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Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy amid mounting debts [Updated]

October 18, 2010 |  2:06 pm


Faced with mounting debts and decreasing donations, the Crystal Cathedral announced today it was filing for bankruptcy protection.

The move came as the Garden Grove church was struggling to pay its bills. “Budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession,” Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a statement released by the church.

The church plans a press conference at 3 p.m., according to church spokesman John Charles.

The famed mega-church has suffered from financial troubles in the last year.

In January, the Crystal Cathedral announced it was laying off 50 workers and selling surplus property because of a precipitous drop in contributions.

The 7,000-member church also has canceled its "Glory of Easter" pageant, a popular reenactment of the life and death of Jesus Christ, which sold tens of thousands of tickets each year.

The church, founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller more than 50 years ago, lost members in the wake of a family feud after he retired. His son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, succeeded his father, but stepped down in 2008 after disagreements. His sister, is now the church's leader.

As of January, officials said church's revenue sank 27% from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009.

[Updated at 2 p.m.: In her statement, Sheila Schuller Coleman said services and programs at the church will continue, including various ministries and the "Hour of Power" television program.

"Challenging situations are nothing new to our 55-year Ministry," Coleman said in the statement. "Many people said we’d fail when we started our church in a drive-in theater. But look how successful that was! Many said we'd fail in 1970 when we made the commitment to televise our first worship service in Los Angeles and then New York … but look how far we've come! In 1977, countless persons predicted that our plans to build a 2,800-seat all-glass church in earthquake-prone Southern California would never get off the ground, but we have made history. We've always believed in a big God … a God Who is greater than any problem or challenge we could ever face."

She said the bankruptcy declaration "is just one more chapter in the book that He is continuing to write -- and we know that God's plans are good -- we have no doubt His chapter will be good!"]

--Shelby Grad

Photo: The Crystal Cathedral complex. Credit: Los Angeles Times