Crystal Cathedral sold to Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange bought the Crystal Cathedral in a court-ordered sale on Friday.
The Crystal Cathedral, one of the nation’s best-known Protestant churches, is now owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
Escrow closed Friday afternoon on the $57.5 million court-ordered sale, the diocese said.
The sun reflects off the main tower at Crystal Cathedral. The cathedral is now a Catholic church owned by the Diocese of Orange. The purchase also ends the diocese’s 25-year search for a cathedral of its own.
The congregation led by Robert H. Schuller and his family can continue to worship in the landmark church for three years under a lease with the diocese.
But when the congregation leaves, the cathedral — for three decades the place where Schuller preached about “possibility thinking” and angels soared on wires in made-for-Hollywood Christmas pageants — will become the spiritual home for 1.2 million Orange County Catholics.
And it will acquire a new name. Bishop Tod Brown said he will ask members of the diocese to suggest the name.
His only condition: “It has to be something dealing with Christ.”
Brown turned 75 last November and, as required, submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. He has been trying for years to build a cathedral for the diocese. The chance to acquire one – an architectural landmark – at a bargain price came more or less by chance.
“Our God is a God of surprises,” Brown said, and “certainly the biggest surprise I’ve ever received from God is the Crystal Cathedral.”
The diocese has used Holy Family Church in Orange as its cathedral since its division from the Los Angeles archdiocese in 1976. It purchased a cathedral site in south Santa Ana, now used by Christ Our Savior Church, about eight years ago.
Congregation insiders, including Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s daughter, tried to derail the sale to the diocese last week. They claimed the congregation had a 99-year lease with bankrupt Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which had agreed to the cathedral’s sale in bankruptcy court.
But no copy of the lease could be found. So on Monday U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kwan ordered the sale to go forward.
The congregation can lease the landmark church and other buildings for $100,000 a month for the next year, rising to $150,000 a month for two more years.
The diocese is offering the congregation a longer-term lease at nearby St. Callistus Church.
Robert H. Schuller started his ministry with a $500 loan, preaching from atop a snack bar at a drive-in movie theater in 1955. A quarter-century later, in 1980, he dedicated the Crystal Cathedral. Barely three decades later, his empire was a financial ruin.
In court papers, the ministry blamed its woes on the recession. But it also suffered from unrest within the congregation as first son Robert A. Schuller and then daughter Sheila Coleman took their aging father’s place as senior pastor.
The ministry issued a statement saying, “The sale of the Crystal Cathedral campus means the beginning of a new chapter for us. We are exploring several options from which we will continue the many aspects of our respected, positive approach to ministry – our church worship services, the ‘Hour of Power’ international weekly televised broadcast, Crystal Cathedral Academy, and our various outreaches both to the local community and beyond.’
“We remain committed to being a center of hope for central Orange County and will pursue a new location within 10 miles of the current campus,” the ministry statement added. “We are excited about our future and know God will continue to use us to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the local community, our nation and the world.”
No word from or about Dr. Robert H. Schuller Sr., the founder of the Crystal Cathedral.
For those not familiar with the history of this sale and the events that led up to it, see:
Some photos from better times at the Crystal Cathedral from the Glory of Christmas, Glory of Easter and Creation:
Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug and Posted by Ask Marion~