Schullers Crystal Cathedral Declares Bankruptcy

Worldwide mega church Crystal Cathedral Ministries, founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Sr., during the 1950s, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, Calif.

The church became an international televangelist sensation for its “Hour of Power” broadcast, and is now bogged down with more than $43 million in debt for mortgage and overdue payments to hundreds of vendors.

According to reports, the church had been attempting to work out payment plans with the vendors to which it owes more than $7.5 million. The Garden Grove-based church also owes $36 million on its mortgage.

Vendors had formed a committee in April seeking repayment from Crystal Cathedral, but agreed to cease action while negotiating a repayment plan with the church. A group of creditors moved to file lawsuits during the moratorium, and the committee decided to end the freeze and move forward with its own cases.

Despite its clear financial hurdles, the organization released a statement Monday, “The most recent financial reports for the Crystal Cathedral Ministries indicate the best cash flow the Ministry has experienced in 10 years.”

The statement said the ministry plans to continue with its Sunday services and weekly telecast “Hour of Power” as well as weekly church activities and the Crystal Cathedral Academy and High School, while it works toward paying back its debt.

The church ordered layoffs, cut the number of stations that air its famed “Hour of Power” and sold property to make ends meet, and also canceled its “Glory of Easter” pageant this year, which attracts thousands to the ministry campus.

Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor, said “We are pleased to report that the current Ministry outreach and operations will continue while we address the past due expenses that were incurred in 2009, when budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession.”

Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability based in Winchester, Va., said the ministry’s financial woes are not representative of churches in America today. The ministry is not a member of the ECFA, and Busby said he does not have access to their financial information.

“While churches have seen some modest declines in revenue and giving, most churches in America have adjusted to the realities of their budgets and have gone on,” he said. “This is not an example of church life in general in the U.S. today. Without knowing the history, I don’t know how they got to that point (of debt), but it is a significant number.”