Crystal Cathedral is in the news again

Their financial chief has announced his retirement, citing the church’s “money troubles” as the reason why.

Crystal Cathedral’s chief financial officer –- who received a six-figure housing allowance from the now-bankrupt church –- has retired after 33 years with the organization.

Fred Southard, 75, said he believed it was time to let someone else have a chance at his job, and that he wanted to help the ministry reduce expenses.

Maybe they should have found him a cheaper apartment 32 years ago. “Six-figure” could be any combination of numbers, too. Why didn’t he have to buy his own house? How much were they paying him to keep an eye on their finances? Maybe he should have been sacked.

Maybe I should keep reading:

Southard is one of several church employees, including family members, who have been scrutinized by the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case. The U.S. trustee questioned why Southard should be employed as the director of finance when the church also employs a full-time accountant. It also suggested that Southard should not receive a housing allowance.

Back when it was flush, it seems clear the Cathedral had no idea what to do with all its money so it wasted a lot of it.

“There is no justification whatsoever for a housing allowance of this amount,” according to documents. “Mr. Southard has failed to explain why such a housing allowance is necessary or appropriate, given this Debtor is in Chapter 11 and suffering financial difficulties.”

As one who would have seen the money troubles, I wonder why he didn’t just volunteer to give that allowance up. I doubt he needed it.

According to court documents, Southard received $132,019 out of his total $144,261 compensation in the form of a housing allowance in 2009. Southard has been with the Crystal Cathedral since 1978. He owns a home in Newport Beach assessed at $2.3 million, property records show.

When questioned,

Southard said he was not under internal pressure to retire, but rather made the decision individually.

“My feelings are very mixed,” he said of his retirement, which was first reported by the Orange County Register. “So far I don’t know how to function.”

It might be argued he didn’t know how to function as a financial officer, either. If he was supposed to monitor cash flow and do financial planning, he must have been working with his eyes closed.

Ah well, anyway. As Crystal Cathedral crumbles, there will still be those willing to try and pick up the crumbs and build a replacement. Maybe two or three. They may never be as grand and rich as Crystal once was, but they’ll still fill their collection plates on a weekly basis and provide solace to the poor masses that gave Crystal Cathedral all that money to burn in the first place.


Unrelated, but still interesting from a money mismanagement perspective – the Christian Headlines blog has some stats up about projected levels of financial fraud for 2011:

The January 2011 issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research reported that Christian religious leaders will commit an estimated $34 billion in financial fraud in 2011 while $31 billion will be spent on global missions. Researchers from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimate that Christian religious leaders will commit $90 million in financial crimes daily and the fraud is growing at a rate of 5.97% each year. If the researchers are correct, religious financial fraud among Christians will almost double in 14 years to $60 billion annually by 2025.

Not that I would ever be in a position to say leaders of Crystal Cathedral were doing any of this, obviously, but those are very big numbers, aren’t they? And all I did was quote the first paragraph. Go read the rest.

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