- (Photo: AP Images / Damian Dovarganes, File)
Nearly a week after filing for bankruptcy, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral took the pulpit on Sunday assuring the congregation that tough times never last.
"Tough people do," said the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, as reported by The Orange County Register.
The 84-year-old pastor and his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, told the thousands of attendees inside the all-glass church in Southern California that their current debt is close to $50 million, the bulk of it being their mortgage to the campus.
But what triggered the Chapter 11, Coleman said, was the $7 million debt to vendors whose services they employed during the 2009 "Glory of Christmas" production. Some of the vendors include PNCEF LLC. equipment finance company, Promotional Media Inc., and Lloyd Daniel Corp.
In a video message to supporters on Saturday, Coleman, the megachurch's senior pastor, said filing for bankruptcy was one of the most, if not the most, difficult things she's had to do in her entire life.
"It was actually heartbreaking to be very honest and open with all of you," she said.
"Yet dad has taught me and raised me to believe that every challenge, every setback is an opportunity," she said, reflecting the positive thinking she inherited from her father.
"We are positive. We do believe that God is here with us and we're relying on Him," added Coleman, who became senior pastor after her brother, Robert A. Schuller, resigned in 2008. "I do believe with all my heart that God will have the last word and it will be good."
Though Coleman placed much of the blame for the debt on the downturn in the economy and the subsequent drop in donations, reports reveal that the Garden Grove, Calif., church was amassing debt much earlier.
The addition of a welcoming center in 2003, along with refurbishments on campus, was made as donations were falling through and the audience for its "Hour of Power" broadcast was shrinking.
Evangelical theologian Dr. Albert Mohler believes the problem, however, isn't money. Rather, it is the church's theology. The founder built his church preaching messages focused on "positive thinking." His messages were meant to inspire and uplift people, rather than teach or convert them.
His only son, Robert A. Schuller, inherited the same theology. He told The Christian Post in a 2007 interview that his calling was to encourage, uplift and inspire people. Though his calling was the same as his father's, he had different plans for the television program as he wanted to adapt to the changes in media. He also wanted an autonomous board without family members, according to the local Register.
He took the helm of the church in 2006 only to resign two years later after disagreements with his father over the direction of "Hour of Power" and the church.
The younger Schuller recently explained on the "100 Huntley Street" television program what went down at the cathedral in the months leading to his resignation.
In July 2008, the board, with his father's direction, decided to make his brother-in-law his boss. Then in September, his boss said his sermons were "not anointed" and weren't good enough for the "Hour of Power."
"By October, they said they had to have other preachers in the pulpit on Sunday morning. So I was allowed to preach any time other than Sunday morning. So with that, I resigned," the younger Schuller recounted.
That ordeal impacted his relationship with his father.
"We didn't talk for a long time," he said. But the two have resolved things and they are doing very well now, he added.
Currently, the younger Schuller is running his own media company called ComStar Media Fund. He has so far acquired two television networks and a radio station that distribute family-values programming.
His son, Robert V. Schuller, has also left the Crystal Cathedral and started his own church in Orange County called The Gathering.
Meanwhile, Coleman acknowledged that "the whole world is watching Crystal Cathedral" and she sees it as an opportunity to show "that God is a big, mighty, provisional God."
"We know this is just a chapter," she said.