October 19, 2010 / 2:59 AM / 9 years ago

Televangelist Schuller's megachurch files for Ch 11

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Southern California megachurch founded by televangelist Robert Schuller filed for bankruptcy court protection, saying a number of creditors had opted not to prolong a moratorium on debt payments.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, best known for its weekly “Hour of Power” television program that it claims has 20 million viewers, listed assets and debts of between $50 million and $100 million each, according to documents filed on Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, California. Its largest creditors include several U.S. television stations.

The church, based in Garden Grove in Orange County, has 3,000 members, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

The church is contending with overwhelming expenses incurred in 2009, “when budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession,” Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a statement posted on the church’s web site.

Coleman said the church’s most recent financial reports indicate the best cash flow it has had in a decade, and said the churches activities, including broadcasts of “Hour of Power,” would continue as normal.

The church decided to seek Chapter 11 protection after some of its creditors sued for payment, according to the statement.

Hundreds of U.S. churches have defaulted on loans and even filed for bankruptcy as they struggle to pay debts leftover from a historic building boom now that a deep economic downturn has cut into offerings.

Financial woes have hit many large congregrations, from Without Walls International Church of Florida to Shore Christian Center in New Jersey, which filed for bankruptcy.

The case is 10-24771, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California.

Reporting by Phil Wahba and Tom Hals; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe

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