Federal Bankruptcy Filing Questions Compensation at Crystal Cathedral

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"It was a very big production," said Juliet Noriega, the wardrobe manager for the pageants, who claims she is owed more than $11,000. "The three wise men rode in on camels. The roman centurions made their entrances on horses. Because the cathedral was such a large venue everything they did there was quite large. There were 200 people on stage and thousands of costume pieces."

Other long-time vendors for the "Glory of Christmas" pageant still waiting to get paid are Kristina Oliver, who supplied camels, horses and sheep; dry cleaner Bruce Johnson, who cleaned the actors' costumes; props manager Sharon Crabtree, and Carin Galletta, whose public relations firm handled the publicity.

"There would be mainly three big camels that the kings would ride and five horses, a donkey, and goats and sheep," said Oliver, who is owed more than $50,000, according to court papers. "It would be two months that I would be down there on the grounds."

In a statement , Schuller Coleman said the bankruptcy filing was necessary because a small number of creditors chose to file lawsuits and obtained court-ordered writs to attach the church's bank accounts and assets in an attempt to get paid immediately.

No Manna From Heaven

The cathedral owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors and it has a $36 million mortgage on its sprawling 40-acre grounds in Garden Grove. According to court papers, the church has assets of between $50 million and $100 million.

"For these reasons, the ministry now finds it necessary to seek the protection of a Chapter 11," she told reporters.

The church's money troubles have forced it to lay off 140 people in the past year, halve its "Hour of Power" air time and even dismiss its orchestra and professional choir singers, church officials have said. The church choir is now made entirely up of volunteers. In May, the church sold land donated by a San Juan Capistrano couple for $22.5 million.

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.

Leadership Challenges

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.

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