An Open Letter ….

… to Penrod, the webmaster, local congregants, viewers of the Hour of Power, and any other reader who has had their souls enriched by the outreach of Crystal Cathedral Ministries.

1. I am not an apologist for any of the wrongdoings of the past. I have no desire to encourage denial about truly sorrowful events that have taken place. I have never been an employee.

2. I do not seek to put anyone in jail, call a grand jury, join a class action seeking compensation for pain and suffering.

3. I do not believe this is the right time to seek answers to the many hurtful questions that burden my heart.

** I reserve the right to change my decision on #2, pending new evidence and review of future actions.

I am writing this because I believe there’s a much more important matter that requires our attention – right now. I fear that this ministry is dangerously close to financial collapse, and I personally don’t want to be in the room when the lights are turned off.

There are two groups who have lived through and shared the demise of CCM. Their pains and needs are different.

First, there are the local congregants, many of whom feel they have been abused, neglected – perhaps rejected for decades. They are understandably angry and they want to know that things are going to change. What should they expect? It is doubtful that any Schuller, past board member, etc., is ever going to apologize for events that led up to the bankruptcy or the collapse of the Hour of Power. It is also doubtful that any “punishment” is going to take place soon – the lawyers are in charge.

I haven’t lived through two decades as a congregant, so all I can do is listen and try to share this intense ain. I challenge the people in this group with two questions:

1. You are still here, so I conclude that you still find value in being part of this congregation – true? You’ve suffered through many years of pain – do you think it’s possible right now to have twenty years+ of pain erased in a few weeks?

2. Many of you come, sit in the seats, share fellowship, but your checkbooks have been put away until you “get answers.” How, exactly, does this work? Who keeps the ministry alive while you wait on the sidelines? Think about it!

(NOTE: to RHS, AS, RAS, DS: You could make an immense amount of this pain go away with a simple act. Come to the campus any Sunday and stand outside the cathedral as a service ends. Greet these people as they leave and accept their greetings – you’ll be accepted warmly. You don’t need to participate in worship or say anything – just take their hands. I can’t tell you the number of people who store the hurt that none of you took the time to join them in fellowship at the end of a service in past years. This part can be fixed. They know that you are not behind the frivolous lawsuit.)

(NOTE: to Bobby – you get a pass. Leave when you must and take good care of your flock.)

(NOTE: to the other six locals. I don’t think you’re welcome.)

Now to the legion of viewers who have watched the Hour of Power erode of the past several years. Not to diminish the pain of the local congregants, but the pain here is equally intense and the damage is arguably greater than the Bankruptcy. The Hour of Power has been a mainstay of millions of faith journeys. The erosion of this important vehicle has left countless people with less faith and hope, at a time when they’re needed most.

Let’s assume that the financial conditions that led to the BK were baked-in by the time of RAS’ banishment. An astute group of overseers would have immediately gone in to damage-control mode, reducing expenses while doing everything necessary to shore up the loyalty of HOP contributors. What we got instead was an “inspired” diversion away from the proven formula, a product that turned most viewers away in disgust.

The Hour of Power, the financial underpinning of CCM, has been eroded to a point where it may not be possible to recover quickly enough to save the ministry.

So, what are we to do?

The congregants seek reassurance that the closed-door, family-first rule of the ministry has come to an end. Some are ready to storm the upcoming congregational meeting with questions and demands.  Have you ever attended a meeting where the participants enter the room with clenched fists and premade agendas? That’s a recipe for disaster. No one will even hear what the leadership says.

Others think there should be a new senior pastor –the regular preacher on the HOP – selected by now. They think recent guest preachers have been boring. I would imagine there are no more than 50 people in the whole country that could be considered candidates. I’m sure the HOP producers know these people well and have direct phone numbers on their desks. Six weeks ago, none of these people would have anything to do with HOP. Some believe Dr. Wilkes should be chosen now. He’s a well respected man, currently leading two seminary programs. Do you think he should leave those responsibilities to jump in to the uncertainty that surrounds this ministry right now?

Same for the music ministry. Having the choir back is a miracle, but why aren’t the guests better? All the talented people who blessed our services with their artistry in the past were sent away, some with scars they still retain. They don’t reappear in six weeks.

For many HOP viewers that tuned out months ago, things haven’t changed yet. Many don’t know that order has been restored. They stopped viewing, and it will take time for them to even discover what’s being presented now. How many people outside of Orange County know that Don Neuen and the wonderful, volunteer choir are back? None.

One long-time loyalist pointed out that the HOP has been through this before – it survived RAS’ ouster, it survived Creation, just to name several key events. I’m sure that – given time – the HOP audience will give the program another try. Some may be sampling already. Here’s the problem… the congregants are “filling the seats,” and HOP viewers are beginning to sample again but both group’s checkbooks are tucked away. The current mood is watch-and-wait – when I’m sure things have changed I’ll contribute again. That, my friends, is a death knell. The ministry can’t survive that waiting period.

This is why I’m not in favor of a rush to judgment now. As my dear wife taught me years ago, you only learn the truth about people when you watch and see whether their mouths and their feet move in the same direction – do they “walk” the “talk.”

How much time does it take to determine that the ministry is on a better course? That’s an individual decision each of us has to make. My personal feeling is that six months is enough time to see what can be done. For that amount of time, I’m willing to hold on to my pain and questions, trust the leadership and vote with my checkbook for a renewed CCM.

I suggest that congregants should send this message at the upcoming meeting loud and clear – you have our support, but we need reassurance and “feet moving” change right away. HOP viewers need to contribute, and let CCM know that the commitment is for more than one month. With this support, I trust that good things can happen.

So here’s what this is about. This is a straight-up, unapologetic mission call. I think we need to give CCM the time – and money – it needs to regroup. The time isn’t infinite – I’m not suggesting we should wait forever to have questions answered, etc. I am suggesting that this is not the time to make decisions on the fate of this ministry. Donate and support – put your tithes and offerings where your hearts are.

Why do I care about this? CCM has been an important part of my faith journey – there for me in times of great need. I’d hate to have the last chapter of the ministry’s story be a sordid tale of bankruptcy and the disappearance of the HOP. We can do better. Join me.

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