Published: April 27, 2011
Updated: April 28, 2011 12:16 p.m.
Crystal Cathedral musicians walk out over pay dispute
By DEEPA BHARATH
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
GARDEN GROVE – Several members of the orchestra hired to perform at the Crystal Cathedral's Easter Sunday services walked out and refused to play after they realized that the church had paid them half of what was promised to them.
"I'm owed money from December 2009," she said in an interview Wednesday. "I was not going to play unless I got paid. The only reason I did not go to court was I trusted the church.''
John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said the walkout was an "unfortunate incident."
"What happened was a payroll error," he said. "They were told the error would be corrected and they still chose to leave. The 25 or so orchestra members who remained and played the services got their checks in full."
The orchestra walkout was the latest episode in the saga of Crystal Cathedral's financial troubles. Frustrations among church members and others associated with the church have grown as the cathedral has filed yet another extension in court to come up with a bankruptcy reorganization plan, further delaying the payment of millions owed to vendors.
The church is looking at a $36 million mortgage and a total debt of nearly $60 million. The cathedral owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors including many long-
There are two hearings scheduled for June in bankruptcy court, including one on June 29 to discuss compensation packages for insiders, including Robert H. Schuller's daughter Gretchen Penner and her mother-
On June 1, the church's attorneys will file a motion requesting an extension of the "exclusivity period" for them to file a plan. This would ensure that no other parties filed a reorganization plan other than Crystal Cathedral Ministries. The church is filing this motion after their request for the extension was denied by the creditors committee.
Paul Loredo, who has played the principal French horn for the orchestra for 25 years, said they were told minutes before Sunday's Easter service that there had been a "problem" with the checks.
"That was like salt on our wounds, a slap on our faces," he said.
Like Patterson, Loredo said he, too, trusted the church's leaders. He says he is still owed money from last Easter.
"I was convinced that the ministry would get back on its feet and do us right," he said. "But now, I have absolutely no faith in the current leadership. I will not go back there until Robert H. Schuller returns to the pulpit."
"I just didn't feel that praise music was a good fit for our church," she said.
A few members have started a new website, crystalcathedralmusic.net, which says its mission is to "host a gathering place for Hour of Power viewers and the local congregation interested in keeping alive the traditional music of the Crystal Cathedral." Most of the music featured on the website is from before April 2011. The site says that some most recent music has been featured for "purposes of comparison only."
Feutz also opposed a covenant choir members were asked to sign acknowledging that marriage is between a man and woman. She said she does not understand why the church needs more time to file a reorganization plan.
"They had a lot of time to pay their vendors and to take care of all this," she said. And now, they haven't paid these orchestra members. It's just not right."
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Long time orchestra members said they have refrained from taking the cathedral to court for failure to pay in the past in light of the megachurch's bankruptcy and church leaders' pleas. But getting shortchanged on their paychecks on Easter Sunday was the last straw, they said.
Holly Patterson, who has played the oboe as part of the "Hour of Power" orchestra for 33 years, said she like the others was shocked when she arrived Sunday for rehearsal and did not see her check on the stand. The musicians have had a verbal agreement with the church for the last year to get paid on the day of their performance.
Attorneys for the church argue in the motion that the extension is justified because it is a complex case, the church is "acting in good faith" and paying all of its current expenses.
According to the Crystal Cathedral's bankruptcy court filings, a total of $832,940 in housing allowances were given to the families of all five children of the megachurch's founder Robert H. Schuller as well as a few top executives in the year leading up to the filing. This was during a time when the church's revenues dipped by about 25 percent, more than 150 employees were laid off and numerous creditors went unpaid. The cathedral also canceled its iconic "Glory of Christmas" and "Glory of Easter" pageants.