Crystal Cathedral making deep cuts
Calif. megachurch losing revenue
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - Blaming a struggling US economy, the megachurch founded by Robert H. Schuller Sr. is pulling its signature TV program “Hour of Power’’ from some television stations and taking other measures to offset a nearly $8 million drop in revenue.
Church leaders blamed the decline on the struggling US economy. They intend to save $4.9 million and stave off further financial collapse by selling 170 acres in southern Orange County, including a retreat and wedding center, laying off 50 employees, and cutting “Hour of Power’’ from eight of the 45 domestic broadcast TV stations that air it.
The Crystal Cathedral’s “Hour of Power,’’ which has aired for 40 years, will continue to appear on cable networks such as Lifetime and TBN, and on broadcast TV in markets including California, Colorado, Florida, and Ohio, said John Charles, director of development and public relations.
“If we can just hang in there and be smart about surviving the downturn in the economy, this storm will pass and we will be OK and we can begin to grow again as a ministry,’’ Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s daughter and the church’s recently appointed leader, said in a prepared statement.
The church was founded in the 1950s at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. Now boasting 10,000 members, its worship hall features a soaring glass spire that opened in 1970 and remains an architectural wonder and tourist destination.
The church saw revenue drop 27 percent from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009, church spokesman Mike Nason said. The church had projected an 18 percent revenue drop.
Church officials declined to name the cities where the program would be cut because station managers have not yet been notified. The church will also cancel this year’s “Glory of Easter’’ pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple along with the church’s “Glory of Christmas’’ show.
The church and its internationally known telecast have been bleeding dollars and members for years - a trend that accelerated when Schuller Sr. stepped down and passed his senior pastor role to his son, Robert A. Schuller Jr.
The “Hour of Power’’ telecast, filmed in the cathedral’s main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.