Debt Forces Crystal Cathedral Lay Offs

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Economic trouble has forced Crystal Cathedral, the church founded by Rev. Robert A. Schuller, to lay off members of its pastoral staff and put two properties up for sale.

Interim Senior Pastor Rev. Juan Carlos Ortiz said the ministry is deep in debt, forcing them to make the changes. He said he hopes the church will be debt-free within a year as a result.

"This is a crisis that is either going to crush us or force us into a new path," Ortiz said in a meeting with church elders Wednesday. "We have chosen the new path."

Though the church has not said how many people were laid off, local media reported Executive Pastor Jim Poit and his wife Linda, who headed the children's ministry, were among them.

A Hefty Price Tag

Crystal Cathedral, which now has more than 10,000 members, has put up big bucks for programs and productions in the past. The glass and steel sanctuary name cost more than $20 million to build in 1980. The church's annual "Glory of Christmas" and "Glory of Easter" programs have also been produced with a hefty price tag.

Debt problems and rising expenses have now set a different tone for the church.

Earlier this month, Crystal Cathedral put its four-story office building bearing Schuller's name up for sale for $34 million. Production offices and the 350-student Crystal Cathedral Academy are located in the building. The church plans to lease back the property for $2.6 million a year from whoever buys it.

Last week, the church also sold off 116 acres of its 170 acre-retreat center in San Juan Capistrano, about 30 miles south of the church's main property. San Juan Capistrano paid $10 million for the property, while the remaining acreage will continue to be used by the church for its retreat center and chapel.

Changes Within the Church

Hoping to draw more viewers to its popular "Hour of Power" television program, the church has also seen dramatic changes within its ministry.

Last October, Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, was removed from the show over of a "lack of shared vision" for the program's future. He had been the show's sole preacher for three years.

In December, Schuller's son then resigned as senior pastor of the church. Pastor Ortiz took his temporary post over the church shortly after.

On Wednesday, Ortiz told elders that he is now preparing the church for a leader not affiliated with their founder or his family. The Schullers will still play a part in the Hour of Power program, he said.

He added that the church could expect a new leader in one or two years.

Sources: The Christian Post, Orange County Register

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