By Marianne Medlin
The Diocese of Orange upped its previous bid and signaled openness to new negotiations for the Crystal Cathedral after board members recently announced that the building is no longer for sale.
The diocese announced on Aug. 10 that it submitted “a revised non-contingent offer” to purchase the Crystal Cathedral for $53.6 million cash – instead of $50 million – and gave the current church ministry the option of a 50,000 square foot alternative worship space for up to 15 years.
Bishop Tod D. Brown said in his statement that the diocese wants to accommodate its needs for a new cathedral, while respecting the Crystal Cathedral Ministry and its legacy.
“This sanctuary should remain a place of worship and remembrance, nothing less,” he said.
The news comes after church board members announced on July 31 that, despite having four serious offers, the building is no longer for available for purchase. Senior pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said the church feels a responsibility to pay back its creditors as well an obligation to local church members to keep the ministry’s headquarters “intact.”
The Diocese of Orange made its original bid in early July, saying that it was considering buying the Crystal Cathedral as an option to meet the needs of the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, the 11th largest diocese in the nation.
Although it has been planning for over 10 years to build a new, 2,500-seat cathedral in Santa Ana, the diocese has only hired an architect for the project and was considering converting the bankrupt church into a Catholic cathedral.
The liturgist for the Orange diocese, Monsignor Arthur Holquin, said July 26 that several changes would need to take place in order for the Crystal Cathedral to become a Catholic worship space.
Along with a central altar, a tabernacle and a baptismal font, the building would need a “cathedra” or bishop’s chair. While renovations are needed to the building, “not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained,” he said.
Purchasing the Crystal Cathedral is an attractive option for the diocese because it provides an instant solution to its building needs and would cost roughly half the $100 million price tag for the planned Santa Ana cathedral.
Though the diocese made an official $50 million bid for the Crystal Cathedral on July 22, the church’s board later voted against selling it and decided to appeal to church members and viewers to donate the funds instead.
The cathedral, founded by pastor Robert H. Schuller, filed for bankruptcy last October, after some of its creditors sued for payment.
Documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana show that hundreds of creditors could be owed between $50 million and $100 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.