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Crystal Cathedral bids with judge in Orange County

By Paul Anderson

City News Service

A federal bankruptcy judge on Monday was considering two competing plans to acquire the debt-ridden Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.

Even U.S. District Judge Robert Kwan acknowledged in court Monday morning that the bankruptcy hearing to confirm the mega-church’s property has become a unique sort of auction, with the Orange County Roman Catholic Diocese upping

its offer over the weekend.

Crystal Cathedral Ministry’s board members have designated Chapman University as the “preferred buyer,’' mostly based on the terms of its offer that would allow the debt-plagued church a chance to buy back its cathedral and maintain control over its cemetery.

The Diocese increased its $53.6 million offer to $55.4 million last week, but then, over the weekend, boosted it again to $57.5 million. Diocese officials wanted to make sure the offer covered all projected debt, including a $300,000 annual annuity to the Crystal Cathedral’s founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, and his wife.

Financial expert Michael Vanderley testified this morning that Chapman’s $51.5 million bid does not cover all of the extra claims from Schuller, his daughters, including Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, and others within 120 days of the closing of the deal, which could come today as Kwan intends.

Crystal Cathedral’s founder objects to Chapman’s bid, one of his attorneys Carl Grumer told Kwan.

Outstanding claims, beyond the already documented $51.7 million in debt, from Schuller, his wife, their daughters and others could reach as high as $7.9 million, according to Grumer.

When Kwan asked if the senior Schuller would object if Chapman offered as much as the Diocese, Grumer assured him he would not.

One issue that may have to be settled through more litigation is intellectual property claims to the Hour of Power’’ programs and Schuller’s sermons.

The university wants to use the property to expand its medical and pharmaceutical schools. The Diocese wants the property for a new cathedral of its own.

Chapman has provisions in its offer that would allow the Crystal Cathedral to rent some of the property for up to 15 years with an option to buy back some of it.

The Diocese would allow the Crystal Cathedral to continue renting, but after three years it would be relocated to one of the Diocese’s parishes in Garden Grove.

Also, the Diocese plans to take over the Garden of Memories cemetery. Chapman would let Crystal Cathedral continue overseeing the cemetery