Who Is to Blame for Bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral?

Crystal Cathedral

The Orange County Register has reported that Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy.  This is the church founded by “Possibility Thinking” Robert Schuller.  His daughter, Sheila Shuller Coleman, is now the pastor of the church that owes creditors about 7.5 million dollars.  In total they are about $44 million in debt.

Even if we allow that our economic times make it difficult for the megachurch to operate business as usual (which we probably should not do), I am more concerned with the quoted comments about those to whom the church owes money.

Jim Penner, executive producer of their television program and a teaching pastor, seems to want the blame to be on those who have not been paid by the church.

A few didn’t want to play ball.  They tried to get ahead of the others.  It became difficult for us to hold the coalition of vendors together.

Playing ball is not an appropriate word picture.  When a baseball umpire yells, “Play ball!”, he then tosses a baseball to the starting pitcher.  When a basketball game begins, the referee tosses a ball in the air.  When a football game begins, a ball is kicked off of a tee.  In this relationship between vendors and the church, the ball would be money.  The church obviously wanted the vendors to step into the batters box while the pitcher (church) stood only with a glove on their hand.  That is a balk.

Penner’s comment also seems to indicate that the church failed to act like a good usher.  They couldn’t keep people in line.  Again, the analogy breaks down because the people in line had already been admitted.  They already provided their resources.  In fact, one of the creditors has had her home foreclosed while awaiting payment for services rendered.

Finally, it appears the church has been in the business of coalition building instead of coming up with payment.  The creditors could care less about being organized.  They want paid.

The board of creditors claims that the church could pay off everybody in 5 years.  The church initially offered to pay them 30% of what they owed over a 5 year period.  Then they offered to pay 100% in 12 years.  Let’s do the math.

Say you are owed $100 by your friend.

First, he doesn’t pay you anything.

Second, he says let’s talk about paying you for 90 days.

Third, he offers you $30 within 3 years or $0.83 a month for 3 years.  He forgets the other $70.

Fourth, he offers you $100 within 12 years or $0.69 a month for 12 years.

Fifth, he files for bankruptcy and says he intends to pay you your $100 at some point.

In this scenario, who is to blame?