Crystal Cathedral leaders appeal to congregation in wake of bankruptcy filing
October 25th, 2010
07:37 PM ET

Crystal Cathedral leaders appeal to congregation in wake of bankruptcy filing

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Houses of worship • Money & Faith

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Sum Dude

    What an incredibly ugly building. Let the banks foreclose on this one. They never should have financed it in the first place.

    October 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  2. J.L.W.

    The Bible states,OWN NO MAN ANYTHING" AND AGAIN," BE YE CONTENT WITH SUCH THINGS AS YE HAVE" ah! therein lies the problem, those who run these mega buildings DO NOT adhere to scripture, always wanting more, the latest and the best.

    What has happened to the yearly asking of six million dollars? i.e. eagle club to see them through the down times of summer?

    Thousands of dollars waisted on a so called prayer tower made of stainless steel, we could go on, however, to let any debt load that high get out of control, speaks for itself

    management, or lack of it got them in this mess , now they beg for more millions, don`t do it people and in closing, sell all the assets and GET OUT OF debt, it is a disgrace to God.

    October 26, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  3. SimpleReally

    In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus walked amongst the people, he didn't build opulent buildings.

    Maybe there is a lesson here?

    When does a building become an idol?

    October 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  4. Keith

    Maybe he could get a donation from the Saudi royal family since he embraces islam so much. Or maybe Rick Warren could help him out.

    October 26, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  5. JohnQuest

    We have a Church in Baltimore "New Psalmist Baptist Church" that just complete a multi-million edifice. People can't afford to pay their electric bill but those guys spent millions on a building. I am ashamed for them and I'm a non believer and will never step foot in church.

    October 26, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  6. Donna

    Appealing for MORE money from the membership? Are the church leaership going to cut or give back their, what I am sure are generous salaries, to get the church back financially stable? I somehow doubt it. What a momument to TV evangalism, an eyesore of a bankrupt church. How many poor could have been helped with all that money they spent over the years on that garish buiding?

    October 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  7. JohnQuest

    If their God wants them to have this 50 million dollar edifice (to the pastors ego), he can write the check or magically clear the debt. If God doesn't step in that should tell them something.

    October 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  8. cmchamb

    Luke 14:28 (King James Version)

    28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

    October 26, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  9. Stevie

    Wow, 50 million that could have went to what churches should be doing, helping ppl, not building "temples"

    October 26, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • w247

      Totally agree with this!

      October 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  10. JohnQuest

    Fitting, a house of glass.

    October 26, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • David Johnson

      Yes, and people who live in glass churches shouldn't throw stones!

      October 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  11. Mark from Middle River

    Amazing Church. I have never seen it from that angle. I remember the modern marvel type show on cable about how they started the church at an old drive-in theater so many years ago. If I remember each glass panel has the name etched of the donor who purchased it.

    It does stand out from Oslsten's and the Jake's Pottershouse church. That is one the coolest things about churches. You can see ones small and ones huge.

    October 26, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  12. yinka 2010

    God is faithful,man can make mistakes but God is faithful Pastor Schuller is a man,he is liable to mistakes,however the onus is upon him and his children to put in better management practises,running any organisation via debt and borrowing is not the wisest of decision,if God need it;he will pay for it.

    October 26, 2010 at 7:11 am |
    • w247

      Maybe God is using this as a lesson in stewardship? He gives us EVERYTHING we need to do His work, how we use it or squander it is up to us.

      October 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  13. johngreg26

    No. You are under no obligation to remain with your current lender. But it is a good idea to let them know what you're planning to do so they'll offer you their best rate. If you need quotes from other companies search "123 Mortgage Refinance" they found me the lowest refinance rate i could get.

    October 26, 2010 at 7:04 am |
  14. Bethany and Margie Phillips

    we have been witching the for a good long time? hour of prayer church . we hope it will stay on air for a good long time?is there going to be some one to take there place again?

    October 26, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  15. Frank

    What a joke this is! Do they really expect people to throw $$$$$$ at them to bail them out of a problem of their own making? People don't have money as it is, except for the super-rich. If they had been ethical and used common sense in their financial dealings, they wouldn't be in this mess. They created this mess, so let them clean it up themselves and, hopefully, learn a valuable lesson from it.

    October 26, 2010 at 12:56 am |
  16. Saved 1980

    I'm saddened for all the people who gave their money to these people, just as I am all these so-called mega-churches and TV churches, watching their pretend preachers get rich off the people, yet offering no means to Salvation for anyone. Hope these people have a desire for something better that they can find their way. As for the false teachers in these "businesses" that steal from their congregations, they should be sentenced to lifetime of community service.

    October 26, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  17. TheRationale

    How ignorant and selfish of the pastors to think that some god is going to help THEM when there are millions of people dying of disease and starvation who he has chosen not to help. Such is the foolishness of religion.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • Malcolm

      Perhaps you're right "TheRationale". Now, if you can just tell us how much they DID'NT spend on the poor and homeless, (and how much you DID), we will all believe your argument.

      October 27, 2010 at 6:50 am |
    • BB

      o woa woa, now you're splittin' hairs in the name of the almighty

      October 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Luke

    This sort of thing just cements my already pretty solid ideas that most of these places should be investigated for fraud.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  19. David Johnson

    Shouldn't prayer solve this problem? Why must money always be the solution?

    I suggest Jesus get a job. Doesn't He have carpentry skills?

    October 25, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • John Chastain

      The whole place is glass–not a stick of wood in sight. Maybe try the loaves-and-fishes trick? Hire Penn & Teller?

      October 25, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      He's completely booked up at the moment preparing places for us. And he doesn't have a cellphone or a schedule, I think.
      When he shows up I don't think anyone's going to be asking him to pay their mortgage, either.

      Schuller needs to stop asking for money, as he has shown himself to be a criminally incompetent steward of money already....

      October 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • BB

      why do you have to be so darn practical?

      October 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  20. Tyler V

    Maybe if it had used its resources for kingdom building rather than building building and fundraising it may not be in this mess... just a thought. Something very strange about a church (you know... where the poor and the broken are to come and is to sacrifically provide for the needs of the people) having anything like a $36 MILLION mortage...

    October 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • Frank


      October 26, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • Peter F

      Doubley agreed.

      October 26, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • w247

      How much money did Jesus have to build His kingdom? You don't need money to do His work.

      October 26, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • ChristIsComing

      Very well put, and why I NEVER pay attention (let alone money) to any megachurch, churh-styled business (AofG, LDS, catholic, etc) or TV evangelist. I don't believe they're divinely inspired or preachers ever called.

      October 26, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      I agree also.

      October 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • Frank

      I don't know why you put Catholic in there. We're not required to give any money to the Church. We don't believe in t!thes. I can't speak for the other ones you named.

      October 26, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • Reality

      New Te-stament

      According to Catholics, as those who serve at the altar should live by the altar 1Cor 9:13, it became necessary for provision of some kind to be made for the sacred mini-sters.

      In the beginning this was su-pplied by the spo-ntaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various insti-tutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would ensure the proper and permanent su-pport of the clergy.

      Many Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) su-pport their churches and pastors with monetary contributions of one sort or another. Frequently these monetary contributions are called t-ithes whether or not they actually represent ten-percent of anything. Some claim that as t-ithing was an ing-rained Jewish custom by the time of Jesus, no specific command to ti-the per se is found in the New Testament. However, this view overlooks the fact that Israel's t-ithes were of an agricultural nature, not financial.[1] References to t-ithing in the New Testament can be found in Matthew, Luke, and the book of Hebrews.

      For Catholics, the payment of t-ithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers[2] speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience, rather than any direct command by Jesus Christ."

      October 27, 2010 at 8:59 am |
    • Mike

      There's quite a few churches going broke and in many cases it's turning out to be just like what happened with Wall Street... Fraud. Where am I too worship if there are no more churches left and the pastors are in jail and their lavish houses and cars have been repossessed?? Maybe I'll just keep believing in God and not worry about all of the stories in the Bible that have been altered or changed over the last 2000 years...

      October 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.