Missing ghost in this Crystal Cathedral story?

The Orange County Register has a story headlined “Former Crystal Cathedral pastor defaults on home.” It’s all about how the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, former senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and the son of its founder the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, is part of the housing crash:

With a foreclosure sale looming in November, Schuller is seeking bank approval to sell his Laguna Beach house “short” – that is for less than the $1.66 million he owes on two mortgages on the home…

“I’m short-selling my house. I have more loans than I can sell the house for,” Schuller said in a phone interview. “The house will not go into foreclosure. It will be a short sale.”

The article is thorough as it relates to this short sale. We learn about short sales in Orange County and we learn about how the Schullers have tried and failed to sell their home at various prices. The reporter even got an interview with Pastor Schuller. But do we have any ghosts here? This is not the Robert Schuller who authored such works as The Be-Happy Attitudes, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation,  Eliminating The National Debt is… America’s Declaration of Financial IndependenceTurning Hurts Into Halos and Scars Into Stars, You Can Become the Person You Want to Be and If It’s Going to Be, It’s up to Me: The Eight Proven Principles of Possibility Thinking, among others.

I’m actually unsure how much Robert A. Schuller subscribes to his father’s and Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking. His book titles — When You Are Down to Nothing, God Is Up to Something: Discovering Divine Purpose and Provision When Life Hurts and Leaning into God When Life Is Pushing You Away — don’t necessarily clarify it. But don’t these titles kind of make you curious? If you were a reporter on this story, wouldn’t the famous family’s theological approach of positive thinking force a couple of questions on the topic?

We get this angle on the story:

The finances of the Schuller family came under scrutiny after Crystal Cathdral declared bankruptcy and was sold to satisfy a debt of about $48 million. Creditors complained that ministry founder Robert H. Schuller and his relatives received lavish compensation during the time the church had stopped paying its bills.

At one point, Robert A. Schuller had an insider claim of $1.4 million in the church’s bankruptcy case.

And we get much more information about the value of their home, their refinancing strategy and how much they were in arrears when their Bank filed notice of default and what not.

But mostly what I want to know is about anything related to the pastor’s ministry. Particularly when I got to this point:

Schuller said he’s not having financial problems, but doesn’t have any cash flow because all his assets are tied up in two television networks, Youtoo and FamilyNet. He also lost a housing allowance tax deduction available to clergy when he left his position as Crystal Cathedral’s senior pastor in 2007.

“I can’t afford the house as I once could,” said Schuller, adding that he’s wealthier today because of the increasing value of his television network investments. “It’s not a reversal of fortune. … I’ve made decisions on what’s best for my family and personal resources.”

Schuller said he stopped making payments on the house because he believed that lenders won’t discuss a short sale unless the borrower is delinquent. Several agents who specialize in short sales said that isn’t true, although a borrower must show some kind of hardship – such as unemployment or illness – before lenders will agree to a short sale.

So he’s not having any financial problems, he’s wealthier today than ever, but he couldn’t afford the house he once could and stopped making payments on it. OK. And does the Crystal Cathedral theology come into play? If so, how? Is this related to power of positive thinking? Did this create any sort of religious crisis in the Schuller home? If not, why not?

Idea via Strange Herring. Image via Wikipedia.

  • sari

    OK, I’ll bite. This short article generated a number questions, the first of which concerned the morality of deliberately failing to make mortgage payments in the presence of adequate (according to him) income. He signed a contract, no longer likes the terms and decides not to pay in order to force the bank’s hand? That’s a big disconnect for a man who purports to be a religious role model.

    How did he justify his former “lavish” lifestyle, financed by his and his father’s followers, in the face of the nation’s overwhelming need? Does he feel that his current financial woes are G-d’s punishment for his failure to redistribute that wealth to the truly needy?

    Does he still believe in the power of positive thinking?

  • Ira Rifkin

    Sometimes its hard to discern between postive thinking and positive spin. Taking a wild guess, I’d say this is one of those times.

  • FW Ken

    O.C.D. of me, but Norman Vincent Peale was positive thinking. Robert Schuller was “possibility thinking”. Gotta get that stuff straight.


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