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Crystal Cathedral’s Schuller Coleman heads to movie theater

March 19, 2012 |  8:27 am

Former Crystal Cathedral parishioners at movie theater
About 57 years after Robert H. Schuller opened what would become the Crystal Cathedral megachurch at a drive-in, his daughter opened her new church on Sunday at an Orange movie theater.

About 200 congregants filled about half of Theater 15 at the AMC at the Outlets of Orange shopping center – the latest twist in Crystal Cathedral's bankruptcy and the messy divorce of the ministry and its founding family.

"Today is a birth day," Sheila Schuller Coleman told her new congregation at Hope Center of Christ. "We're birthing something new, and it brings up so many memories.... This is a much bigger crowd than Dad had."

"We are going to learn how to be a strong church," said Schuller Coleman, who was 4 when her father started his famous ministry. "We're not about a church building. We are about building a church."

Hope Center for Christ, she said, was starting literally from scratch. No money. No permanent home. A donor ponied up the $835 rental cost for Theater 15, she said.

She told the congregants that the church is in the process of getting its federal nonprofit status.

Popcorn tubs were passed around, and people stuffed them with checks and cash.

One congregant said the service went to the heart of what a church is about.

"You have to decide what's more important — the people or the edifice," said David Lewis, 69, who followed Schuller Coleman from the Crystal Cathedral, where she announced March 11 that she was leaving the ministry. The pastor's announcement came one day after her parents resigned from the Crystal Cathedral board.

Earlier this year, the church's bankruptcy led to the sale of the cathedral to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. The Schuller family has been battling the church's board and its creditors committee over claims of unpaid money for contracts and copyright infringement.

The service ended after about 90 minutes. Theater 15 needed to be cleared by 11 a.m., she said. The comedy "21 Jump Street" was showing at 11:45.


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-- Mike Anton in Orange

Photo: Former Crystal Cathedral parishioners attend Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman's new church, which met Sunday at a movie theater in Orange. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times