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Worship continues amid dispute at Crystal Cathedral

March 14th, 2012 - Comments Off

Crystal Cathedral Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman embraces well-wishers after services in Garden Grove, Calif., Sunday, March 11, 2012.

GARDEN GROVE, California — Despite a reported dispute between its board and its 85-year-old founder that has torn apart the storied congregation, the Crystal Cathedral which was built decades ago will keep airing its weekly “Hour of Power” television broadcast and hold services.

Although its founder, Rev. Robert H. Schuller, and his family members have been fired or have cut ties with the church, Crystal Cathedral Ministries said it will hold regular worship services on Sunday and will continue to air the television program both domestically and internationally.

In a statement Tuesday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries also said it objected to attempts by Schuller and some of his family members to collect more than $5.5 million in breach-of-contract claims and to file intellectual property claims against the church.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries is in bankruptcy and sold its landmark cathedral and 31-acre campus last month to help pay off more than $40 million in debt. The claims would leave the church with no money for operations or to pay its unsecured creditors, even with a $3.5 million settlement proposed by the Schullers, according to the statement.

Last weekend, Schuller and his 81-year-old wife Arvella, resigned abruptly from the ministry’s board because of the dispute. On Sunday, the last family member at the Crystal Cathedral – daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman – announced she was leaving to start a church with her parents’ blessing.

Schuller has been considered an innovator since he got his start preaching the “power of possibility thinking” from the roof of a Southern California drive-in movie theater concession stand in the post-World War II era. He went on to help shape the megachurch movement from his Southern California cathedral.

Scott Thumma, a professor of sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, said the public fallout between Schuller and the church he founded has tarnished Schuller’s legacy at the twilight of an otherwise important and influential career.

However, the blame for the current impasse lies with the church board and not with Schuller or his family, according to Carol Schuller Milner, a Schuller daughter who has filed a claim as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

The Schullers allege a 2005 contract with the ministry guarantees the elder couple compensation and health insurance for life, totaling more than $300,000 a year. The family also filed a claim for copyright infringement stemming from the use of Schuller’s materials for an “unknown” amount, according to papers filed in bankruptcy court.

Schuller Milner said her father’s books have been reprinted and sold online without consulting with him and that since seeking bankruptcy protection, the church has claimed ownership of her parents’ intellectual property.

Her parents remained on the ministry’s board in the hopes that their claims could be negotiated in good faith. Last week, church officials said the talks were over, she said.

“They basically slammed the iron door and said, ‘We are your adversaries,’” she said.

Meanwhile, Carl Grumer, the Schullers’ attorney, said he believes the church should have the money to honor the family’s claims.

In its statement, however, the Crystal Cathedral Ministries said its unsecured creditors cannot be paid by the bankruptcy court until the dispute with the Schullers is resolved. The church “will be praying as the legal system continues to a resolution,” the statement read.

Mfrances is a stafff writer for CatholicFavors.com where you can buy the finest in First Communion crossesFirst Holy Communion gifts for boys and girlsDolfi wood carvings, and other religious gift ideas.

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