Cathedral to Become Part of Schuller Ministries : Action to Guarantee 'Future Security' Under 'Lease Renewable in Perpetuity'

Times Staff Writer

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, now owned by its congregation, is being given free of charge to the Rev. Robert Schuller's independent TV ministry in a move Schuller described Thursday as an attempt at "safeguarding and securing the beautiful church property."

Ownership of the church complex, estimated to be worth $18 million to $32 million, will be transferred to Robert Schuller Ministries Inc. within the next few months, church officials said. Schuller Ministries then will give the congregation a renewable 99-year lease that for $1 a year allows the congregation to continue to use the property, church officials said.

Repayment of the $5-million mortgage on the property will remain the congregation's responsibility, the officials said.

Schuller founded the Garden Grove Community Church in 1955 and later created Schuller Ministries to produce the "Hour of Power" television show, which is broadcast internationally.

Independent Boards

Schuller still heads both organizations. Each has its own, independent board of directors, although some directors serve on both boards. The church's 10,000-member congregation is part of the Reformed Church in America, but Schuller Ministries is not.

According to one church board member, Schuller Ministries needs the Crystal Cathedral properties as collateral for loans for its latest project, a $20-million training center for ministers to be built beside current church property.

But in a statement issued by his public relations spokesman, Schuller said the transfer of property puts the cathedral under the "umbrella" of Schuller Ministries, which has formed an endowment committee to raise funds "to guarantee the future security" of the cathedral and other ministries properties.

"The CC congregation will always have use of the property, which is guaranteed by a 99-year lease renewable in perpetuity," Schuller said in his statement. "This is a move to assure these properties will not decay or deteriorate in the decades and centuries to come and will help lift the financial burden from the local congregation of responsibility for the future upkeep of all of the properties."

$1.4-Million Deficit

The congregation ran an estimated $1.4-million operating deficit last year, according to John Joseph, one of the congregation board members.

He said, however, that the congregation now is "running in the black."

Joseph said the vote by the church board of directors was taken last fall and was unanimous. No public announcement of the decision was made, however, and the officials at the denomination's headquarters in New York this week said they had only then learned of the decision.

The congregation's consent was not required for the transfer. The congregation's board of directors--10 members plus Schuller and his assistant pastor--are not elected by the congregation. Bylaws limit individual board members to two, three-year terms, but when vacancies occur, the remaining board members elect the new members.

'Dangerous Precedent'

Wayne Antworth, the denomination's national communications director, told the Associated Press that he thinks the transfer of church property to any group not a part of the Reformed Church "sets a dangerous precedent."

If the cathedral went bankrupt, the Reformed Church normally would take over the property, Antworth said. That won't necessarily happen after it becomes the property of Robert Schuller Ministries, he said.

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