Sunday, May 29, 2011

Crystal Cathedral's Bankruptcy

For some reason everyone enjoys popular preachers and politicians to fail. Politicians manage to fail about everyday, a recent religious failure is the Crystal Cathedral, formerly known as Garden Grove Community Church, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 18, 2010 after citing debts of more than $43 million.

Founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller in 1955, the church in Garden Grove, Calif., is considered the nation’s first modern megachurch by many church historians. Schuller’s upbeat, optimistic message resonated with people across the country. At the church’s peak in the 1980s, two million viewers tuned in to the program every week, while more than 10,000 worshipers filled the pews. Schuller was ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church in America.

Schuller got his start in Southern California preaching about the “power of positive thinking” from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in theater as the nation’s car culture began to boom.

In 1980, he opened the Crystal Cathedral, a 2,900-seat see-through church made of 10,664 panes of glass. A $20 million architectural marvel designed by the acclaimed Philip Johnson.

I think most people have watched at one time or another Robert Schuller's “Hour of Power” and his importance of positive thinking. Like many CEO's of businesses (Oral Roberts come to mind) he bought his family into the business and that didn't work out.

In 1950, Schuller married Arvella De Haan, a church organist, who was instrumental in developing the music department at the Crystal Cathedral and produced the Hour of Power for over 40 years. The Schullers had one son, Robert, and four daughters, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen.

Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, and eldest daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman also became ministers and both have been senior pastors of Crystal Cathedral.

Schuller's second daughter, Jeanne Dunn, and her husband, Paul Dunn, oversee "The Glory of Christmas" and "The Glory of Easter" productions. Jeanne Dunn has assisted in various editorial contributions to various printed works and for Schuller's books. Her husband co-authored "The Possibility Thinker's Bible" and "Living Debt Free with Schuller."

The third daughter, Carol Schuller Milner, was the writer, director, and producer of "Creation: Once Upon All Time" that debuted in 2005 to an audience of over 70,000. She co-wrote Schuller's autobiography, "My Journey," and has written several other works.

The youngest daughter, Gretchen, is director of programming for the ministry. She makes $70,000 a year. Her husband, James Penner, is the producer of the "Hour of Power" telecast. Her daughter, Neva Klaassen, who books musical guests for the TV show, makes $55,000.

Bankruptcy filings in December 2010 showed that Crystal Cathedral gave a generous payout of nearly $2 million to 23 insiders and Schuller relatives in the 12 months leading up to the Chapter 11 filing. During the same period, the church sold its Ranch Capistrano retreat center and slashed over 150 jobs. The church laid off 250 of its roughly 450 employees, cut salaries and canceled contracts with more than 100 TV stations nationwide.

The real estate group, Greenlaw Partners, is paying $46 million for the property — almost exactly the same as the amount that the Crystal Cathedral owes its creditors. The sale will allow the church to “immediately eliminate” most of its debts, while continuing religious services at its current location and broadcasts of “Hour of Power."

The sale of the 40-acre campus includes an exclusive lease agreement that will allow Crystal Cathedral Ministries to continue to operate at its current location. After four years, the church will also have an option to buy back almost all of the property it is now selling. However, the church will likely lose its Family Life Center, which represented $16 million of the total sale price and can be resold at any time.

If the plan is approved, all creditors will be paid back within 42 months, church officials said in the statement they issued.

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