(Photo: Reuters/Alex Gallardo)
Crystal Cathedral founder Dr. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, announced they stepped down from the board of the California megachurch after they lost hope to settle disputes with directors over copyright infringement and payment for services constructively.
"We cannot continue to serve on the Board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere, especially since it now seems that it will not be ending anytime soon," Arvella Schuller said in a statement Saturday.
The couple was involved in a legal battle with the board of directors over intellectual property and copyright infringement claims as well as back payment for services rendered, according to their daughter Carol Schuller Milner.
The Schullers, who had been awaiting a decision by the independent board members regarding the latest of many offers made by the couple over the past months to settle their claims in the bankruptcy court, were told on Tuesday night that "the Board had no interest in continuing their dialogue aimed at positive resolution," the news release explained.
The landmark campus of Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., 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.
"Particularly in these difficult times for the ministry, the ministry's decision to spend its money on attorneys and court proceedings is bewildering to us," Arvella Schuller said.
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.
Schuller's attorney Carl Grumer was also quoted in the news release. "Our proposals have always been structured in a way that would allow full payment to creditors to go forward without delay while leaving the ministry with more operating capital than originally contemplated in the court approved bankruptcy plan," Grumer said. "We were optimistic that a solution was close at hand which would be mutually beneficial to the Schullers and the ministry. What motivated the board's decision to make a sudden shift after it had seemed that we were so close to a positive conclusion, we do not know."
The news release by the Schullers concluded by saying, "No matter what, God is still God. No matter what, God is still a good God. God loves you and so do I."
Milner said her parents were removing themselves only from the governance of the ministry. "They're not cutting all ties. They're still planning on worshipping in the congregation."
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.