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Vendors say Crystal Cathedral owes them tens of thousands of dollars

March 25, 2010 |  6:34 pm

Cathedral2

Vendors who helped produce popular Christmas and Easter pageants at the Crystal Cathedral megachurch in Garden Grove said Thursday that they are owed tens of thousands of dollars for their work.

The towering glass church, founded by Robert H. Schuller in the 1950s and home to an international ministry and the popular "Hour of Power" televangelist broadcast, has long been a symbol of success. But the church has struggled financially in the last two years, laying off workers and seeing revenues drop 27%.

Now the financial pain has spread to vendors involved with the "Glory of Easter"  and "Glory of Christmas" pageants, elaborate productions that attract thousands of spectators.

"They simply quit paying us," said Sharon Crabtree of Murrieta. "We're all astounded by this."

For 25 years, Crabtree said, she has designed props, decorated sets and provided wigs and special makeup for the productions. She said church officials have yet to provide an explanation regarding the nearly $20,000 owed to her.

"At the very least, we should have been treated with a little more respect," she said.

Church spokesman John Charles could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon. But in January, he told The Times that the ministry was battered by the recession and suffering from declining television viewership and a drop in contributions from its aging congregation.

Kristina Oliver of Hemet has provided camels, donkeys and sheep for the Christmas play for about 14 years, as did her mother for a number of years before that.

Since January, Oliver said she's been trying to collect $57,000 in back pay. "They weren't telling me what was going on," she said.

Finally, Oliver said, she received an e-mail several days ago from church officials saying that they would try to pay her sometime in the future when they reach financial stability. But vendors are not optimistic.

"It doesn't look good," Crabtree said.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Crystal Cathedral complex, including the Tower of Hope. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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