A woman who rents out camels is among creditors who have been stiffed by the Crystal Cathedral, and says the church’s publicly-stated intention to pay the $7.5 million it owes to various small businesses or employees was a sham, it was reported today.
And church officials say bankruptcy may be pending for the megachurch, a one-time drive-in house of worship that grew into a worldwide television religious powerhouse.
Kristina Oliver told the Orange County Register that she lost her house to foreclosure because the once-famous megachurch has been unwilling or unable to pay her the $50,000 it owes for renting camels and other animals for its holiday pageants.
Oliver had been sitting on a panel of creditors set up to negotiate with the church and help it avoid bankruptcy. “I honestly believed that the church was going to come up with an equitable plan to pay us all,” she told the newspaper.
“But I now know that all they wanted to do was string us along,” she was quoted.
The son in law of Cathedral founder Rev. Robert H. Schuller told theRegister he was unaware of the impasse between the church and the creditors until the panel of small creditors sent a letter to him Thursday.
“If the vendor committee stops working with us, we will have no choice but to file Chapter 11 (bankruptcy), because we don’t have the money to pay them right away,” said Jim Penner, a board member of the church and Schuller’s son in law.
Penner told the Register that paying the woman who supplied the Crystal Cathedral with rented camels, and the other vendors, is the church’s goal because “it’s Biblical.”
“But we don’t have $7.5 million in the bank,” he told the paper.
Several television broadcasters and an equipment rental company have sued the church for millions of dollars they are owed. But many of the vendors are small business people, like the camel wrangler, a dry cleaner and a props manager for the once-famous “Glory of Easter” pageant.
The Cathedral was founded by Schuller at a drive-in movie theater not far from Disneyland, that at one time purchased time on hundreds of television stations around the world to spread Schuller’s sermons in a TV show called “Hour of Power.” The church has had succession problems in the Schuller family, and is reportedly $55 million in debt.