The reports out of Orange County, California have not been encouraging for the once mighty Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller founded the church and recently retired as the church’s senior pastor. In turn, the church never fully recovered from Schuller’s pastoral departure. Though he stayed on the church’s governing board, two of his children took a shot at pastoring the large church. Schuller’s son, Robert became the senior pastor and two years later resigned. Then, Sheila, daughter of the elder Schuller, became senior pastor. The church then filed for bankruptcy last year with $50 million in debt.
If this was not enough, reports of the the founder, Robert Schuller’s departure from the church’s governing board surfaced last week. However, his position on the board was moved from voting member to “honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus” in order to free him up for more speaking engagements. Ah huh.
Membership and attendance have fallen since the founding pastor’s departure. Now with the debt issue over the church’s head, a few organizations have considering buying the church. The Catholic Diocese of Orange said it was considering buying the bankrupt church and converting it to a Catholic cathedral. Chapman University bid $46 million and would allow the church to lease back its core buildings.
With all of these issues surrounding the Crystal Cathedral, the question rolls around in many minds: Can “newly” planted mega churches survive when the founding pastor leaves?