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Crystal Cathedral's December donations plunge 68%

March 6, 2012 |  8:20 am

Crystal Cathedral

The struggling Crystal Cathedral has seen a dramatic decrease in donations, worsening the ministry's financial woes.

Donations dropped during its traditionally best month for giving. In December 2010, Crystal Cathedral Ministries collected $7.3 million. According to court records, that number dropped by 68% in December 2011, to $2.3 million.

The fall in donations is one reason vendors are worried about whether they will be paid back.

Vendors, some of whom have been waiting for years to be paid after Crystal Cathedral Ministries fell into bankruptcy, could see further delays because of a financial dispute involving the church's founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, and some family members.

Schuller; his wife, Arvella; daughter Carol Schuller Milner; and her husband, Timothy Milner, have filed a number of claims in Bankruptcy Court alleging that the church owes them money for copyright infringement, intellectual property rights violations and unpaid contracts.

Those claims are delaying $12.5 million in payments to some creditors. Making those payments, combined with a steep decline in donations, mean the church could be left with virtually no money for its ministries, including the "Hour of Power" broadcasts, said Nanette Sanders, attorney for the creditors.

"They are basically holding the case hostage," she said, referring to the family's claims.

The church was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in February for $57.5 million. Payment to creditors was expected this spring, but because some claims are for unknown amounts and the Milners and Schullers have not agreed to set a payment reserve, vendors cannot be paid until those amounts are determined by the court, Sanders said.

"If these claims are allowed in the amounts that they are asserting, there would be nothing left for the ministry and the vendors would not be paid in full," she said.

Another blow came Monday afternoon, when it was announced that the church's thriving Spanish-language ministry, headed by the popular Rev. Dante Gebel, would be moving to the Anaheim Convention Center next month. "We knew sooner or later that we would need to relocate to a larger location," Gebel said in a statement.

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Photo: Claims in Bankruptcy Court by the Crystal Cathedral Ministries' founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, and his family are delaying $12.5 million in payments to vendors. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

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