The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange (Calif.) has made an offer to purchase the iconic Crystal Cathedral, built by evangelical personality Rev. Robert H. Schuller. The $50 million offer could pull the megachurch out of bankruptcy by the end of 2011. Founded more than 50 years ago by Rev. Schuller, known for years for his televangelism, the mega-church has been struggling financially. It is located in Garden Grove, California. Rev. Schuller handed in the reins of the struggling church in 2008. He is known for his ‘Hour of Power’ broadcasts of evangelical teaching.
So-called because of its enclosure in sharp angles and reflective glass panels, the management of the Crystal Cathedral is trying to sell the iconic property but lease back portions of it for Evangelical worship services in order to erase a $36 million mortgage and settle another $10 million in unsecured debt. Plagued by financial trouble and a disastrous leadership transition, the Crystal Cathedral has seen a devastating slump in its once profitable donations.
The Crystal Cathedral administrators also considering other offers. For example, a real estate investment firm has offered $46 million, as did Chapman University, which would build a medical school on the church campus. Another Evangelical congregation, My Father’s House Church International, based in Norco Calif. also made a $50 million offer for the property, which includes the famous glass-spired church designed by architect Philip Johnson.
Calling it a ”pragmatic alternative to construction of a new cathedral, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has submitted a formal bid for the Crystal Cathedral, adjacent campus property, buildings and memorial grounds,” said Catholic Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange in a July 22 statement. After the Crystal Cathedral Ministries Board of Directors reviews the offer, the diocesan plan would be presented to the Committee of Creditors and the Bankruptcy Court, the statement said. The Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy in October 2010. Some members of the congregation are circulating a petition in hopes of ‘saving’ the church.
“The offer is straightforward and would provide creditors maximum relief in the shortest possible time,” Bishop Brown declared. “If the proposal is accepted, creditors could see resolution within the year and possibly sooner.”
The diocese would pay $50 million in cash within 30 days of the bankruptcy court’s approval of the reorganization plan. The Orange diocese is willing to help Crystal Cathedral Ministries “phase out its operations by offering a three-year leaseback plan for some of the buildings on campus including the four-story Family Life Center on Chapman Avenue,” according to the Orange County Register.
The Catholic diocese, which is looking for a less expensive alternative to building a new cathedral for its 1.2 million parishioners, said its proposal would allow the Crystal Cathedral to lease portions of the property for three years at below market rates. Under the departed Cardinal Archbishop Roger Mahony, the nearby Archdiocese of Los Angeles built a huge block-like structure, derided by conservatively-minded Catholics and architecture buffs. The Crystal Cathedral, however, is widely regarded as one of the architectural marvels of the U.S.