[UPDATED with Creditor Blowback:] New Bidder for Crystal Cathedral: Crystal Cathedral

UPDATE, AUG. 11, 12:22 P.M.: Crystal Cathedral's former chief financial officer, Fred Southard, strolled into a recent bankruptcy hearing in federal court in Santa Ana and shook his head. It just won't work, he commented to assembled reporters about the Robert H. Schuller family plan to turn to congregants for the $50 million needed to save the iconic glass mega-church in Garden Grove.

Of course, Southard's opinion does not count. Those of Crystal Cathedral's creditors do and, unfortunately for the Schullers, they are saying the same thing as Southard. They've even put it in writing.

We first told you about Southard in November, before he resigned amid questions from the U.S. Trustee in the bankruptcy proceedings about the part-time CFO's $132,019 housing allowance on top of his $12,000 in yearly salary. And there was his son-in-law receiving $61,955 in pay and benefits—of which $59,202 was a tax-exempt housing allowance—for being a part-time pastor with the ministry.

Southard's reasoning makes perfect sense: if the Schullers can get $50 million from church members now, why didn't they do it before, when they were missing payments to their creditors, including their property's mortgage holder? Perhaps Pastor Bob should pull an Oral Roberts and tell followers God will take him unless congregants dig deep for $50 million and change by a date certain.

Creditors aren't waiting for such a miracle. They've informed the Schullers via a plan submitted in court this week that Crystal Cathedral will indeed be sold for at least $50 million. If the family cooperates, the plan stipulates that they will be able to lease the property from whoever buys it. If the family does not cooperate, creditors will step up threats to sue family members for continuing to take payments despite owing millions to others. Surely there's a sin about that somewhere in a certain book.

Finding a buyer won't be difficult as churches, Chapman University and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange have all submitted offers to purchase Crystal Cathedral. Indeed, the Diocese just upped its offer to $53.6 million. A self-proclaimed billionaire in Little Saigon floated a $99 million offer, although no one is sure he has more than faith in his pockets.

ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 1, 2:51 P.M.: During ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, after it was revealed Crystal Cathedral owes $46 million in mortgage payments for its Garden Grove crown jewel, the house that Robert H. Schuller built fielded offers of $47 million from Chapman University and a Newport Beach developer and $50 million from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and a Norco church for the glass castle of worship.

Now, a new bidder has emerged: Crystal Cathedral.

The stunning development comes from a place one expects stunning developments on bankruptcies to come from these days: a Sunday church sermon. Only this concerned a financial, not moral, bankruptcy.

Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman disclosed that Crystal Cathedral is not for sale, that a plan will go before the bankruptcy board to allow Crystal Cathedral Ministries to raise $50 million over four years to keep the joint.

For those without a scorecard, Coleman is the daughter of founding pastor Robert H. Schuller, who took over as the face of the Sunday Hour of Power broadcasts after her brother, Robert A. Schuller, was canceled due to low ratings. The founder's only son was also perceived to have diminished daddy's power, something sis Coleman reinstated, and then removed again in a recent executive-board coup. Once the smoke cleared, Papa Smurfller remained a non-voting mumbler on the panel.

Three days before Coleman's Sunday-morning announcement, the board had voted against selling, prompting her father to remark (via the Los Angeles Times), "It's time to focus on rescue, not abandonment. It's time to face our mountain."

Of debt?


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