Crystal Cathedral Megachurch Files for Bankruptcy

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The hard economic times have claimed one of the country's first megachurches. The Crystal Cathedral located in Garden Grove, Calif., has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Crystal Cathedral is just one among many mega churches that continue to suffer from the recession and reduced charitable giving. Charitable giving has plummeted across the nation. According to a report released Sunday, donations were down 11 percent last year. That figure is four times bigger than any drop in donations from previous years.

The Orange County-based megachurch was founded by the Rev. Robert Schuller in the mid 1950s.

It came to prominence through its "Hour of Power" television show. At one time, the weekly TV broadcast was seen by more than one million people in 156 countries.

The church decided to file for Chapter 11 after some of its creditors sued for payment. The church has more than $43 million in debt, including a $36 million mortgage, and $7.5 million owed to several hundred vendors.

Earlier this year, the church's leadership ordered major layoffs. It also cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat.

Church leaders point to the the bad economy and dwindling contributions. The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt.

"The idea is as we go through Chapter 11 we still want to find a way to pay all of our vendors back," said Jim Penner, producer of "Hour of Power." "It's not dodging anything, it's just that we need a structure to work out this payment structure."

Leaders remain optimistic the ministry will come out of these trying times.

The church has also lost membership in the wake of family feud after the elder Robert Schuller retired. Schuller's son succeeded him, but stepped down after disagreements over the TV ministry.

Schuller's daughter is now the church's senior pastor.

"Our ministry will continue as usual," said Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman. "The school will continue to be held here. Our TV services will continue to be aired and our Sunday morning services are continuing here. If anything our message and our ministry has that much more meaning now."  

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.