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Crystal Cathedral Choir Asked to Sign Anti-Gay Statement

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2011

There’s an old saying: If it weren’t for gays in the choir, church would get pretty quiet. Crystal Cathedral is about to put that to the test:

The “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant,” recently handed out to members, states that members should commit to being Christians by following the Bible in every way.

Former and current choir members say they are particularly offended by a statement in the document that refers to homosexuality. Long-time church members say this is the first time they have seen the cathedral take a firm stand against homosexuality and are disturbed by it.

The covenant states: “I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view. I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.”

Ann Moore Waltz, a long-time church member and the Cathedral’s first soloist to stand and sing on top the snack shack in Robert H. Schuller community church at the Orange drive-in said, she does not agree with the statement in the covenant. “If I were still in the choir and if that was presented to me, and if a gay person had walked out, I would have walked out with him or her,” she said. “If you are a Christian group and people come to you, you should be a good servant, love them and shine the light of Jesus on them – regardless of who they are.”

Longtime choir director Don Neuen resigned last October over earlier steps toward a purge of the choir:

But things ended on a sour note for the choir director. He said the “last straw” for him was when Gretchen Schuller Penner, who directs the “Hour of Power” programs, told him that she would be “vetting choir members” going forward and that she would make sure that they were “emotionally and spiritually fit for the Crystal Cathedral.”

“I found that to be terribly judgmental and couldn’t accept it,” Neuen said.

Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller retired in 2006, placing his son, Robert A. Schuller at the helm. The younger Schuller was removed two years later due to a “lack of shared vision” — and amid controversy over salaries and housing allowances for family members. In 2009, the elder Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, was named pastor. Last year, Schuller Coleman announced that the church was going into bankruptcy after donations fell by 29% in 2009. It’s congregation has already shrunk in half over the past two years.

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RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

The first to do what????

“Ann Moore Waltz, a long-time church member and the Cathedral’s first soloist to stand and sing on top the snack shack in Robert H. Schuller community church at the Orange drive-in said, she does not agree with the statement in the covenant.”

I’m constantly left wondering what it is that they teach in journalism school

Richard Rush
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Was the organist asked to sign the anti-gay statement?
Oops, that could cause some problems.

tristram
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Spelling in title and first and last paragraphs –

Crystal, not Chrystal.

Or are you trying to put Christ into the Crystal Cathedral?

Timothy Kincaid
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Rob, it’s a CoCal thing. Here’s a bit of their history.

While en route to California on historic Route 66, Schuller listed on a napkin 10 possible venues in which to hold services. Upon learning that the first nine locations were already in use, he embraced the tenth possibility – the Orange Drive-in Theatre. From atop the snack bar’s tar-papered roof he would lead weekly services, with Arvella providing music from a trailer-mounted electronic organ. He encouraged all to “come as you are in the family car.”

and a bit of how Schuller and his daughter differ:

Preaching from this unusual pulpit, Schuller faced ridicule – accused by many of conducting services in a “passion pit.” But his services gained in popularity, and in 1957, when Dr. Norman Vincent Peale visited to deliver the morning message, the drive-in theater was filled to capacity. Schuller noted that morning that every word Peale spoke was one of encouragement and hope, just as Jesus Christ had spoken. It was a defining moment for Schuller; from then onward he would frame his messages positively to instill Christ-centered hope in the hearts of hurting persons, encouraging and equipping them to live at their God-given potential.

werdna
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

CoCal?

RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

I guess the story is so well known in CoCal that it does not bear explaining.

Richard Rush
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Last year, Schuller Coleman announced that the church was going into bankruptcy after donations fell by 29% in 2009. It’s congregation has already shrunk in half over the past two years.

I’m guessing there were few mega-church competitors at the time the Crystal Cathedral was built in 1977-80, and that there was little anti-gay preaching anywhere because homosexuality was still fairly unspeakable in those years.

And I’m guessing further that the former members did not switch to mainstream denominations, but migrated to the increasing number of mega-church options, or walked away from religion entirely.

Meanwhile, it seemed to become de rigueur for mega-churches to be anti-gay. And so now this church is in the midst of a desperate effort to keep up with the competition.

Or maybe the explanation for shrinking membership is as simple as Robert Schuller’s son and daughter not being nearly as charismatic as their father.

It now appears that the Hour of Power has become the Hour of Sour.

RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

If wonder if it bothers them that the Cristal Cathedral, was designed by a gay man, Phillip Johnson.

Lindoro Almaviva
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

The first to do what????

Well, let's read the paragraph again and well see:

“Ann Moore Waltz, a long-time church member and the Cathedral’s first soloist to stand and sing on top the snack shack in Robert H. Schuller community church at the Orange drive-in said, she does not agree with the statement in the covenant.”

I’m constantly left wondering what it is that they teach in journalism school

That is a cheap shot, specially since it is clear what she did  from the original paragraph. Are you asking what she sang? And lastly, usually, if we are talking about a choir soloist, well, they sing; so even if the "and sing" was not in the paragraph, you could infer from the contet that she was the first one to sing a solo in the original church.

I will avoid the cheap shot of asking what they teach in reading comprehension in high school.

Richard Rush
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

RobNYNY1957 said,
“I wonder if it bothers them that the Cristal Cathedral, was designed by a gay man, Phillip Johnson.”

Good catch, Rob. Johnson was one of the major superstar architects of his time. If I ever get to California again (haven’t been there since the late 70s) I would like to see that building.

RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

It’s clear enough what she did, even without your helpful editing. It’s just not clear to me why the author of the article thought this rather bizarre fact about standing on a snack shop would help the reader put her comments into the context of the larger story. If the author wanted to express that she is a member of the choir of long standing, there are considerably clearer ways to do it.

RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Of course, Johnson was also famously a Nazi. That might give some people pause, too.

werdna
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

@Lindoro-

I took Rob’s question to be referring not to the singing part but the “on top the snack shack” part of the sentence which, to those of us not au fait with CoCal things, seemed pretty odd!

RobNYNY1957
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

I think journalists try to cram too much information into one sentence. This is an example from the New York Times a few years ago that I clipped and saved:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/books/19bond.html?sq=ian fleming storm back seat&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all

“And another entry records the disdain of Fleming’s mother, Evelyn St. Croix Fleming, widowed when Fleming’s father, Valentine, was killed at the front in World War I, after she found black boa feathers littered across the back seat of her chauffeur-driven Daimler on the morning after Fleming borrowed the car for a night out — and a backseat romp — with a nightclub dancer called Storm.”

Too much information, and a lot of the information in the sentence does not help put the rest of it into context. Her husband was killed after she found black boa feathers? Huh?

Regan DuCasse
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Segregation NOW, segregation FohEVAH!

Any bets what side of the civil rights divide Schuller was on?
We know where Jerry Falwell was then…

Sometimes a tiger really can’t change his stripes, but he might try to hide the fact that he has them.

John B.
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Wouldn’t it be great if the entire choir quit rather than sign such a statement?

nina
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Following the Bible in every way? So they are going to give up mixed-fiber fabrics, eat kosher, sacrifice animals regularly, and go to the Levite every now and then for a leprosy check? They’re going to follow all the purity laws of the Hebrew Scripture AND the women are all going to cover their heads because St. Paul said to? Oh, and they’re going to stone adulterers and disobedient children?

That’s one dedicated choir!

Mark F.
March 16th, 2011 | LINK

Regan,

You do realize George Wallace changed his position and apologized to blacks, don’t you?

Donny D.
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

This lifelong Californian also would like to know what “CoCal” means?

customartist
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

If the Crystal Cathedral REALLY wanted Members to “follow the Bible in EVERY WAY” they would pass out statements with the following scriptures as well:

You can eat your children (Deuteronomy 28:53)

You can sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7)

You have a right to own slaves (Levicus 25:44)

You should kill everyone who is not just like you (Ezechial 9:4-6)

You can kill, rob, and plunder for your own greed (Deuteronomy 20:13-14)

If you’re not hungry right now and don’t want to eat them, you can just kill all the children (Judges 21:10-12)

and the list goes on, and on…

Timothy Kincaid
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

Re: earlier comment. “CoCal” should have read “SoCal” as in Southern California. Sorry for the confusion.

RobNYetc

This is an orange county newspaper writing an article about a local church to a local readership. Schuller’s start with a church in a drive-in theater is part of the local lore.

That she sang atop the snack shack provides context that locals can understand. Not only is she of long standing, but she goes way back to the beginning. She’s part of the legend.

It’s the difference between saying someone has worked for Apple for many years, and saying they were there in Steve Job’s garage.

Richard

And I’m guessing further that the former members did not switch to mainstream denominations, but migrated to the increasing number of mega-church options, or walked away from religion entirely.

Schuller is Reformed. And while the Reformed Church in America is not a large denomination, it is mainstream and has full communion with the more liberal mainline churches (UCC, ELCA, and PCUSA) though they had some rough moments when UCC endorsed gay marriage (they agree to disagree).

Since Schuller is from that background, it may help explain why he never joined in the Demonize The Homos crap that other preachers (like his daughter) found appealing.

Meanwhile, it seemed to become de rigueur for mega-churches to be anti-gay. And so now this church is in the midst of a desperate effort to keep up with the competition.

Actually, they are mixed. On one hand you have folks like Ed Young or Bill Hybels who are nasty anti-gay out to cure the culture and change the laws. But then you have folks like Rick Warren (yeah, I know, boo hiss) and Joel Osteen who may have theology that sees homosexuality as “not the best” or “sin” but who don’t go out of their way to try and impose their theology on their neighbors or mention that particular theology in their sermons. Ironically, it’s the latter group that gets in trouble most because they are the ones that newscasters tend to ask about such positions and, as much as they try to say “oh but you’re welcome in my church” the “sinner” part makes the headlines.

Or maybe the explanation for shrinking membership is as simple as Robert Schuller’s son and daughter not being nearly as charismatic as their father.

Bingo

Regan DuCasse
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, Mark F…I know that. So did Falwell.
So did the Mormon Church.
Right about the time it was unpopular to hate blacks and these guys had to campaign to get money into their coffers to continue their work.

But that didn’t help GAY people any, did it?

Robert
March 21st, 2011 | LINK

I have loved what Robert H. Schuller has done for years with his affirming messages and been one of the cathedrals strongest supporters. His message changed my life! But between the family fights, the lack of financial transparency, the attempt to make the cathedral into a family dynasty rather than its intended purpose (to serve the Lord), the improprieties that have emerged as a result of filing Chapter 11 and now this… it was the last straw for me. It goes beyond the gay issue which basically is an unnecessary attack on a minority segment of God’s children – it illustrates a complete lack of judgment.

I have just come from my lawyer’s office where I removed the Crystal Cathedral from my will. This would have been a very sizable donation… but I have reached the point where I think it’s best that the ministry disappear…. and I think it will as a result of the family doing one bad thing after another.
Believe me when I say that for almost all of my life, I have loved and supported the ministry that always displayed open arms and hearts to all of God’s children, but the recent actions of the Schuller family, and lack of action by the Consistory in preventing inappropriate and unethical practices, has changed everything. The campus would make a great community college. Bobby Schuller did the right thing by getting far away from this mess. Never again will I support the Crystal Cathedral and I don’t think I’m alone in that statement.

fran
March 22nd, 2011 | LINK

I attended this church before it had the huge Crystal Cathedral. Nothing anti-gay was ever preached there. If there was an anti-gay policy back then, they wouldn’t have had much of a music program, LOL.

Richard Rush
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Update on the Crystal Cathedral:

http://www.ocregister.com/news/cathedral-309365-diocese-church.html?plckFindCommentKey=CommentKey:8a362b32-583e-422f-8ad1-bc5c774caf07

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County has made a $50 million cash offer for the 35-acre property that houses the iconic Crystal Cathedral and all its core buildings, officials said Friday. . . .

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