Crystal Cathedral Hopes for Miracle at 11th Hour

A week after the board of Orange County’s landmark Crystal Cathedral megachurch approved a California university’s offer to purchase church property and end its bankruptcy crisis, the leadership is still praying for a last-minute miracle that would raise $50 million.

The church’s Sunday worship service was focused on miracle faith. “I don’t know about you, but I end up hearing those words over and over, even in my sleep,” Los Angeles Times quoted Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman as saying after the church choir sang, “Lord, we need a miracle, a miracle today.”

And that’s the theme of the California church’s website as well. “Help save the Crystal Cathedral,” it urges, calling for pledges ranging between $5 a month and $1,000 a month.

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The website also features a video where Schuller Coleman is appealing for funds. It was apparently shot at a time when the board decided to reject offers pouring in to buy church property and to instead trust God for a miracle.

However, the Crystal Cathedral, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last October, has raised only $172,775.50 as of the end of September, according to the church’s financial statements. To save its property, the church has just about a fortnight to raise the remaining $49.8 million.

On Nov. 14, a judge is expected to approve the plan for Chapman University to buy the church building for $50 million.

But “nothing is final” until then, Schuller Coleman stressed in a statement last week after the board endorsed the university’s offer. “We continue to pray... even though our board has had to reluctantly vote to accept a plan due to the deadlines required by the court.”

The university’s proposal provides for the Crystal Cathedral to lease and in due course buy back its core buildings which gives hope to church leaders.

Earlier, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange had also submitted a bid of $50 million in cash for the Crystal Cathedral, adjacent campus property, buildings and memorial grounds. But the diocese had only offered to help the ministry to phase out its operations through a three-year leaseback plan for some of the buildings.

Ever since founder Robert H. Schuller, then 81, handed over the leadership of the megachurch to his family in 2008, the Crystal Cathedral has faced numerous challenges, including a leadership struggle and growing debt. Some senior members of the church have accused the board of nepotism and a doctrinal shift by Schuller’s daughters.

Robert H. Schuller, known for the weekly “Hour of Power” program, founded the Crystal Cathedral 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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