Crystal Cathedral Ministry's board members have picked Chapman University as their preferred buyer of the mega-church if the congregation is unable to raise the funds needed to pay off millions in debt.
Crystal Cathedral leaders say they are still trying to pull off their "Miracle of Faith'' fundraiser to pay off the $50 million they owe creditors, but through August and September the church has only raised about $172,000.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kwan has the final say and will hold a hearing Nov. 14 to decide. Chapman University in Orange and the Orange County Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange were in the lead, because their bids promised the highest amount of cash, $50 million.
"Nothing is final until Nov. 14,'' Crystal Cathedral's Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said.
"We continue to pray, believe and stand behind our 'Jeremiah 29:11 plan,' which we submitted to the court,'' Coleman added, referring to a Biblical quote about God's plans.
Chapman University has tentative plans to expand with medical and pharmaceutical schools on the property, said Mary Platt of Chapman.
Attorney Marc Winthrop, who represents Crystal Cathedral, said church officials were allowed to make the pick if they cooperated with the creditors' committee.
Although the Diocese and Chapman offered the same amount of money for the property, the main difference was the ability of Crystal Cathedral officials to buy back and lease the property, Winthrop said.
Crystal Cathedral would have five years to buy back half of the property for $23 million, Platt said. However, Winthrop said it was closer to $30 million.
Chapman's offer also allows for Crystal Cathedral to rent some of the property for up to 15 years, Winthrop said.
Attorney Alan Martin, who represents the Diocese, said his client's offer amounts to $53.6 million, because it includes giving Crystal Cathedral $3 million to use for renting some of the property and remain on campus, or to rent at a low cost some of the Diocese's property at parishes off the Garden Grove campus.
Crystal Cathedral officials would also have the option of using the $3 million for some other purpose, Martin said.
"We've wanted to be very respectful of the history, legacy, and mission of Crystal Cathedral Ministries,'' Martin said. "And given their financial situation we tried to develop options to not only make it financially attractive, but to give them a series of options, short term on site, and long-term off site.''
The creditors committee has until Monday to make its preference known, Martin said.
Winthrop doubted the Diocese would have legal standing to object to the sale of the property to Chapman, but Martin said he believes the Diocese remains a player in the process.
"At this point in time we believe we have standing to weigh in,'' Martin said.