The popular Spanish-language ministry lead by charismatic Argentinean pastor Dante Gebel is moving out of the Crystal Cathedral building in April, the church announced in a statement published on Gebel's Facebook page Monday.
The Hispanic ministry was using the premises of the famous Orange County megachurch for over two decades, although it was always a separate entity. When Gebel took over as head pastor three years ago, the ministry bloomed from a moderate size congregation of approximately 300 to over 5,000 members today.
Gebel's congregation will move to the Anaheim Convention Center, a massive structure that resembles the Crystal Cathedral building in its design, as it is also covered in glass panes. The convention center features 815,000 square feet of exhibit space, making it the largest exhibit facility on the West Coast.
Gebel suggested the growing size of the ministry is the main reason for the move and seemed very excited about the new location.
"We knew that sooner or later we would have to relocate to a larger location, but we asked the Lord that this change be for the better and he exceeded our expectations" he said in the statement. "Not only were doors opened for us at the arena at the Anaheim convention center, but we have the capacity to comfortably seat ten thousand people which allows us to project and continue to expand, considering the astonishing growth the Hispanic church has had in such a short time."
Now that the Crystal Cathedral property, located in Garden Grove, Calif., was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, after a long bankruptcy trial and a complex sale process, the Crystal Cathedral ministries' congregation itself is bound to move within the next three years.
Gebel referenced Crystal Cathedral's woes in his statement. "When I began my leadership with the Hispanic ministry, I was aware that the Anglo church was going through a crisis," he said. "Today we have five thousand congregants, which if we had not accepted the challenge at the time this would not have been possible."
During the "time of crisis" the Hispanic church had provided spiritual support for the Crystal Cathedral church, founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Gabel added, and prayed for it to succeed.
"We are very happy and are eternally grateful to all the Schuller family (sic)," the pastor said in the statement. "If it were not for them, the Hispanic church would have never existed, they have been very generous to our Hispanic community."
"We left with our heads held high and with the blessing of the entire board of directors and Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, who we have worked together for these three extraordinary years (sic)," he added. "She has given us unconditional support and complete freedom."
Sheila Schuller Coleman, Robert Schuller's daughter who currently serves as Crystal Cathedral's senior pastor, said the ministry was "thrilled" to bring Dante Gebel to Orange County, thinking of the prominent local Hispanic community.
"One of my main concerns with the loss of our campus was this vibrant, growing ministry," Coleman said in the statement. So, I am extremely happy that this ministry has found a new home so close."
Coleman also said she does not exclude the possibility of partnering with Gabel again in the future.
Gebel's sermons are viewed by more than a million and a half users every week via the ministry's website as well as televised broadcasts, the ministry claims. The Spanish-language sermons are televised in over 78 countries.
Gebel's Hispanic church was founded by Juan Carlos Ortiz, who was invited to the Garden Grove church by Robert Schuller.