SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge in California has approved the sale of the Crystal Cathedral to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange to help the financially struggling church emerge from bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert N. Kwan approved the $57.5 million sale at a hearing in Santa Ana. The decision came after a
bidding war between the diocese and Orange County's Chapman
University for the 40-acre property in Garden Grove.
The diocese plans to use the site for a countywide cathedral, which means Crystal Cathedral congregants will need to eventually
move to a new location. Except for some office space and classrooms, the ministry will be allowed access to the campus for
Some Crystal Cathedral members fear their church will dwindle. They noted that congregants emptied their pockets to help build the elaborate building and many planned to be buried in the nearby
cemetery. Others fear the `Hour of Power" broadcast that funds 70
percent of the church's revenue will lose viewers if it originates from a less striking setting. For many congregants at the Crystal Cathedral, the church building designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson -- and made up of 10,000 panes of glass -- has become intertwined with the church's identity.
Rev. Robert H. Schuller started the Southern California ministry as a drive-in church in the 1950s under the auspices of the Reformed Church in America. Decades later, the church evolved into an international televangelism empire and erected its now-famous
In 2008, the church's revenues plummeted amid a decline in donations and ticket sales for holiday pageants due to the recession. But some experts say the church failed to attract younger members while alienating older churchgoers with an ill-fated attempt to turn the church over to Schuller's son, ending in a bitter and public family feud. The church was forced to lay off employees and cut salaries, but its debts surpassed $43 million, prompting it to declare bankruptcy last year.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)