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Crystal Cathedral congregants ‘devastated’ by church sale

Some congregants at Crystal Cathedral said they felt blindsided by the church board after it threw its weight behind a bid from the Catholic Church –- an offer that effectively boots them from their landmark site in Garden Grove.

The ruling by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kwan to allow the sale of Crystal Cathedral to the Diocese of Orange was met with tears.

"I only have one word to say and that's 'devastated,' " said the Rev. James Richards, who has volunteered at the Crystal Cathedral for 10 years. He said congregants want to continue to worship in their church.

MAP: Crystal Cathedral and Chapman University

Congregant Bob Canfield said he felt "thrown under the bus."

Under terms of the $57.5-million bid, the diocese will let the church lease back core buildings for three years. After that, it must move. The diocese plans to consecrate the church as a Catholic cathedral.

The judge may have weighed a statement from Crystal Cathedral's founder, Rev. Robert H. Schuller.

He gave his blessing to the Diocese of Orange. In a letter to the court, the 85-year-old minister said Catholic leaders assured him they would "take on your calling of proclaiming Christ's message to humanity" and "care for this campus like the treasure it is."

Chapman University, which had bid $59 million, planned to use it as a satellite campus –- but would have allowed the church to continue holding services there.

The church has been in a downward slide for years, culminating in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October 2010, when it cited more than $50 million in debt.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz, Ruben Vives and Mitchell Landsberg

 
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