By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The board of directors of Crystal Cathedral Ministries announced Thursday that its preferred buyer for the megachurch's campus is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
The announcement came just before a bankruptcy court hearing at which a judge was expected to decide between competing offers from the diocese and Chapman University.
The Catholic diocese wants the property for a cathedral of its own, while the university would use it to expand educational programs.
A board statement said it preferred terms of the $57.5 million Catholic bid for the Orange County cathedral, longtime home of the "Hour of Power" broadcast.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert N. Kwan has said he believes the bids from Chapman University and the diocese are both feasible options, and asked the Crystal Cathedral's board to state its preferred buyer at Thursday's hearing. The board previously favored the university's bid, which was raised Wednesday to $59 million.
Some Crystal Cathedral members fear their church will dwindle if the 40-acre grounds are sold to the diocese and they must move to a new location. They noted that congregants emptied their pockets to help build the elaborate building and many planned to be buried in the nearby cemetery.
Others fear the broadcast that funds 70 percent of the church's revenue will lose viewers if moved to a different, less striking setting.
"That's our church — the Crystal Cathedral. We bought and paid for it," said Bob Canfield, a 73-year-old general contractor who joined the church five years ago. "We feel like we've been raped of our ministry..."