October 25th, 2010
07:37 PM ET
Editor's Note: CNN's Michael Martinez files this report from Los Angeles, California.
Leaders of the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral megachurch in southern California made emotional appeals over the weekend for financial help – as well as extended a grateful thanks to worshippers.
Church founder Robert H. Schuller, 84, made a personal appeal during Sunday’s services in the Garden Grove, California, church.
“I need more help from you,” Schuller said, according to an account in the Orange County Register. "If you are a tither, become a double-tither. If you are not a tither, become a tither. This ministry has earned your trust. This ministry has earned your help."
He and his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, the senior pastor, reiterated a theme emphasizing how the strong can overcome crises, no matter how devastating.
“It was actually heartbreaking to be very honest and open with all of you” about how the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, Schuller Coleman said in a video blog posted Saturday on the church’s website.
“And yet, you know, dad has taught me and raised me to believe that every challenge, every setback, is an opportunity,” she continued. “In the final analysis, I do believe with all my heart that God will have the last word and it will be good.”
While Schuller Coleman stated the church has had its best cash flow in 10 years, it has been unable to cut its expenses fast enough to deal with the recession.
In the blog and during Sunday’s services, Schuller Coleman said the church debt includes a $36 million mortgage plus $7 million in bills from vendors. In all, church debt is close to $50 million, she told congregants.
“Obviously we don’t have $7 million in our bank account,” she said in her blog. “Most of the debt, 90 percent of it, is the mortgage to our campus.
“Yes, we are indebted, but most of all we are indebted to you, our faithful, faithful friends,” she added.
Schuller Coleman was confident of a better future.
“We will be out of Chapter 11 once we have a repayment plan,” which could take a “few years” to carry out, she said. “This is a chapter. God will have the last word, and it will be good.”
The church has also experienced organizational conflict when the elder Schuller turned the church over to his only son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, in 2008, but the younger Schuller quickly resigned in the wake of a family power struggle stemming from some of his sisters and their husbands.
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