declared bankruptcy last week. The church is seeking protection regarding $7.5 MILLION that it owes creditors who, according to Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman (!), have filed lawsuits. In all, the Cathedral is apparently $55 MILLION in debt. The Wall Street Journal speaks of "a trail of hundreds of [i.e. 550] unpaid creditors from California to Washington, D.C." (Here is a partial list of top creditors.)
The CC had apologized to creditors, but you can't live on apologies.
In a notable paragraph from the WSJ article, we read:
The church's style may seem extravagant, but it brought worship to life, said Brett Judson, a member who is listed as a creditor for pipe-organ performances. Pageantry, he said, "is something the congregation wants. All the musical and dramatic outlets are a way to open people up to a positive Christian message." (Emphases added.)Right; because it takes expensive music and entertainment to bring worship to life (pace Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-4), and that's what non-Christians really need (pace Romans 10:17).
There will now be abundant material for tracing the CC's financial downfall — but that isn't my main focus. My interest turns to Schuller himself, in two particulars, from the second of which I'll launch a bit more broadly.
First — huh? Schuller's daughter is pastor of the church? How did that happen? Her only degree that I know of is a doctorate in business administration... and there's that whole she's a woman thing.
Happily, we need not speculate, because the senior Schuller explains to us exactly how this happened: God told him to have his daughter replace him. Oh, don't take my word for it. Here we go:
So there you go. It's all Charismaticky. Schuller had a word from "God," which he quotes verbatim, in which "God" says a doctorate in BA is jake with Him, and that whole ban on female pastors thingie can be waived. ("God" didn't explain when He'd changed His mind on 1 Timothy 2:8-15 [I speak as a leaky-Canoneer].)
Second, Schuller has himself now spoken publicly about the bankruptcy.
And what did Schuller say? Dare we hope? Did he express broken repentance for years of preaching false doctrine, lifting up man, twisting or altogether ignoring Scripture, effectively denying the Gospel? Did he lament such opulent waste, such fleecing of sheep, such wasted years? Did he beg his listeners to forgive him, warn them of the wrath to come, and plead with them to flee to Christ alone for salvation by His blood?
Well, Schuller did plead, all right — but what he pled for was more money and more support. Because, by yiminy, he's earned it! Again, don't take my word for it, hear Schuller himself:
"I need more help from you," Schuller said, according to the Orange County Register. "If you are a tither, become a double-tither. If you are not a tither, become a tither. This ministry has earned your trust. This ministry has earned your help."
What are the total strangers who heard Warren's plea for "imagineers" — an ironic borrowing of the term from Disney — going to do with his exhortation, delivered as it was under the auspices of Piper and all? What reporter is going to trace out downloads of that message, and see what the fruits are in the hearers? No doubt, some will filter the charge through a Biblical grid, and accomplish great things. But who will find the family, for instance, where the frantic wife wonders how she'll feed and clothe the children while her husband is off "imagineering" himself (and themselves) into financial and social ruin?
Every time I hear a story of someone who faced the odds, held on in the face of ruin and pulled it off, I wonder how many will be emboldened by that story to follow that example — and will themselves fall into shameful, miserable ruin, instead of the bright happy ending they (ahem) imagined?
Contrast all this with being a minister of the Gospel. I remember some really terrific counsel I received from one of my first pastors, back in the seventies. He said something like this: if you can't preach the same Gospel in the mansions of Beverly Hills or the trenches of Vietnam, you aren't preaching the real Gospel. The Gospel is trans-cultural, trans-temporal, and trans-situational.
- Believe, study and live God's Word, the Bible.
- Preach the Gospel; in fact
- Preach the whole Word as absolutely vital, essential, sufficient.
- Use the brains God gave us (as His word orders us to do) to fill in the gaps, taking responsiblity for the decisions you make.