The cathedral decided to file for Chapter 11 only after some of its creditors sued for payment, according to church officials. Hundreds of creditors could be owed between $50 million and $100 million, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Its largest creditors include several television stations.
The iconic church was founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller in a rented drive-in movie theater in 1955 and came to prominence through the "Hour of Power" television show, which reaches millions of viewers.
Shuller's son, Robert A. Shuller had been groomed for years to succeed his father.
But his tenure as senior pastor lasted barely two years until he said his sisters and brothers-in-law forced him out.
"They said my sermons weren't adequate for the 'Hour of Power.' Then by October they said that I couldn't preach any time on Sunday mornings, and with that I resigned. So you tell me whether I was kicked out or whether I resigned," he said.
Robert A. Schuller's daughter, Angie Schuller-Wyatt is even more blunt.
"When you mix faith, family and fame it's a toxic combination. And people start vying for positions of power. And I think that's what led to the Crystal Cathedral crumbling," she said.
Robert A. Schuller now runs a successful Christian media network with his son-in-law called AmericanLifeTV, that they recently purchased from the Unification Church.
His daughter Angie has a website called SpiritualWellness.com, that helps victims of spiritual abuse.
The Shuller's who are still holding on at Crystal Cathedral include Angie's aunt, Sheila Shuller Coleman, Robert H's daughter, now senior pastor.
It fell to her to break the news of the bankruptcy on the steps of the chapel.
In January, faced with a $55 million budget deficit and a 27 percent drop in revenue over the last two years, the church began slashing costs.
At a news conference, Schuller Coleman recalled her father's popular proverb, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." She stressed that the church's "message of hope will continue."
Schuller did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.