As the Robert H. Schuller family cuts ties to Crystal Cathedral Ministries, ARP pastor Kent Moorlach recalls the influence the glass-paned mega-church had on him from an early age.
By Rev. Kent Moorlach
Last fall, I preached in the iconic Crystal Cathedral in Orange County.
How did this happen?
A group of local “Reformational” pastors combined efforts to promote and present the Reformation OC Conference (ReformationOCconfer- ence.com). Since our conference coincided with Reformation Sunday (the last Sunday of October, commemorating Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses on the church door of Wittenburg, Germany, Oct. 31, 1517), I took it upon myself to locate a church where we could host an evening Reformation Service in Orange County.
Decades ago, I attended such services in the Crystal Cathedral. This church has denominational affiliation with the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and had welcomed to their pulpit such Reformed luminaries as RC Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, and others. These services were a combined effort among the RCA and the Christian Reformed Churches (CRC) in southern California.
As a teen, I attended the youth groups of the Garden Grove Community Church. As we would play crazy games in the parking lot, the internal structure of the cathedral began to loom over the horizon. I later became involved as a summer day-camp counselor which met in a building across the street. This building was connected to the church property by a bridge that spanned over Chapman Ave.
We would board the buses with the campers for local adventures, but now in the shadow of new construction — a Family Life Center. Years later, I would become a youth pastor at an RCA church and would engage in shared youth ministry events that took place in this new building, complete with offices, classrooms, large group meeting rooms, and a gymnasium.
I would one day meet a beautiful Christian woman; a graduate of the Crystal Cathedral Academy, a choir member, and a flying angel of the “Glories of Christmas & Easter” productions. In God’s gracious providence, I would marry this woman upon the very chancel of the Crystal Cathedral!
But things have changed over time. And during this time, I have walked an awkward path. I have benefited greatly from the ministry programs and members of the Cathedral, but all the while, standing mostly in opposition to the message and methods that built the place!
Today, As a Minister
I have regularly expressed my criticism of the Cathedral’s lack of conformity to confessional and governmental standards of a Reformed church. However, I have also been deeply impressed by the many who minister there with no acclaim or prominence. Unfortunately, these individuals are also without any real voice to counter the decisions made by “boards and personalities.”
One such servant of whom I am speaking is the volunteer pastor who oversees the Sunday evening services. Upon attending one such service, I was surprised to hear an earnest message commending the Gospel of Jesus Christ and completely conforming to the standards of the Reformed faith! A greater surprise still when he eagerly embraced the opportunity to host another Reformation Service in the Cathedral on the last Sunday of October! (The evening message can be viewed here: http://vimeo. com/31612257).
But what has all this faithful earnestness brought to the congregation of the Crystal Cathedral? Bankruptcy! Cronyism! Disestablishment (from a denomination lax in her duty to hold the Cathedral accountable)! And exile by a new owner who probably won’t have to change much to fit in there!
It is biblical history repeating — again! When Israel did not remain faithful, the Babylonians soon over- ran the gates!
Will there be another Reformation service at the Crystal Cathedral? Only the Lord knows! It will be interesting to see where we nail the announcement!
Rev. Moorlach is mission developer of Communion Presbyterian Church (ARP) Irvine, CA.