California's Crystal Cathedral goes bust

California's Crystal Cathedral goes bust October 19, 2010

A TOWERING monument to evangelical cheesiness, southern California’s Crystal Cathedral – birthplace of the televangelist show “Hour of Power – has spectacularly gone belly up.
The megachurch this week filed for bankruptcy after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.
In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.
The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with suppliers, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart.
Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of the church’s founder the Rev. Robert H Schuller Sr, told reporters yesterday:

Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever. Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception.

The church, founded in the mid-1950s, has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the “Hour of Power” and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church cancelled this year’s “Glory of Easter” pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.
Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.
Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church’s “Glory of Christmas” manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed.

The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, ‘You can’t tell us how to run our business’. I’m upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table.

Rev Robert Schuller, astride a powerful motorcycle, makes Devil's horns at the faithful - and gets some in return
Crystal Cathedral was founded at a drive-in theatre and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. It features a soaring glass spire and is an architectural wonder and tourist destination. The “Hour of Power” telecast, filmed in the cathedral’s main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.
Church leaders said the telecast and Sunday services will continue while in bankruptcy.
Crystal Cathedral and other megachurches have suffered from the recession and reduced charitable giving.
The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn’t slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the “Hour of Power.”
Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors’ committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.
Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.

What we’re doing now is we’re trying to walk what we preach, we’re paying cash for things as we go.

Here’s a taste of the Church’s “Hour of Power”:

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  • Broga

    The prayers not working too well on this problem then?

  • Rozi

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of narcissistic bastids.

  • Har Davids

    Greed is God, in this case!
    It’s like George Carlin said: God is all-powerful, but just can’t handle money, and neither can his representatives on Earth. I can almost hear George laughing.

  • Broadsword

    This business failed to adapt to changing times. The Schullers should have sacked their staff and worked some of the shifts themselves, or is that beneath them?
    Have they appealed for funds from their congregation as GodTV did recently, or is their flock tired of funding the gravy train? There’s the old cliché “crime doesn’t pay”, substitute “crime” with “religion”, the two are interchangable anyway.

  • Newspaniard


  • fester60613

    I guess their offerings weren’t pleasing in the sight of God?
    >Smirk< indeed!

  • Broga

    Have they been praying to the wrong god? Always a problem this as there are so many. Or are they part of the wrong section of christianity. I think these guys (they all seem to be male) need some advice. Couldn’t Ratzo and Rowan that great comedy act ( Ratzo plays the one who pushes custard pies in the face of the other) offer some advice. Or maybe one of these mullah nutters who could help them find a totally new god called Allah.
    Where is the oecumenicalism in all this?

  • Angela_K

    No doubt the leaders of this criminal gang have been duping the gullible to fund their lavish lifestyles and now the money is running out – snigger!

  • barriejohn

    We knew that this was coming. Schuller is just a showman, and the building matches him perfectly – ostentatious, flamboyant, useless, and you can see right through it. Billy Graham got into real trouble when being interviewd by Schuller on his “Hour of Power”, and is now ostracized by many of his former followers. This departure from “The Old Time Gospel” is viewed much more seriously than cohabiting with priests and prelates ever was!

  • sailor1031

    Guess they weren’t listening to Joel Osteen and the “prosperity gospel”. Shows what happens when you turn away from a real man of doG. I’ve always wondered how many birds get killed each year by that glass monstrosity

  • ZombieHunter

    So does this guy think he’s cooler than rob halford by riding on stage on a motorcycle and flashing “the horns” ??

  • Broga

    The motor cycle performance interests me. I guess what he is indicating is that although he is this transcendent messenger of god he is still just an ordinary human being in touch with modern life. He now seems to be a bankrupt transcendent messenger of god. Doesn’t do much to build confidence in his god.
    He is, of course, like the rest of his kind a showman, full of hypocrital bullshit, who makes Elmer Gantry look good.

  • mikespeir

    That’s Evel Knievel, I think, not Robert Schuller on that bike. Kneivel appeared at the church a time or two.

  • chrsbol

    The next time I eneter into some marital interaction I may ask if I can have an “Hour of power”

  • Harry

    I thought Hour of Power was from Might and Magic?

  • Think or GTFO

    That church is totally the kind of church Jesus would like.

  • Pete H

    Haha, brilliant.
    You would have thought god would have stepped in to assist them in their hour of need though. 😀

  • barriejohn

    Spot on, GTFO.
    Pete: God ALWAYS answers prayer – but sometimes the answer is “No”!

  • Graham

    Wonderful news. Praise the lord.

  • tony e

    I hate to be slightly off tack, but, with the exception of the cross on top, I think it’s a beautiful bit of architecture.

  • Broadsword

    tony e
    Yeah it is a nice building.
    I know one guy who’d probably describe it as a “monstrous carbuncle.”

  • ZombieHunter

    Come to think of it it is a pretty awesome building when it gets sold maybe all the religious junk could be taken out of it and it could be used for something cool.

  • Jenny

    OK, this makes no sense. The palace has been there since the 1950s. Aside from some maintenance, shouldn’t the facility be paid off? Given the amount of money the church garnered over the years how could the place be so deeply in debt??? Maybe the mega-churches really aren’t doing so very well and we are being scammed to believe they are. Ask questions of your church people!!!

  • Chuckl

    Maybe all of the “members” can just send a “love gift” to the creditors to pay them off. Of better yet, God could just write checks!

  • Stonyground

    I find it pretty baffling that they could run up a bill for $57,000 for the LOAN of some farm animals for nativity plays. Was Jesus born on an industrial farm complex? Here at Stonyground Towers we keep chickens, they cost fifteen pounds each (About $20) and that is if you want to keep them. Surely a Nativity play at most needs the LOAN of a couple of cows, a goat, a sheep and a few cute lambs. Most farmers around our way could lay that on for about fifty quid. Our local sink estate could probably provide you with a choice of heavily pregnant teenaged girls although you would probably have to pretend that they were virgins.

  • Jason

    Like Nelson form the Simpsons always says Ha ha now can we build something more useful there then some church.

  • With the millions of people losing their homes, even ending up on the streets, I can’t feel any pity for these charlatans. Let them get real jobs and stop being burdens on the taxpayers.

  • barriejohn

    Jenny et al: The “Crystal Cathedral” was completed in 1980 at a cost of $18 million. The “Prayer Spire” was added later. I agree that the main building is very striking externally, but internally it looks a complete mess!

  • Broadsword

    I suppose this professional xian business was run as the American equivalent of a limited company. The directors could keep paying themselves large salaries even when the company was failing. When it eventually folded it was the company that accrued the debt, not the directors. Unless they had to give personal guarantees to banks they get to walk away from this debt-free, probably as millionaires. In Britain you can get away with this and simply set up a new company unless you get get banned from being a director for a few years. In that case, sign it all over to a relative and carry-on. It stinks. In the eyes of the law they are employees of a company they happen to own and their creditors can pick up the bill.
    I own a wholesalers and if a customer gets two months behind we stop supply until they’ve paid up. If they don’t pay we ditch them and slap a solicitor’s letter on them. It may seem harsh but a failing business will keep taking credit and flogging the stuff that you’ve supplied just to keep themselves afloat. Matey promises from fly-boys just don’t cut it.
    I’m sorry to say I’ve experienced this from both sides. I’m sure the Schullers are living a comfortable life somewhere but whoever screwed up the family business will never recieve “christian” forgiveness.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a poetic new owner for that structure… *
    Seems like the kind of thing Trump would like. Or maybe Scientology.
    *(I also enjoy looking at the beautiful conversions of former churches to private homes and arts studio spaces).

  • Thoreau

    Keep well away from anything involving ‘positive thinking’. Hiding from life’s less than wonderful bits only stores up worse problems for later. If it sounds too good to be true it is. They’re selling a lie and there’s a lot of people buying. It’s basically religion stripped down to the fundamentals.
    It’s just classic working a crowd, get them fired up and fleece them.

  • Russell W

    People in glass houses..

  • barriejohn

    Thoreau is right (the blogger, I mean!). “Positive Thinking”, and similar pseudo-psychology, has done enormous harm, but made some people filthy rich. When that odious creep, and architect of positive thought, Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Making Money) died, Billy Graham gave him an effusive epitaph, and also said of the man while he was alive: I don’t know of anyone who has done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me; though he was prone to say similar things about almost anybody, of course! I thought that Protestant ministers were supposed to be preaching the Gospel of Salvation through Faith in the Blood of Christ, but what do I know?

  • Ex Patriot

    It couldn’t have happened to better bunch of thieves. I only hope many more of these so called churches go belly up and die a painfull death

  • Steve Ride

    Ah, don’t worry the Shullers will be ok.,9171,965155-7,00.html
    Schuller looks out for the interests of his family: eight members are on the payroll. Among them is his wife Arvella, who is executive program director of the Hour of Power; she is secretary of the 20-member Robert Schuller Ministries board. Her salary: $50,000. Schuller gets a salary of $80,000 and tax-exempt housing allowances of $43,500. The couple owns one home and three condos, and the ministry has extensive real estate holdings. Schuller draws no royalties from books and tapes sold by his ministry, but royalties from commercial book sales have garnered him some $2 million in the past 25 years.
    Read more:,9171,965155-7,00.html#ixzz13CeeE800

  • Broadsword

    @Steve Ride
    Thanks for your link. It helps me to separate the businessmen from, it appears, one genuine religiot.

  • ine

    Looks like they got caught with their pants down. they should use the personal millions they scammed from the people to pay off the vendors who need to support their families and not lose their businesses because of the crooks at the Crystal Palace.
    Typical religious fake whores that they are.

  • ine

    To Broadsword
    Get real. There are no “genuine” religious orders. All scams from the beginning of time to keep people down. All for the big bucks, power and in the “name of God.” BS

  • ine

    All those fools who give money to churches thinking they can buy their way into heaven, at the same time making the pastors and their families richer than anyone else, are stupid.

  • FIRST OF ALL, that is NOT ROBERT SCHULLER on the motorcycle (could be evil knievel before he died simply waving…not “devils horns”…knievel came to Christ b/f he died & wouldn’t have been at the crystal cathedral if he wouldn’t be a witness to the Christian faith). SECOND, bankruptcy is NOT the end of the road for most organizations, & won’t be for the Crystal Cathedral either. Its a legal action done for various reasons, in this case, to postpone payment to vendors because they don’t have it “in their pocket” at the moment. THIRD, the Crystal Cathedral IS PAID OFF, but the new hospitality center may not be. FOURTH, some unexpected debt was accrued b/c of the FAILED attempt at “GLORY of CREATION”. FIFTH, some vendors may have over-charged b/c they figured the “filthy rich Cathedral” could afford it (did the animal supplier overcharge? But if not, & she is truly being evicted from her own home b/c she can’t pay the bills, then the Crystal Cathedral should take care of her first (maybe a special offering ?) …the problem is not knowing whether she is “posturing” for the media (is she really losing her home or just saying so to try to get first “dibs” at any payments the Cathedral is able to make.) SIXTH, is it FAIR for the entire immediate Schuller family to receive a Cathedral salary of 50,000 to $100,000 ? Or is it one person (Rev. R. H. Schuller) sharing his own personal salary with his family (1 million divided by 8 to 10 family members?). If so, Is it fair to take a million per year? The question of how much being in the “public eye” is worth? Or how much it costs ? You have to adjust your life & sometimes that costs more than it does simply being an “average Joe.” Sometimes its not even a privilege or honor or joy…sometimes its a burden. & sometimes the family has to pay the price of their dad’s “fame” b/c of “Joe sixpack” who sits around & nitpicks the people in front of the camera & their kids too. Imagine the bully talking (gossping) about “Schuller’s son” in 8th grade (“he thinks he’s so holy”). Those things have an intangible pricetag. Fame isn’t always so glamorous & sometimes the extra money is spent simply staying alive & away from the people who are more than willing to sue you just b/c they think you’re “rich.” Remember when Rev. Schuller was accused of “assaulting” an airline stewardess? Do you really think that’s true? Doesn’t matter, she was the one who ended up “twisting his arm” for money, wasn’t it? & she got it? Does that sound fun for Schuller & family? At most, he tried to calm her down by lightly touching her on the shoulder & she cried bloody murder. C’mon folks, those of you who like to point fingers. Take the log out of your own eyes first.