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Crystal Cathedral's financial chief retires, cites church's money troubles

February 8, 2011 |  6:38 pm

Crystal Cathedral’s chief financial officer –- who received a six-figure housing allowance from the now-bankrupt church –- has retired after 33 years with the organization.

Fred Southard, 75, said he believed it was time to let someone else have a chance at his job, and that he wanted to help the ministry reduce expenses.

“The fact that the ministry is in financial trouble is a factor,” he said. “I have to do all I can.”

The Garden Grove megachurch, known for its 10,000-pane glass tower, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October, citing the downturn in the economy and a 24% drop in donations in 2009.

Southard is one of several church employees, including family members, who have been scrutinized by the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case. The U.S. trustee questioned why Southard should be employed as the director of finance when the church also employs a full-time accountant. It also suggested that Southard should not receive a housing allowance.

“There is no justification whatsoever for a housing allowance of this amount,” according to documents. “Mr. Southard has failed to explain why such a housing allowance is necessary or appropriate, given this Debtor is in Chapter 11 and suffering financial difficulties.”

According to court documents, Southard received $132,019 out of his total $144,261 compensation in the form of a housing allowance in 2009. Southard has been with the Crystal Cathedral since 1978. He owns a home in Newport Beach assessed at $2.3 million, property records show.

A church spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Southard said he was not under internal pressure to retire, but rather made the decision individually.

“My feelings are very mixed,” he said of his retirement, which was first reported by the Orange County Register. “So far I don’t know how to function.”

Southard said he was originally drawn to the church by Robert H. Schuller’s positive message. “He is such a dynamic person,” he said. “So smart.”

A hearing for the questioned compensation has been scheduled for March 16.

RELATED:

Crystal Cathedral insiders received hefty compensation

Grandson of Crystal Cathedral founder starts a laid-back church

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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