Published: July 29, 2011 Updated: 8:30 p.m.

Church offers $50 million for Crystal Cathedral, suggests changes

The church's plan proposes to pay $50 million, demand resignations from Schuller family members and their attorneys and pay the debt from money collected through services and donations.

By DEEPA BHARATH / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER



GARDEN GROVE – My Father's House Church International has put in a $50 million offer for the financially ailing Crystal Cathedral and announced a plan to pay creditors in full, take over the cemetery, stop salaries and perks for Schuller family members, fire the lawyers involved and pay off the debt from money collected from services and donations.

Mark A. Thomas, who along with his wife, Kimberley Thomas, runs the nondenominational church in a strip mall in Norco, said Friday that his church may be small, but it is debt-free and has tremendous support worldwide.

Pastor Mark A. Thomas, My Father's House Church International


Thomas said if his church were to take over the Crystal Cathedral, he would "love the congregation" and "begin a process of healing" while preserving Schuller's legacy. He said he has talked to several longtime members of the congregation and understands their need for a church in which they can trust.

Marc Winthrop, an attorney representing the Crystal Cathedral in its bankruptcy case, declined to comment about the Norco church's plan.

The plan proposes to stop compensating insiders right away; to demand resignations from family members and Winthrop, and terminate all perks such as credit cards, limo services, car leases and housing allowances.

Carol Schuller Milner, the founder's daughter, said she and her siblings have always given more than they have taken from the church.

"People can view it as they choose," she said. "That church means a lot to us."

The Norco church's plan also proposes to pay debtors by creating an escrow account that will be funded by donations received from benefactors and church members. Thomas proposes to pay off the debt using 100 percent of funds collected from services.

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The time necessary to pay off all the debt depends on the Norco church's ability to "increase the public's support of the church as they cut out the expenses that drain the church's resources."

The church has not provided details about where or how it will obtain money to fund the purchase.

Thomas' court filing stated that the Crystal Cathedral's congregants had lost their trust in the church over the years.

"The current church administration is perceived as self-serving," the filing states. "A church can never prosper as a business once it has lost the trust and support of its parishioners."

Milner said there have been millions in monetary contributions from Schuller personally to his church through his books that many don't even know about because he chose not to publicize it.

"And yes, that limo was donated to the church, not just to my father," she said.


Contact the writer: 714-796-7909 or dbharath@ocregister.com