Crystal Cathedral's Breakaway Pastor Launches New Church at Theater

Sheila Schuller Coleman, former senior pastor at Crystal Cathedral, launched her new church on Sunday in a rented movie theater in Orange County, Calif.

About 100 congregants who are likely to join Coleman's Hope Center of Christ met for the first weekend service at AMC Theater, a short walk from the Crystal Cathedral compound that her father founded over five decades ago, The Orange County Register reported.

Coleman, daughter of Crystal Cathedral founder Dr. Robert H. Schuller, told the worshippers it was the church's "birth day." "We are going to learn how to be a strong church," she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We're not about a church building. We are about building a church."

Coleman said a donor had paid $835 to rent the theater, and the church had applied for a tax ID number. "You have a right to know that," she reportedly said.

It was just a week earlier when Coleman announced that she would be breaking away from the Crystal Cathedral and starting her own church with Jim Penner, former executive producer from the "Hour of Power" television program, and Scott and Debbie Smith, who headed the church's music program. A Crystal Cathedral pastor told the congregants that regular Sunday services would continue in the building and members were free to decide where they would like to worship the following Sunday.

The split came a day after the founder and his wife Arvella Schuller announced their resignation from the board of the megachurch, saying they had lost hope of settling disputes with directors over copyright infringement and payment for services in a positive atmosphere.

Coleman encouraged her new church not to speak ill of those who chose to remain with the Crystal Cathedral megachurch in Garden Grove. "There are some people who would try to pit one church against another, but we are not going to do that," she said. "Here at Hope Center, we cheer every other church."

She also told the congregation that she would hold services at Anaheim Marriott Suites next month even as the church looks for a permanent location.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries is currently being led by John Charles, who is now serving as chairman of the ministry's board. With the Schullers out of the pulpit, the church drew some 500 people on Sunday, which was its highest attendance in the past year, as reported by the OC Register.

The Crystal Cathedral had been facing a growing debt and a leadership struggle since the founder handed over the leadership of the church to his family in 2008. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010 and its campus was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County in February for $57.5 million on a court's order.

The Crystal Cathedral has been allowed to 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 founded the church with a $500 loan over 55 years ago.

Coleman's new church plans to spread their mission around the world by television and the Internet.

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