By no surprise, Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy

It’s not a surprise to me that Crystal Catherdral is still having money problems. It was too big, family infighting was tearing it apart and the whole church market is glutted anyway and fighting for scraps.

The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the “Hour of Power” and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year’s “Glory of Easter” pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.

I wrote about that.

Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.

Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church’s “Glory of Christmas” manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed.

“The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, ‘You can’t tell us how to run our business,”‘ Oliver said.

“I’m upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table.”

They ran the place into the ground. They made a lot of bad decisions, not the least of which must have been pretending everything was hunky-dory and going full speed ahead on expensive church activities even when it was getting obvious that money would be a problem. Seriously, $57,000 for animals? Here’s what they advertise having on display for their 2009 Christmas event:

sheep, goats, camels, horses, a yak, a llama, a baby water buffalo

At which point I see why the cost is astronomical. A water buffalo? Really? What the hell does that have to do with Jesus? I wonder how many Australians actually paid to attend that. Wasting money makes Baby Jesus cry, you know…

The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn’t slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the “Hour of Power.”

Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors’ committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.

Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.

What we’re doing now is we’re trying to walk what we preach, we’re paying cash for things as we go,” he said.

Better to try that before you’re millions in debt, but whatever. Now they’ll walk what they preach. They were hypocrites before but now they really know how their parishioners feel about being asked to give more than they can realistically afford. I hope all the vendors who rely on that money for their own bills can get most of it back. I hope the people who rely on that monstrosity for work don’t find themselves out of a job at a time when finding a new one might be quite hard. And I hope Schuller and company learn from this and change they way they think and operate or shut down all together.

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