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Megachurch over-fleecing the flock


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Bankrupt church wants donations for pastor’s sick wife ferried in limo

Some members of a bankrupt Orange County, Calif. megachurch are expressing outrage after fielding an email request for congregants to deliver food to waiting limos so that it can ferried to the founder's sick wife. The appeal comes weeks after a lawsuit charged that the founder of the Crystal Cathedral house of worship, Rev. Robert Schuller, and his family had been paying themselves lavish salaries and other benefits while the church was in financial straits.

"They've completely depleted the church's funds," one member, Bob Canfield, told the Orange County Register. "But they have shown that they have absolutely no remorse for what they've done. They're still being chauffeured around in limos. We, the congregants, have nothing."

An email sent recently by Crystal Cathedral administrators said that Schuller and his wife, Arvella, "would appreciate meals over the next three to four weeks." It added: "They are to be sent to the church in order to be transported to Arvella. The limo drivers could pick up the dinners or meet in the Tower Lobby around 4:30 p.m."

Arvella Schuller has been suffering from pneumonia, and the email asked that the food be low in sodium and include items such as fruit, meat, soup and eggs.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy last month. A lawsuit filed by creditors alleges that the Schullers borrowed more than $10 million from the church's endowment fund, and used it for salaries and regular church expenses.

"R.H. Schuller used his control and influence to cause the [cathedral] to enter into the agreements that benefitted himself and his family, to the detriment of the creditors and in breach of his fiduciary duties" to the church, the suit charges.

A spokesman for the church, John Charles, said the food request was in keeping with the church's commitment to Christian charity. "As Dr. Schuller always says, 'Find a need and fill it,'" he said. "I think that's what we were trying to do here."

But Canfield sees things differently. "These are millionaires who have limos and chauffeurs," he said. "Why in God's name would they want the congregants to deliver meals? It's ludicrous."

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He's had quite a ride, huh? Crystal Cathedral timeline COMPILED BY MICHAEL DOSS / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER 1955: The Rev. Robert H. Schuller moves to Garden Grove from Chicago with $500 to found a Reformed Church in America congregation. He delivers sermons from the rooftop of Orange Drive-in's snack bar. 1970: Schuller starts "Hour of Power,'' which goes on to become one of the most popular religious TV programs in the U.S. Also founds Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership. 1980: The glass-and-steel Crystal Cathedral opens. Designed by American Institute of Architects gold medal-winner Philip Johnson with partner John Burgee, it has more than 10,000 windows of tempered, silver-colored glass. It is the home base for international Crystal Cathedral Ministries, including a congregation of more than 10,000 members. 1990: A celebration of the 10th anniversary of Crystal Cathedral includes the dedication of a bell tower of highly polished stainless-steel prisms and a 52-bell carillon. 1991: Schuller undergoes two surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain after striking his head on a car door. 1996: Schuller designates his son, Robert A. Schuller, as his successor, but plans to remain active in ministry for at least 10 more years. 1997: Schuller denies allegations that he placed a flight attendant in a headlock on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. He later settled the case, completed six months of federal supervision and paid a $1,000 fine. 1997: Schuller suffers a minor heart attack and undergoes angioplasty at UCI Medical Center to remove blockage from his left ventricle artery. June 2000: Arvella and Robert Schuller celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows in the Crystal Cathedral. December 2004: Orchestra director Johnnie Carl takes his own life Dec. 17. Carl, a Yorba Linda resident who suffered from bipolar disorder, wrote more than 3,500 musical arrangements for the cathedral. April 2005: Schuller celebrates his 50th anniversary of preaching in Orange County. January 2006: Schuller announces that he will step down from leadership of his ministry and that his son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, will be installed as senior pastor. November 2008: Rev. Robert H. Schuller tells his congregation that his son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, will no longer be the preacher of the church's weekly "Hour of Power" syndicated TV broadcast. January 2009: In an attempt to raise funds for its ministry and consolidate its assets, Crystal Cathedral Ministries puts a four-story office building on the church campus up for sale. January 2009: Several Crystal Cathedral pastors, including executive pastor Jim Poit and his wife, Linda, director of children's ministries, are laid off because of financial issues. March 2009: In an e-mail seeking donations from members and sponsors, church CEO Jim Penner announces the "Hour of Power" will go dark on local stations in 25 markets nationwide due to severe financial problems. June 2009: The Rev. Robert H. Schuller announces that his eldest daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, will take over leadership of the entire ministry at the cathedral. January 2010: To make up for a 27 percent decline in revenue in 2009, the Crystal Cathedral cancels its "Glory of Easter" pageant and announces it will shut down its 20-acre Rancho Capistrano retreat in San Juan Capistrano. March 2010: Church musicians and vendors for the Crystal Cathedral's "Glory of Christmas" and "Glory of Easter" pageants say the megachurch has failed to pay them tens of thousands of dollars they are owed for past performances. May 2010: Crystal Cathedral Ministries sells its 170-acre property in Rancho Capistrano to Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. of Oklahoma City, which leases it to Saddleback Church. July 2010: The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral megachurch and host of the internationally televised "Hour of Power" broadcast, announces is retiring from his lead pastor duties after 55 years and passing the reins to his daughter. October 2010: Crystal Cathedral Ministries files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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Looking at this graphic makes me think of something the substitute CO told us at our Elders and Servants meeting. He said "The Congregation could not afford to pay us for everything we do." He then went on to cite the example of the Greek Orthodox minister that lives in his neighborhood. $75K annual salary plus the parish, clothing allowance, vehicle, etc... If we were like Christendom we'd all be bled dry.

Makes you really appreciate Jehovah's organization.

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Looking at this graphic makes me think of something the substitute CO told us at our Elders and Servants meeting. He said "The Congregation could not afford to pay us for everything we do." He then went on to cite the example of the Greek Orthodox minister that lives in his neighborhood. $75K annual salary plus the parish, clothing allowance, vehicle, etc... If we were like Christendom we'd all be bled dry.

Makes you really appreciate Jehovah's organization.

Its amazing how Jehovah blesses us with such dedicated individuals who work ardently for us and for him. :ok:

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