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Diocese of Orange offers $50 million in cash for the Crystal Cathedral

July 22, 2011 |  7:10 pm

 Photo: The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange said Friday it has made a $50-million offer to buy the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral.

The cash proposal would allow the Garden Grove church to lease portions of the property for 36 months. At the end of the lease, the ministry would have to find a new location, with the help of the diocese. The lease for each building on the property would be negotiated separately.

"We wanted to be as flexible as possible given their situation," said Alan Martin, a bankruptcy attorney for the diocese.

The Crystal Cathedral, founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and the home of the weekly “Hour of Power” broadcast, filed for bankruptcy in October, citing more than $50 million in debt.

As the bankruptcy unfolds, the cathedral has received several offers for the property, which includes the glass cathedral, designed by famed architect Phillip Johnson, and a 234-foot prayer spire.

A real estate group has offered $46 million for the 40-acre site in Garden Grove, as did Chapman University. Both bids would allow the church to lease back its core buildings with the possibility of purchasing the cathedral back.

The proposal by the Catholic Church would allow creditors to be paid back in full before the end of the year and would preserve the cathedral’s cemetery.

"We think it would be as quick as a resolution as possible," Martin said.

Orange Bishop Tod Brown has said the diocese needs a worship space for the more than 1.2 million parishioners in the area and the 3,000-seat cathedral is a less expensive alternative to building a new cathedral. The diocese has considered a project in Santa Ana that would cost at least $100 million.

In recent weeks, the Catholic Church has made it clear that an offer would be solidified. On Friday, the diocese submitted formal proposals to both the Crystal Cathedral board and the creditor’s committee.
Marc Winthrop, an attorney for the cathedral, declined to comment Friday.

The diocese said it would work with the cathedral to find an "acceptable alternative worship space," possibly another Garden Grove diocese venue, upon expiration or early termination of its lease.

The Catholic Church would renovate portions of the cathedral to bring it in line with worship practices.

"It’s in their hands at this point," said Steve Bohannon, a spokesman for the Catholic Church.

A spokesman for the Crystal Cathedral could not be reached.


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Photo: The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove

Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times