillip Johnson, was completed in 1980 and cost $18 million.
After the founder handed over the leadership of the Crystal Cathedral to his family in 2008, the megachurch faced numerous challenges, including a growing debt and a leadership struggle.
Last November, the church's board endorsed the bid by the Roman Catholic Diocese for the 50-acre property.
According to Bishop Brown, the diocese will make some "architectural changes" in order for the cathedral to be used for Catholic liturgy. The nearby Catholic St. Callistus parish will eventually transfer to the new campus.