Crystal Cathedral soon to be Catholic Cathedral

The Roman Catholic diocese of Orange in California just found a way to create an iconic cathedral center for its ministry at about 75% off. It bought the financially busted Crystal Cathedral campus created by Robert Shuller back in the heyday of his "Hour of Power" ministry.

"The [Crystal] cathedral [board] shunned a bid by nearby Chapman University, which actually offered $2 million more than the diocese.

For his part, the Catholic bishop of Orange, Tod Brown, is thrilled. The diocese needed a cathedral. It didn't occur to him to try for the Crystal Cathedral, until some of his advisers pulled him aside and said, as he recalls, "Look, this is an incredible location and the iconic cathedral, and it will really serve our needs so well. And it would be much less expensive to acquire this property than it will be for us to build out a new cathedral."

[…]The rise and fall of the Crystal Cathedral has many twists — from Schuller's message of positive thinking to his booming television ministry to the power struggle among his children when he retired. "But in the end, it's about living beyond your means," says Richard Flory, who teaches at the University of Southern California.

Flory says the church had enormous costs in maintaining the building and the services, which included professional musicians and a yearly Christmas pageant that cost $2 million. At the same time, Flory says, the Crystal Cathedral did not adapt to the times."

More here.

Seems there are two messages here, both having to do with recognizing that what worked 50 years ago needs to be remained for today. First, Shuller was well known for trying to take the lessons of Psychology (of his day) and connect them with biblical teachings as a way of melding what he believed to be the best teaching of secular wisdom with the timeless message of the bible. It was wildly successful. But it doesn't seem to have the same popularity today. Why that's true is really worth trying to answer.

The second is that this was a ministry that was living beyond its means, using a model that no longer worked for in its setting. But there was never a real attempt apparently to question why this had happened so as to adapt it for a different time. That's probably a word to all of us.

Comments (1)

I have visited the Crystal Cathedral just once, during the heyday of Robert Schuller junior. I can only say that it is poorly suited to a liturgical celebration - it has a raised stage and orchestra pit. It is the only place I have ever worshipped where the Director came out before the service and told the audience how to behave when the camera was on them. The whole place was a pseudo-religious Disneyland. I hope that the Catholic diocese can find some way to make it much more spiritual and less commercial, and I wish them luck!

Brother Tom Hudson

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