The Crystal Cathedral, the gleaming Southern California megachurch known for its "Hour of Power" television broadcast, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors.
Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in an Oct. 18 statement that the decision came after some creditors chose to file lawsuits against the ministry, Religion News Service reports.
"As is often the case, negotiations and decisions do not move fast enough to satisfy all parties," said Coleman, who succeeded her father, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, this year. "For these reasons, the ministry now finds it necessary to seek the protection of a Chapter 11."
The church's "Hour of Power" broadcast has been described as the most-watched Christian television programme worldwide. The building spans 415-feet (126.5 metres) in length, 207-feet (63 metres) in width and 128-feet (39 metres) in height. It features an all-glass covering that encloses the entire building.
Church officials cited the economy as the main cause for its financial trouble. Revenue dropped 27 percent, to about US$22 million, in 2009. In the last year, its staff was reduced by 140 and now totals about 200 people.
The church owes creditors US$7.5 million, said spokesperson John Charles, including the vendor who provided camels, sheep and horses for its annual "Glory of Christmas" pageant. Also unpaid are expenses for television equipment and bills for airtime on some television stations.
The ministry cut costs by reducing its airtime on domestic stations. It now airs on satellite and cable outlets such as Lifetime and the Trinity Network.
It also sold its Rancho Capistrano retreat property to Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in May for US$22.5 million. But it remains about US$44 million in debt.
The ministry also halted its "Glory of Easter" production, which along with its Christmas pageant have attracted crowds for three decades. "It looks like the 'Glory of Christmas' will not happen either," said Charles. "Every passing day it looks a little more like no."
Despite the current financial picture, statements from church officials reflected the same positive-thinking mantra the Schullers have been preaching for half a century.
"We know we'll recover," said Charles. "We're very optimistic. This will allow us to get a new beginning."