Hoping to convert the Crystal Cathedral to Catholicism, the Diocese of Orange has offered $50 million for the bankrupt glass church.
The all-cash bid, announced Friday, tops $46-million offers by and , a Newport Beach investment firm.
The diocese's proposal has been presented to attorneys for Crystal Cathedral Ministries as well as to the mega-church's board of directors, diocesan spokesman Stephen Bohannon said in a press release. From there, it will go to the U.S. bankruptcy court judge and creditors group overseeing plans to steer Crystal Cathedral out of bankruptcy.
If approved, the purchase would save the diocese a bundle over its current plans to build a $100-million Catholic cathedral in Santa Ana.
The diocese could also move its hilltop Marywood retreat center and offices in Orange to other buildings on the 40-acre property--then sell Marywood for an estimated $30 million.
The offer is a mixed bag for Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which filed for bankruptcy protection last fall, saying it owed more than $50 million to creditors.
On the plus side, it provides "maximum relief in the shortest possible time,'' Bohannon said, allowing the church founded by the Rev. Robert Schuller to quickly pay off creditors.
On the minus side, the Crystal Cathedral's 10,000-member congregation would lose its landmark church. Whereas the Chapman and Greenlaw bids would allow the ministry to buy back the cathedral down the road, the Catholic bid contains no such provision.
Although the ministry could lease some space for three years, ultimately the diocese would take over the entire property. However, the diocese pledged to relocate some of the Crystal Cathedral's religious, educational and administrative departments to a nearby diocesan-owned location, Bohannon added.
Crystal Cathedral attorney Marc Winthrop couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
The soaring glass church, which opened in 1980, sits on 40 acres on Lewis Street in Garden Grove. Greenlaw wants to build homes on the property, while Chapman University wants to open a medical school on the property.
One big question--no matter who buys the church--is what would happen to the cemetery on the property. Bohannon said the diocese, with its extensive experience running Catholic cemeteries in Orange County, would be well-prepared to oversee the Crystal Cathedral's graveyard.
-- City News Service contributed to this article.