Campus Crusade for Christ, one of the most influential evangelical organizations in the United States, announced Wednesday that it will move from its mountain headquarters near San Bernardino to Orlando, Fla., primarily because of rising housing costs in California.
The relocation from Arrowhead Springs is not expected for another two years, officials said. However, the action will remove from Southern California a $150-million-a-year worldwide evangelistic body headed by a layman with a strong voice in conservative Protestant circles.
Founder-President Bill Bright, who expanded Campus Crusade's goals well beyond its collegiate beginnings on the UCLA campus in 1951, was usually satisfied to avoid the limelight. But Bright was at the forefront of the evangelical Christian protest in the summer of 1988 against the film "The Last Temptation of Christ," which was denounced as "blasphemous" before its release.
Bright offered to raise millions of dollars to cover the costs to MCA Corp., the parent company of Universal Pictures, if the film's negatives were turned over to him to be destroyed. MCA officials declined, citing the right of free expression.
Don Beehler, communications director for Campus Crusade, said Wednesday that the organization decided more than a year ago to search for new headquarters in light of escalating living costs.
"Our staff people have moderate incomes," Beehler said, referring to 750 employees at Arrowhead Springs.
At a luncheon in Orlando with about 500 community leaders in June, Bright was offered financial support and a choice of properties to accommodate a $20-million to $30-million complex that would include a training center.
Campus Crusade's ties to Southern California may have been loosened in 1986 when San Diego voters approved a slow-growth ballot proposition that stopped the evangelistic organization from building a 1,000-acre university and 750-acre industrial park, part of a project called La Jolla Valley. The San Diego City Council had approved the project in 1984.
Bright, 67, was an independent businessman from Oklahoma when he and his wife, Vonette, began converting and organizing campus leaders in the 1950s. He raised $2 million in 1962 to purchase a one-time resort hotel at Arrowhead Springs, and his organization began to spawn a variety of ministries, including Athletes in Action.
By the 1970s, Campus Crusade had entered into mass evangelism, attracting 80,000 people to a Dallas rally in 1972 and 1.1 million to a rally in Seoul, South Korea, two years later. A $1-million U.S. evangelistic campaign in 1976 featured ads and bumper stickers saying "I Found It!"
As the religious right flexed its political muscles in 1980, Bright co-chaired a massive "Back to God" rally in Washington with television evangelist Pat Robertson.
But much of Bright's effort in recent years has gone into a campaign to take the gospel to all parts of the world by the year 2000, principally through a film about Jesus that follows the Gospel of Luke literally and has been dubbed into dozens of languages.