Orange County Business Journal

Diocese of Orange Interested in Crystal Cathedral

Chris Casacchia Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Diocese of Orange, which has sought to build a new cathedral here for some time, is interested in the Crystal Cathedral Ministries' iconic building and 35-acre campus in Garden Grove.

Bishop Tod Brown has authorized The Busch Law Firm in Irvine and some other advisors to look into possibilities regarding the Crystal Cathedral complex, the diocese announced Wednesday.

“This is exploratory only,” emphasized Steve Bohannon, spokesman for the Diocese of Orange.

The diocese last July hired an architect to design a new cathedral but has no set plans on a location.

It now is based at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, where it hosts three daily masses and other events. The current cathedral has seating for 800 people. Church officials consider its capacity insufficient for the spiritual and administrative center of 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, the 11th-largest diocese in the country.

“There has been a long-time need for a new cathedral,” Bohannon said. “This is an option.”

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and has seen tumult among its governing board since then. It recently said Rev. Robert Schuller, its founder, would retain a seat on the board as chairman emeritus with no voting power.

The television evangelist built Crystal Cathedral, known for its television show “The Hour of Power” that broadcasts from its iconic glass church.

The interest in the sprawling campus seems to be growing as bankruptcy proceedings come to end.

A decision on its future could be made in the coming weeks.

A few bids have been submitted on the property and an auction is also a possibility.

Chapman University in Orange on Monday made a $46-million bid to purchase the property, which includes seven buildings with more than 329,000 square feet of space.

The proposal would allow Crystal Cathedral to lease back the church and other property on the campus. The church would also have a chance to buy back the property during the first four years of the lease.

The Chapman bid matched one from Newport Beach-based real estate developer and owner Greenlaw Partners in April.

The ministry has proposed its own reorganization plan that would use cash from the proposed $46 million sale to repay a $33 million bank loan and some other creditors over a two-year period.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, considered by many to be the country’s first modern megachurch, listed assets and debts of $50 to $100 million when it filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

The church estimates it has some 10,000 members.