By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
The Crystal Cathedral is in some deep water and having a hard time parting it. Faced with a $55 million deficit, the Garden Grove megachurch has been unable to pay many of its musicians and vendors.
Recently, the church sold its retreat center in San Juan Capistrano to Saddleback Church, another mega church located in Mission Viejo and headed by Rick Warren. The amount for which the retreat was sold has not been mentioned.
Whether or not the Crystal Cathedral will be able to begin a payback of its vendors and musicians remains to be seen.
Bill Kilpatrick, 55, of Carlsbad has been a guitar player for the “Hour of Power” for the last six years.
“The lapse in payment for me by the Crystal Cathedral dates from the Dec. 13, 2009 service through the Dec. 24, 2009 service; different players have different ‘lapse in payment’ amounts, depending on the number of services they played between Dec.13, 2009 and the present. I also helped with some of the music arranging, which is a part of the payment I am owed,” said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick said that he has never filed a lawsuit before, and feels terribly that his first involves a church that he has had a previously good relationship with.
“I really felt that I was making an important contribution to the Crystal Cathedral ministry by sharing music that the congregants were obviously moved by week after week; they saw us as ‘their orchestra’, and let us know often how much the music meant to them,” said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick added, “Travelers from around the world would visit the Cathedral, enjoying the chance to see ‘their Pastor’ and ‘their orchestra’ and ‘their choir’. It was a very good feeling to be a part of that, and I am sorry that it has ended.”
Kilpatrick thinks it is sad that the cathedral has seen its finances go south like this, however it has not deterred him and others from seeking what is due to them.
Don French, the principle synthesizer/keyboardist for the cathedral for the last four years has also filed a suit. He is currently owed $3,718 from the cathedral.
“I and the entire rhythm section decided to withhold our services from any further association with the cathedral until such time that they could/would become current in what they owed us. Furthermore, and even more so the primary reason why we left, was the attitude of the Crystal Cathedral regarding the orchestra, technical crews and production staff,” said French.
French said his experiences with the Cathedral in this matter have been one of ignorance and arrogance on their part when anyone inquired as to how and when they would be taking care of what they owed their employees.
French said that at one point in 2009, the cathedral was four months behind on any payments to these individual professionals and, at present, they are now again over four months past due.
“They have been firing and demoting without warning many of the top professionals in these areas, and replacing them with Shuller family members with little or no experience in these areas,” said French, “Subsequently, the quality of nearly every aspect of their production has taken a decidedly immense turn for the worse.”
Kilpatrick said that there has not been significant response to the requests for payment.
“As to what kind of treatment I’ve been met with, I guess the best description would be ‘non-response,’ which is what finally led me to file a Small Claims action. We in the orchestra asked repeatedly to be paid, and waited patiently for them to do so,” said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick added, “Roughly two and a half months ago, we received payment for the Dec. 6, 2009 services, giving me hope that they would follow through with regular payments to clear their debt. Once again, I held off on filing, based on the December 6th, 2009 payment. When it became apparent that there would be no more payments coming, I filed my small claims action on April 22, 2010.”
The amount of Kilpatrick’s suit is for $1,155 for musical work over the course of five Sunday services, as well as for the takedown and clean up work that accompanied it. Kilpatrick had his Small Claims hearing Monday morning in Westminster. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Kilpatrick. The cathedral did not send a representative, so there was no opposing argument by the defendant. A notice of the judgment will be sent to Kilpatrick via mail in about four weeks.
Representatives for the Crystal Cathedral could not be reached for comment.