It was Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman's last Sunday at the Crystal Cathedral's Garden Grove building in Orange County, Calif., as she announced that she is starting a new church.
Hope Center of Christ will be the name of the church. Coleman, a daughter of Crystal Cathedral founder Dr. Robert H. Schuller, expects to find a location for her breakaway church this week.
She said in a video message posted on the church's new website that they would announce where the new church will meet for worship in the next few days. It would not be more than five or 10 minutes from the old building, she added.
Soon after her announcement, a Crystal Cathedral pastor told congregants that regular Sunday services will continue in the famed glass building and members were free to decide where they would like to be next Sunday morning, according to The Orange County Register. "We are very sad, very sorry about this," Pastor Emeritus Juan Carlos Ortiz, who began the Hispanic ministry for the Crystal Cathedral, was quoted as saying. "I hope they both have success – those who stay and those who leave."
The split comes a day after the founder and his wife, Arvella Schuller, announced their resignation from the board of the megachurch, saying they had lost hope of settling disputes with directors over copyright infringement and payment for services in a positive atmosphere.
Coleman said Jim Penner, former executive producer from the "Hour of Power" television program, and Scott and Debbie Smith, who headed the church's music program, were coming with her to the new church.
Penner appeared alongside Coleman in the video posted on hopecenteroc.org. He said they would soon spread their mission around the world by television and the Internet.
The landmark campus of the Crystal Cathedral now belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County after an agreement in February for a $57.5 million sale on a court's order. The megachurch had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010. Crystal Cathedral can continue to worship on the campus for three years for $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for the following two years.
In 2015, the congregation 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.
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. Schuller founded the church with a $500 loan over 55 years ago.
In her final message at the Crystal Cathedral, Coleman reminded the dwindling congregation that despite the sale, they have not lost their "house."
"Where is God's house? Let us never mistake property for God's house … God's house that He wants all of us to remain focused on is eternal," she said, stressing that their home is in heaven with Jesus.
"Nothing can take that away from us. That is never ever ever … for sale because it's already been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed. "I have good news for you today – your escrow on your eternal home has closed!"
"If God allowed me and my family and all of us to go through the pain in the last couple of years to just learn that lesson and hear that message today, that escrow's closed, you don't have to worry about it, you've been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ."