Today’s New York Times reports on the genuine possibility that the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, may be purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. If this $50 million purchase were to do through, it would lead to the “conversion” of the most prominent Protestant church icon in Southern California.
The reason behind the possible sale is the bankruptcy of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, this ministry, which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, has seen hard times. Family squabbles have weakened the ministry. The changing demographic of Orange County has led to an unforeseen situation, in which the Spanish-language services at the church are better attended than the English-language services. For these and other reasons, Crystal Cathedral Ministries has suffered financial hardship, and is now $46 million in debt. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.
The sale to the Catholic diocese is not a foregone conclusion, however. Nearby Chapman University has matched the diocesan bid of $50 million. Chapman wants to use the property for a health sciences satellite campus.
I’m a fan of Chapman University, but, at the moment, I lean in the direction of the Diocese of Orange. I hope that this campus, including the famed Crystal Cathedral, might continue to be used as a place of worship, discipleship, and mission.