By Amy Taxin/Associated Press writer
GARDEN GROVE (AP) –– Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show “Hour of Power,’’ filed for bankruptcy Monday in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.
In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.
The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart.
“Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever,’’ Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral’s senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters outside the worship hall decked with a soaring glass spire.
“Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception,’’ she said.
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.
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.’’
Crystal Cathedral was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. It features a soaring glass spire and is an architectural wonder and tourist destination.
The “Hour of Power’’ telecast, filmed in the cathedral’s main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.
Church leaders said the Crystal Cathedral’s Sunday services and weekly-telecast “Hour of Power’’ will continue while in bankruptcy.