Vendors Stiffed by Crystal Cathedral

The Los Angeles Times is running a story, Vendors say Crystal Cathedral owes them tens of thousands of dollars, about how the 10,000-member Crystal Cathedral is so financially strapped it has failed to pay nearly $100,000 to the vendors responsible for producing the mega-church’s mega-popular Christmas and Easter pageants. (Both shows have been canceled for this year; it would have been the Christmas show’s 30th anniversary.)

An AP article, Crystal Cathedral in Calif. Owes Money to Vendors, states the church is staggering under $55 million of debt.

According to the Wikipedia page on Crystal Cathedral, the church’s televised Sunday morning service, The Hour of Power, “is said to be” the most watched Christian television program in the world, with over 20 million viewers a week.

Here’s a quote from the Crystal Cathedral’s website: “Hearing from pastors eager to replicate the church’s success, [the church's founder Robert] Schuller, in 1969, began the first ever series of training sessions for pastors in church growth. Today, Schuller and his Institute for Successful Church Leadership are regarded consistently … as the catalyst of the mega-church movement.”

If that’s true, then I’m sure Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, James McDonald and many other mega-church leaders will soon be rushing to Shuller’s aid.

One year I went to the CC’s “The Glory of Christmas” show. I had an aisle seat. In the dark, during the show, a camel dressed in full Three Wise Men regalia was quietly led down the aisle, until it was standing directly behind me. I had no idea it was there. Suddenly, the animal let loose a roaring sneeze that instantly covered the back of my head and neck with a thick spray of warm camel snot. I found it exceedingly difficult to enjoy the rest of the show.

Update: here’s a photo of the actual camel who sneezed on me! Be afraid.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Linda Chimienti

    Would YOU have paid that vendor?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      I know. I was going to do at least one "It's okay with me if they don't pay the camel owners" joke, but … I like animals. Then, for a long time, I looked for a picture of one of their camels–or any camel–all dressed up in Three Wise Men garb, cuz I knew there'd be a funny caption there–but (weirdly) could find no such photo. And there you have that … behind-the-scenes bore-a-thon.

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    Yuck! I am surprised they would have live animals INSIDE the building! When I used to teach at the preschool our church ran for community and church kids, we weren't allowed to put glitter on costumes for the kids' programs…since they took place in the auditorium! But camels? Not a chance! But you might have been sneezed on by a little kid! The biggest hazard I faced were parents with video cameras, since the teachers sat on the floor directing the kids! :)

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Ha! That's a nice story. But the Crystal Cathedral isn't your everyday church. It's insanely massive.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I remember you mentioning that camel snot incident once before. So this was the offending locale, eh?

    This church feels too ostentatious for my tastes. I wonder if that is the crux of there financial woes? Are peoples views of "What Christianity should look like" changing? or did they just screw up the books. hmmm.. anyone a member there?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Did I really mention the camel sneeze before? I have no memory of it; I can't imagine how that could have worked into … anything else. Good memory on you! I went to that show sometime in the 80's, years before I was a Christian. We went with some business people my wife worked with.

      What I read is that the church hasn't really brought in any young/new members, and all of its congregation is quite elderly. So I guess that's one thing that's really hurt them. I used to sometimes watch as much as I could take of their televised "Hour of Power" Sunday service, which is still (I read) the most watched Christian show (of its kind, surely) in the world. The church's founder, mega-pastor Robert Schuller, was always the guy giving the sermon and basically MC'ing the show. I thought he was …. show-biz fluff. (Which I'm sure isn't fair.)

  • RDF

    John,

    Another interesting post! This one feels a little tricky. There are a couple of stories inside the main story – maybe a metaphor or two to be found as well. Thanks for sharing!

    RDF

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Yeah, I wanted to say something about people who preach in glass cathedrals, but it was so late, and I was sooooo tired. Just getting those links together took me forever, because I kept … being too sleepy. But, yeah, obviously things aren't going swimmingly at the ol' Crystal Cathedral. They probably spent all their money on Windex.

      • RDF

        John,

        Yeah, some of the obvious is better left unsaid. No need to pile on the CC folks when they're down financially. I'd imagine the windex bills get pretty gnarly cleaning off camel snot. Throw in an exorcism or two, a speaking in tongues festival and you've got a serious mess to clean up. It'd probably bankrupt even a Gates, Soros, or Cheney…

        Peace

        • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

          I decided not to post this story on "The Huffington Post" (where I also blog), because, as you say, why pile on?

          • RDF

            Huffpost? Sometimes you need to sacrifice being low key for pure amusement purposes. I say post it on H-post. Again, think pure entertainment value and post away!

            Good times!

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    Sad story.. the vendors not the camel :)

    The CC money issues seem to have gotten worse since the sisters and their husbands iced out Schuller junior a few years ago. Another example of church being a family business.

  • http://www.fchapel.org Sharon

    We're going to include a donkey in our Palm Sunday service at Faith Chapel this week. She will not wear regalia, sequins, a costume or such. Hopefully, we will not make the 5pm news…

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Well, if I could make one recommendation, don't let it sneeze on anyone's head.

  • http://www.fchapel.org Sharon

    Will certainly keep that in mind, John. I have many concerns that out weigh sneezing which shall remain unmentioned. Sadie, our guest donkey, cancelled a commercial shoot to attend rehearsal so I trust she is a well behaved gal.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Oh, sure, you think that now. But these animals don't care if they sneeze. They LIKE sneezing. in fact, I think they like to wait until exactly the wrong moment to do so. But that might be just me.

  • Greta Sheppard

    Totally hilarious, John…so visual it made me laugh loudly…something I've never been able to do!

    Thanks for the shove…!


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