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Has the “Crystal” Lost its Gleam?

Crystal Cathedral downsizes ministry & creditors are knocking at the door…

Facing an $8 million deficit from 2009, the Crystal Cathedral is scaling back operations for 2010. In an attempt to cut $4.9 million from its $20 million annual operating budget, the California megachurch will sell Rancho Capistrano, a 170-acre retreat and wedding center, and lay off 50 employees. It will also cancel this year’s “Glory of Easter” Passion play, and drop The Hour of Power radio broadcast from 7 of the 45 networks currently carrying the program.  At least two longtime vendors for the Crystal Cathedral’s Glory of Christmas and Glory of Easter pageant say the megachurch has failed to pay them tens of thousands of dollars they are owed for the 2009 Christmas pageant and has not indicated when they will be paid.

Kristina Oliver, who owns Oliver Livestock Co. in Hemet, says the cathedral owes her more than $56,000. For 29 years, her family has been supplying the pageants with live animals – camels, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys – a much-touted feature of the Glory pageants.  Oliver sent a letter to Sheila Schuller Coleman, founder Robert H. Schuller’s daughter, who is now the head of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. In the letter, she talked about her daughters ages 3 and 1, her husband who has been battling cancer and the danger of her losing their home if she doesn’t receive the payment. “I’ve been completely ignored without so much as a courtesy of a response or explanation,” Oliver said. “I understand the church has been hurting for cash…but the way I’ve been treated, with no courtesy or professionalism, is unacceptable.”

Cathedral administrators responded to the vendors’ complaints Thursday with a written statement saying they have seen a 30 percent to 40 percent drop in revenue. The church has “significant debt,” but they also have the assets to cover that debt, the statement said.”As a result, there are vendors that we have not been able to pay in a timely manner. It grieves us that we are in such a position,’’ the statement said. Spokesman John Charles said the Cathedral is doing everything it can to strengthen itself financially and is not looking at bankruptcy as an option. “We’re trying to avoid it at all costs,” he said. Administrators say they will call a vendor meeting in a week to form a vendor committee and develop a plan to “treat all vendors equitably.”

But vendors say they are losing patience. Crystal Cathedral leaders met with vendors and creditors on Friday to discuss debt payments after businesses filed lawsuits against the California megachurch, alleging that it owes $2 million in unpaid services.  “The purpose of the meeting was to gather all these vendors, suppliers and friends into one place and apologize for the delinquency of the accounts that we currently have with them,” Shiela Schuller Coleman, daughter of Cathedral founder, Robert H. Schuller, said in a statement.

The Orange County Register reports that church officials asked that creditors not resort to legal action for 90 days so they could resolve the issues.  Vendors who attended Friday morning’s meeting said they had no idea there were so many creditors. When asked, cathedral administrators told them that there are as many as 185 creditors waiting in line to be paid.

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Quite a few other ministry operations have been foreclosed. Maybe the financial operation is not the only thing bankrupt – perhaps Schuller’s “possibility thinking” version of Christian faith is too as well.  Does this mean the age of the big ministry production is over?

(Source – The Orange County Register)

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