Crystal Cathedral's Hispanic Ministry to Look for New Home

When California’s bankrupt Crystal Cathedral megachurch moves to a smaller location within three years, as per its deal with the new owner Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, its Spanish-language ministry will likely rent a stadium to accommodate its fast growing congregation.

For the next three years, nothing will change, but in 2014 or 2015, when the congregation of the Hispanic Ministry is expected to be more than 10,000, it is very likely that it will have to move to an indoor stadium nearby, Pastor Dante Gebel said in a message on his Facebook page Friday.

The Argentine pastor, who led the Hispanic church to grow from 300 members to about 5,000 in two years, said the growth his ministry has witnessed suggests that the congregation will grow to over 10,000 as early as next year.

Gebel said this a day after the board of Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove endorsed the $57.5-million bid of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County and the judge of the Santa Ana, Calif., bankruptcy court approved of the decision. The diocese’s terms require Crystal Cathedral to leave the premises within three years, after which the megachurch is likely to move to a smaller Catholic church, St. Callistus, which the diocese will vacate.

The megachurch’s board agreed to sell the 50-acre property to the diocese, which had initially submitted a bid of $50 million, at the last minute.

The church founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller had earlier decided to accept a bid by Orange County’s Chapman University, which was willing to pay $59 million. The school offered Crystal Cathedral $1 monthly rent for core buildings for Sunday services for the first 10 years.

On Oct. 28, the diocese filed a petition in the bankruptcy court to block the sale of the campus to Chapman University stating that the plan would not be able to pay creditors in full as the Crystal Cathedral could run out of cash by next May.

After finalizing the deal with the diocese, Schuller said in a statement that Crystal Cathedral chose not to sell the property to Chapman University because “the uncertainty regarding the future use of the campus for religious purposes was divergent to the call of both God and our denomination that we embraced nearly sixty years ago.”

While the Hispanic Ministry continues to grow, some congregants of Crystal Cathedral fear the sale of the premises might lead to the English church’s downfall.

“People think the ministry isn’t about a building. Usually they’re right. But that one represents Jesus Christ, positive thinking, and if you believe in yourself and believe in the Lord there isn’t anything you can’t do,” The Associated Press quoted Sherwood Oklejas, a congregant who opposed the diocese’s bid, as telling the bankruptcy court judge at a hearing on the church’s future. “If the ministry no longer has the Crystal Cathedral to operate from, in my opinion, it will not last at all.”

Ever since Schuller 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.

However, the megachurch’s current leadership believes God’s miracle can still save the property. “I want to reassure you and remind you that it is not too late,” Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s eldest daughter and the senior pastor, said in a video message posted on the ministry’s website the day Crystal Cathedral endorsed the bid by the diocese. “There is still time for God to step in and rescue Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

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