Crystal Cathedral makes deep cuts

 Rancho Capistrano Ministries retreat center is reflected in the pond is one of the property being sold by the Crystal Cathedral  in San Juan Capistra...

Crystal Cathedral Cutbacks

Rancho Capistrano Ministries retreat center is reflected in the pond is one of the property being sold by the Crystal Cathedral in San Juan Capistra...

Blaming a struggling U.S. economy, the megachurch founded by Robert H. Schuller Sr. is pulling its signature TV program "Hour of Power" and taking other measures to offset a nearly $8 million drop in revenue.
"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 saw revenue drop 27 percent from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009, church spokesman Mike Nason told The Associated Press. The church had projected an 18 percent revenue drop.
Church leaders blamed the decline on the struggling U.S. economy. They intend to save $4.9 million and stave off further financial collapse by selling 170 acres in Orange County, southern California, 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.
Church officials declined to name the cities where the program would be cut because station managers have not yet been notified.
The 10,000-member 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 disclosure mirrors the troubles in recent months at other megachurches that have suffered from the downturn and reduced charitable giving.
Rick Warren, best-selling author and founder of Saddleback Church, made an appeal on New Year's Eve for urgent donations after finding his organization was nearly $1 million in the red. Parishioners raised $2.4 million for Saddleback and its ministries within days.
The Crystal Cathedral doesn't expect a similar outpouring from its members or viewers of "Hour of Power."
"It would be nice, but we understand the economy and people are hurting and our audience are not rich people," Charles said. "There's a lot of people on fixed incomes and they're giving what they can."
That aging membership base, along with the bad economy, could be a big part of the Crystal Cathedral's problem, said Richard Flory, a senior research associate for the Center for Religion & Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.
The era of blockbuster televangelists is fading and viewership is declining even as the age of the average viewer creeps upward, he said.
"I can't imagine anybody younger than 40 watching some sort of televangelist," he said. "Younger people are worshipping in smaller venues. I think the megachurch is always going to appeal to groups of people, but the television piece of it, I just don't see that as a growth market anymore."
The Crystal Cathedral has a storied history.
Schuller Sr., now 83, first formulated his outreach to the unchurched in the mid-1950s when he opened a ministry at a drive-in theater in the suburbs of Orange County that catered to Southern California's emerging car culture. He pulled people in with his sermons on the power of positive thinking.
The little church later grew into the Crystal Cathedral, a worship hall with a soaring glass spire that opened in 1970 and remains an architectural wonder and tourist destination.
The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries. Charles said he didn't know what viewership is now but suspected it's lower.
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Updated : 2021-02-28 09:16 GMT+08:00