The Crystal Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has “expressed interest in the Crystal Cathedral property.” Read the article here.

One of the first megachurches in the United States, the Crystal Cathedral has been the home of the weekly “Hour of Power” broadcast ministry, founded in 1970 by the Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller, an ordained pastor of the Reformed Church in America.

Conflicts have plagued the Crystal Cathedral’s ministries since 2006, when Dr. Schuller’s son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, assumed the senior pastor role; he was removed from that post in 2008. In 2009, Dr. Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, became Executive Director of Ministry and Mission.

In October of 2010, the Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy. Only three days ago, the Orange County Register reported that Dr. Schuller had been voted off the Crystal Cathedral’s board of directors; the website of the Crystal Cathedral spins that story rather more positively, indicating that Dr. Schuller has been named “honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus.”

Information on the Crystal Cathedral’s architecture can be had here and here.

Information on the Virgil-Fox-designed Aeolian-Skinner/Ruffatti combination organ can be had here and here.

H/T to Fran Rossi Szpylczyn


  1. Who knew my Facebook link would earn me a H/T on this esteemed blog!

    For the record, I have never been to the Crystal Cathedral, but have seen it in photos and on television; I realize that is not the same thing as being there. That said, as someone who is actively involved in liturgical planning and ministry, space matters. It is very hard for me to imagine how the space might be appropriately transformed into a Catholic worship site.

    Who knows – I have been wrong about things before.

    And may I add, I am not adverse to contemporary worship environments; as Cody knows, I am deeply fond of and moved by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in LA, for one example.

  2. I have been there in the Crystal Cathedral: as a liturgical space, it is a good looking concert hall.

    However, if there is sufficient budget to re-configure the ground floor, with the altar on a central bema with a helical ramp, it might work pretty well for a large crowd seated on both sides above and below.

    Of course, it would be a better use of the diocesan money to rent another public space for the four times a year that much seating is needed, instead of maintaining the glass sound stage called Crystal Cathedral.

    Maybe the Bishop just wants to justify keeping the currently incorrect name.

  3. There is another whole story behind this announcement concerning Brown, bishop of Orange. He has been notorious in terms of not following the Dallas Charter; his aggressiveness towards victims; etc. It has cost the diocese an estimated $100 million to settle abuse cases to date. There also was no secret that Brown has been wanting to raise money to build a cathedral (estimated cost of $100 mil minimum). When this story was first posted locally months ago, Brown and his diocesan spokesperson denied it had any legitimacy. But, there have been personnel changes; financial impacts, etc. and suddenly Brown has changed his mind.

    1. In what ways do you mean that Tod Brown (no relation to me) has been notorious for not following the Dallas Charter? I am no defender of bishops in this arena (or many others) but I feel that you may be off base in this accusation. As a former resident of Orange County during Brown’s tenure I was somewhat (and I stress ‘somewhat’) impressed with how quickly he removed credibly accused priests from ministry. The parish at which I grew up was, at various times, home to 6 priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. Though each was appointed prior to Brown’s tenure, and at least 3 had been accused prior to their appointment at the parish, the allegations were publicly revealed from 2001-2003. Those of the six who were still in active ministry were removed, most were defrocked, and several have been criminally prosecuted. Even before the 2002 nationwide blow up, Brown had removed the pastor of our parish for pseudonymously speaking to the LA Times about abusing an adolescent girl 25 years earlier. In 2004, he established a Covenant with Faithful in response to the scandal which is posted in every church and school in the diocese.

      Brown certainly has blemishes on his record in this area as so many bishops sadly do as a result of their failure to respond adequately to cases of sexual abuse. However, as a former Orange parishioner, I don’t think it’s fair to say “he has been notorious in terms of not following the Dallas Charter.”

      To your point that Brown’s actions cost the diocese $100-million: Yes, he agreed to the settlement, though it is difficult to fault him for a taking this step towards reconciliation for the victims. It is especially difficult to do so when you consider that Brown was only appointed to Orange in 1998 and the vast majority of assaults took place during the tenures of the predecessors—in many cases by priests previously accused of abuse and moved to new parishes.

  4. The daughter of Dr. Schuller wrote recently: “The leadership had the opportunity to sell the property to another congregation while maintaining the ministry and broadcast indefinitely. But they did not. Rather they chose to sell it to a development company that has the intention of tearing it down for commercial use.” As a piece of iconic architecture its a steal at its 44Mill buy back option. It has an altar and an ambo. The choir is at the side of the sanctuary as an added bonus thus enabling congregational participation. A bit stage-like but it was meant for TV after all. A catholic parish or cathedral won’t get a burgundy marble sanctuary, NASA technology glass, nor a Philip Johnson pedigree at a better price, hands down. As architecture goes its a good re-use option.

  5. The Crystal Cathedral does have possibilities. Maybe bishop Brown wouldn’t make the same mistakes made when Christ Our Light and the LA cathedral were constructed. Dr. Schuller did build a big concert hall and sound stage, but then did he intend to create much else? The LA cathedral is a set too, or, as some have said, it invites you in. Just as a hangar for Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose does.

    What a pity we can’t seem to rid ourselves of bishops as quickly as the Crystal Cathedral board rid itself of Dr. Schuller.

  6. Dunstan Harding :
    What a pity we can’t seem to rid ourselves of bishops as quickly as the Crystal Cathedral board rid itself of Dr. Schuller.

    Coincidentally, our own dear Professor Rindfleisch was saying something similar to me the other day about the nasties who haunt this blog!

  7. The “Crystal Cathedral” is not so much a temple or a bishop’s seat; it is a television set for a media star.

    Eugene Kennedy has an interesting piece at NCR on set-decorator Catholicism, the idea of restorationists that if the Pre-Vatican II props of the Latin Mass, Eucharistic adoration and the rosary are restored, people will behave again as in the 1950s.

    Perhaps the bishop thinks that if he has the “Crystal Cathedral” he can become a media star, or more modestly perhaps that the money will start flowing to support his new cathedral as it once did Schuller!

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