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Diocese of Orange to buy Crystal Cathedral

In an 11th-hour turnaround, the Ministry’s board selects the Diocese over Chapman University.

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: November 18, 2011 09:45 AM

Late yesterday, the Crystal Cathedral Board of Directors voted to accept the Diocese of Orange’s bid to purchase the landmark Garden Grove property. On two separate occasions, the bankruptcy court’s creditor’s committee had previously endorsed bids from Chapman University as being acceptable to cover the church’s debt.

Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kwan issued the ruling last evening, giving the local Diocese, the tenth largest in the nation, a soon-to-be place to call home for the price of $57.5 million. Under the terms of the deal, the Crystal Cathedral Ministry will have the opportunity to lease the main buildings on the campus, including the cathedral, for three years. After that time, the Ministry will have to move to another location, possibly one of the Catholic churches nearby. The Diocese has offered to facilitate a purchase.

According to a statement from the Diocese, a plan to design and build a Catholic cathedral to serve the local congregation had been in place for some time. Advised by a panel of lay advisors and experts, the Diocese joined the bid process for the Crystal Cathedral property––purchasing the campus as a worship space would meet the congregation’s needs in a shorter time frame.

“We sincerely regret the difficult circumstances Dr. Schuller and his ministry have encountered. Those challenges have now enabled the Diocese of Orange to protect this wonderful structure as a place of worship and will soon provide our Catholic community with a new cathedral, pastoral center, parish school and more,” said Bishop Tod D. Brown. “Despite these wonderful results, we are nonetheless saddened by the events that led us to today’s award and offer our respect to Dr. Schuller and his ministry.”

According to the O.C. Register, Brown said the Diocese plans to renovate the interior of the cathedral to accommodate Catholic services, but has no intention of changing the exterior of the building.

Local reports indicate that the last-minute reversal by the Church's board favoring the Diocese over Chapman involved uncertainty over the future uses that the campus would be put to. Chapman University had said that it would use the property to expand the school’s health sciences or pharmacy programs, and that the cathedral could be used as an auditorium––all secular uses. The Orange County Register quoted a statement from Crystal Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller supporting the Diocese’s purchase of the campus.

"My wife and I, prior to Monday's hearing, had already decided to support the diocese's offer to purchase the Crystal Cathedral campus,” the statement said. “Though we deeply respect Chapman University, the uncertainly [sic] regarding the future use of the campus for religious purposes was divergent to the call of both God and our denomination that we embraced 60 years ago."

Senior Pastor Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman stated that the Ministry voted on the Catholic Church out of necessity.

"Escrow takes time to close. Nothing is final until the escrow closes,” Dr. Schuller Coleman said. “Although this decision breaks my heart, I still believe there is still plenty of time for God to do His miracle. It is His church. It is His fight. We know who wins!"

The Ministry’s statement also acknowledged its “sincere appreciation” for Chapman University for putting forward many alternative proposals, “some of which were more monetarily advantageous but would, in the end, convert the campus to an educational institution rather than keeping it a place of worship, in perpetuity.”

Chapman University released a statement expressing its disappointment in the outcome, but said that the ruling does not change the University’s plans to expand its programs in health sciences.

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