By Amy Taxin /Associated Press
SANTA ANA (AP) – An attorney for Garden Grove’s Crystal Cathedral told a bankruptcy court judge Wednesday that the church board has agreed to accept a proposal from either Chapman University or the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings as soon as possible.
Church attorney Marc Winthrop said the church prefers Chapman’s $51.5 million proposal, which would let the Crystal Cathedral lease part of the campus at Lewis Street and Chapman Avenue and includes a repurchase option.
Meanwhile, the Diocese said it upped its bid for the more-than-30 acre campus to $55.4 million.
A hearing was scheduled for Monday on the proposed reorganization plan that could determine who buys the church.
Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy protection last year amid rising debts, including $36 million on a mortgage.
Previously, the Crystal Cathedral had accepted only the proposal from Chapman but changed its mind after the Diocese raised its offer.
“It is very important for the ministry that it emerge from Chapter 11 as soon as possible,” Winthrop told the court during a status conference Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana.
Chapman University has proposed buying the site to increase its health service offerings, and possibly start a medical school.
The Diocese wants the property for an Orange County cathedral, and would give the Crystal Cathedral the option of purchasing a nearby church property in the future, said Alan Martin, an attorney for the Diocese.
Martin said the Diocese had also agreed to provide interfaith access to a chapel on the campus and the Crystal Cathedral’s famed glass spire _ which can be seen from miles away _ and also preserve a history of the Crystal Cathedral on site.
Several church members said they want to see the university buy the property because it will remain a Protestant campus. Some raised concerns about the future of the church’s cemetery, where loved ones are buried, if the Diocese assumes control of the property.
“We see it as the only opportunity for our Protestant faith to continue in that church,” said James Richards, a volunteer pastor for the Crystal Cathedral for the last eight years.
Diocese officials said they would maintain the cemetery for those who chose to remain there and also assist anyone who wanted their relatives’ remains to be relocated.
The Crystal Cathedral was founded in the 1950s by Rev. Robert H. Schuller as a drive-in church but eventually became an international televangelist empire known for its “Hour of Power” broadcast, which beamed into 1 million homes.
Church leaders have said the recession took its toll on church finances as donations and ticket sales for holiday pageants plunged in 2008.