SANTA ANA (AP) — A federal bankruptcy judge last week approved a plan that outlines the sale of the debt-ridden Crystal Cathedral mega-church in Garden Grove.
Unless Crystal Cathedral members can pull off their “Miracle of Faith’’ and raise the $50 million they owe creditors, then it appears the property likely will be sold to the Orange County Roman Catholic Diocese or Chapman University in Orange, because their bids promise the highest amount of cash.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kwan on Sept. 14 approved the plan proposed by the creditors’ committee that envisions the sale of the church’s property unless Crystal Cathedral members can pull off their fundraising drive.
The committee will send out copies of the plan to about 400 creditors by Sept. 24. The creditors, some of whom can vote on the plan, have until Oct. 24 to send in their ballots.
The process of counting up the votes is complicated because some creditors have more votes than others, and some of the votes carry more weight than others.
On Halloween, Kwan will hold a hearing to designate the property’s buyer, which Crystal Cathedral Ministry can select. On Nov. 14, a hearing will be held to finalize the transaction. That date amounts to a deadline for Crystal Cathedral members to head off the sale.
If some of the so-called insiders — creditors that include Crystal Cathedral officials — object to the sale, then they could open themselves up to being sued by the creditors’ committee.
The Diocese of Orange is offering to pay $53.6 million for the property. Crystal Cathedral Ministries would be allowed to rent at least 50,000 square feet on the campus for up to 15 years, with rent equal to 90 percent of fair market value. The lease option also carries a right to purchase the space at 90 percent of fair market value during the first five years of the lease.
The Diocese wants to build a new cathedral on the property.
Chapman University boosted its $47 million bid to $50 million and plans to use half the property to expand while allowing Crystal Cathedral four years to buy back half of the campus in a lease deal.
Another player could be arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, which is offering to pay $47.5 million for the property, which would be leased to Kings College for a dollar, which would then lease the property back to the ministry, according to attorney Marc Winthrop, who represents the mega-church in the bankruptcy case.
Crystal Cathedral leaders have not expressed a preference as far as buyers, Winthrop said after today’s hearing.
It’s unclear how viable Crystal Cathedral’s fundraising drive has been.
“The ministry remains hopeful they will raise the money,’’ Winthrop told Kwan. “Progress has been made, but as I stand here today I can’t tell you how much.’’
Bob Canfield, a member of the church, told the judge that he is confident the elders of the ministry can raise the money in time, but only if some of Crystal Cathedral’s leaders are ousted.
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who was in court today, founded the Crystal Cathedral in 1955, but it fell on hard times in 2008 when the economy collapsed. Canfield blamed in-fighting among Schuller’s daughters, who have taken over as their father has retired.
Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder’s daughter, is leading the fundraising drive and the church.
“We can raise the money if we can get rid of the girls, their husbands and their families,’’ Canfield said, adding Schuller also needs to return to lead the church.
“Dr. Schuller is a great man, but his kids started fighting,’’ Canfield said, adding Schuller’s daughters ousted the founder’s son, as well.
“We can do it if we can get rid of these people who are destroying our church,’’ Canfield said.
Attorney Nanette Sanders, who represents the creditors’ committee, told the judge the fundraising drive appears to be a longshot because donations are “worsening, not improving.’’
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