Crystal Cathedral Bankruptcy: Diocese Files Petition to Block Church's Sale to Chapman University

Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange Claims Chapman's Purchase Plan Would Fail to Fully Repay Debts

It was reported Monday afternoon that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has filed a petition in a California courthouse to stop the sale of the Crystal Cathedral campus to Chapman University.

According to The Orange County Register, the diocese claims that Chapman University's proposed $50 million offer for the 40-acre church property will fail to pay creditors in full and only set up the Crystal Cathedral ministry for failure. The diocese claims in the lawsuit filed Friday that under Chapman's proposed plan, the ministry could be in the red once again by May 2012.

The diocese had offered the highest bid for the Crystal Cathedral campus, with $53.6 million. Chapman's $50 million bid was followed by Hobby Lobby's offer of $47.5 million, among other bids from prospective buyers. In the end, the creditors committee chose Chapman University, and Crystal Cathedral administrators approved the offer. However, the diocese claims it has the "more superior bid," the OCR reported.

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The bid from Chapman University still needs to be confirmed in court, which is expected to occur Nov. 14. Before that happens, however, documents related to Crystal Cathedral's sale are expected to be filed in bankruptcy court today, according to the local publication.

The Christian Post spoke with a media representative from Chapman University Monday, who declined to comment on the nature of the petition.

Mary Platt, director of Communications and Media Relations at Chapman University, did tell CP, however, that university officials consider the Crystal Cathedral to be "an icon of Orange County" and that they have deep admiration for Dr. Robert H. Schuller, founder of the California megachurch.

The plan Chapman University offered in its bid for the Garden Grove church property would allow church administrators to buy back the campus and the cathedral for $23.5 million within five years.

According to the Crystal Cathedral, Chapman University's offer also allows it to continue using the cathedral, the school and other church buildings.

This particular aspect of Chapman University's bid is to help Crystal Cathedral preserve its "iconic element," Platt told CP.

Platt also shared that, if the Crystal Cathedral sale goes through, the university was considering an expansion of its health sciences department and also building pharmacy and medical schools.

Despite such high interest in the campus, Crystal Cathedral administrators, essentially the Schuller family, would prefer to keep the property in their possession.

The ministry's "Miracle Faith Offering" section on its website has been updated with a new message for supporters "to help save the Crystal Cathedral" by donating funds to prevent its sale.

The message reads: "This ministry faces its most urgent and greatest challenge. We are grateful for your support as we stand in faith that God, through the people this ministry has touched, will work a miracle to ensure its continued existence."

Visitors to the page are able to donate anywhere from $5 to $10,000. Church administrators need to raise at least $50 million to repay creditors, thus preventing the sale.

The ministry also posted a message to its website on Oct. 26 to inform visitors that it was "standing in faith" until the Nov. 14 court date.

Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral, was quoted in that statement as saying, "Nothing is final until November 14! We continue to pray, believe, and stand behind our 'Jeremiah 29:11 plan,' which we submitted to the court ... even though our Board has had to reluctantly vote to accept a plan due to the deadlines required by the court."

The Garden Grove church was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2010 when faced with lawsuits for money owed to vendors from the 2009 production of "Glory of Christmas."

In addition to the past due expenses, the church was also slammed by a decline in revenue.

Coleman declared in May that the church was being sold as a result of its financial situation.

The church then announced a "faith-filled" decision this summer to try to raise money through contributions from supporters and save Crystal Cathedral from a sale. With Nov. 14 less than two weeks away, it appears the sale may be imminent.

The Christian Post's message left with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange was not returned by press time.

CP was informed that John Charles, the media representative for Crystal Cathedral, was out of the office until Wednesday.

The Crystal Cathedral, home to more than 10,000 members, was founded by the Rev. Schuller in 1955. The ministry is well known for its internationally televised "Hour of Power" program.

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