Crystal Cathedral Holds Memorial for Former CFO

The Calif. megachurch Crystal Cathedral on Saturday held a memorial for Fred Southard, the former chief financial officer who died of a heart attack at his home in the Newport Coast last Sunday. A close friend said Southard was shattered after he was asked to retire last January.

The bankrupt church in Garden Grove, Calif., whose board has approved the sale of its campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, held the memorial service for Southard, who had retired last January amid a financial crisis, Saturday morning.

The 75-year-old former CFO suffered a heart attack on Jan. 8 after he watched the Denver Broncos defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers at his home, according to The Orange County Register. He was pronounced dead after he was taken to the hospital.

Southard was intelligent, caring and passionate about his church, Michael Nason, a producer for “Hour of Power” television show, was quoted as saying. “He was very bright. He had a lot of friends at the Cathedral and he and his wife were very involved in Bible studies, teaching, and the overall activities of the church.”

While retiring after 30 years of service, Southard publicly stated that he wanted to allow younger administrators to take over and help the church save money. However, the Register quoted a close friend, David Stoop, as saying that the church leadership asked Southard to retire. “His whole life really was the Cathedral and keeping it afloat,” Stoop said. “I think when they made him retire he was kind of a lost soul and didn’t really know what to do with himself.”

Southard’s retirement came months after the Crystal Cathedral filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010. Last November, the church’s board endorsed a $57.5-million bid by the Roman Catholic Diocese for the 50-acre property. The plan allows the Crystal Cathedral to lease core buildings for three years at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for the following two years. The megachurch will have to vacate the premises after three years.

After the board endorsed the sale of the church property, Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, the daughter of the founding pastor, Robert H. Schuller, said she had asked God for a miracle to stop the sale and miraculously provide the money to pay the debts.

However, a recent video posted on the church’s website suggests that the church has not been able to raise the money to save the campus. Pastor Coleman says in the video that the Crystal Cathedral is not about the building, and if it is God’s will the church may move to another location.

Ever since the founder handed over the leadership of the Crystal Cathedral to his family in 2008, the megachurch has faced numerous challenges, including a growing debt and a leadership struggle.

Schuller founded the church 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.

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