(Investigator 141, 2011 November)

In October 2010 Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries (based  in California) filed for bankruptcy protection (U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Santa Ana) after creditors sued for payment.

The Church which has 10,000 members and is known for its television show Hour of Power had debts estimated up to $100million. Revenue declined from $30million in 2008 to $22million in 2009 but Church budgets weren’t cut proportionately. The revenue-decline is attributed to America’s recession and to Church leadership changes — Dr Schuller’s  son resigned from the Crystal Cathedral in 2008 to start a rival ministry, and Dr Schuller retired from daily oversight in 2010 and was succeeded by his daughter Sheila Coleman.

The Crystal Cathedral is a huge glass building which doubles as a television studio to broadcast Sunday services to scores of countries.

In documents filed in the Bankruptcy Court creditors alleged that all five of Dr Schuller’s children and most of their spouses were on the payroll, several doing redundant duties with overlapping job-descriptions. Dr Schuller’s daughter Gretchen Penner and her mother-in-law, for example, were "director of programming" and "programming manager". Although Crystal Cathedral employed full time accountants it also had a chief financial officer whose salary and benefits totaled $156,000 — surpassed only by Dr Schuller himself with $196,000. Several relatives  also held paid positions for which other churches would use volunteers.

To fight its debt Crystal Cathedral sold a 170-acre retreat, cut staff, and canceled its "Glory of Easter" event (a big production with camels  and  200 performers). Dr Schuller pleaded with church members — if  they  tithe to double-tithe, if they don't to start.

What started was a bidding war involving a real-estate developer, a Catholic diocese (to turn Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic cathedral), and a university.

Bankruptcy to pay 400 creditors now looms; there is 24/7 prayer for a miracle;  and everyone is thinking of Dr Schuller's slogan and 1984 book title
Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!