The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Crystal Cathedral a cautionary tale

The cash-strapped Crystal Cathedral's pending transformation from a Protestant megachurch to a Roman Catholic cathedral should teach pastors not to spend millions on ornate buildings, a megachurch scholar says.

A bankruptcy judge recently approved the sale of the iconic worship facility to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., for $57.5 million.

Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford [Conn.] Seminary, said the huge debt that led officials of the Southern California ministry to accept the sale of the 35-acre campus reflects what happens when a prominent pastor, a TV ministry or an iconic structure becomes the focal point. Leaders retire and die; television gives the congregation an unrealistic larger-than-life image; and buildings become a drag on finances.

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February issue


Embracing diversity