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Chapman University May Pay Off $50M Debt In Crystal Cathedral Bid

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SANTA ANA (CBS) — A judge may soon determine whether Crystal Cathedral Ministry has pulled off a miracle in securing a buyer for the debt-saddled mega-church in Garden Grove.

Board members reportedly have picked Chapman University as their preferred buyer to pay off the $50 million they owe creditors, but through August and September the church has only raised about $172,000.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kwan has the final say and will hold a hearing Nov. 14 to decide. Chapman University in Orange and the Orange County Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange were in the lead, because their bids promised the highest amount of cash, $50 million.

“Nothing is final until Nov. 14,” Crystal Cathedral’s Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said.

“We continue to pray, believe and stand behind our `Jeremiah 29:11 plan,’ which we submitted to the court,” Coleman added, referring to a Biblical quote about God’s plans.

Chapman University has tentative plans to expand with medical and pharmaceutical schools on the property, said Mary Platt of Chapman.

Attorney Marc Winthrop, who represents Crystal Cathedral, said church officials were allowed to make the pick if they cooperated with the creditors’
committee.

Although the Diocese and Chapman offered the same amount of money for the property, the main difference was the ability of Crystal Cathedral officials to buy back and lease the property, Winthrop said.

Crystal Cathedral would have five years to buy back half of the property for $23 million, Platt said. However, Winthrop said it was closer to $30 million.

Chapman’s offer also allows for Crystal Cathedral to rent some of the property for up to 15 years, Winthrop said.

Attorney Alan Martin, who represents the Diocese, said his client’s offer amounts to $53.6 million, because it includes giving Crystal Cathedral $3 million to use for renting some of the property and remain on campus, or to rent at a low cost some of the Diocese’s property at parishes off the Garden Grove campus.

Crystal Cathedral officials would also have the option of using the $3 million for some other purpose, Martin said.

Rev. Robert H. Schuller founded the Crystal Cathedral in 1955, but it fell on hard times in 2008 when the economy collapsed.

Bob Canfield, a member of the church, said at a court hearing last month that in-fighting among Schuller’s daughters, who have taken over the church since their father retired, is to blame for the congregation’s misfortunes.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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