[UPDATED:] Crystal Cathedral's High Salaries Questioned in Bankruptcy Proceedings

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Update, November 19, 2:50 p.m.: Creditors in the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy proceedings have filed court documents that question the high salary of yet another employee.

This one is is paid to the son-in-law of the church's Chief Financial Officer Fred Southard, whose $132,019 housing allowance already came under fire from the U.S. Trustee overseeing the case.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that as the bankruptcy proceeds, Crystal Cathedral is requesting that William Gaultiere, the part-time pastor of Spiritual Formation Ministries, receive $61,955 plus benefits--with $59,202 of the compensation coming in the form of a tax-exempt housing allowance.

The Times cites court documents filed Thursday that state Gaultiere's job summary as: "Lead spiritual formation ministries for the Crystal Cathedral (CC), develop spiritual leaders and help them and interested church attendees to 'be with Jesus in order to become like him'."

But the creditors' objection characterizes the position as a "significant cash drain," noting that volunteers fill such roles at other churches.

Crystal Cathedral's attorney, who said he had not seen the actual court filings when the Times called, considered such objections without merit.

Original Post, November 18, 11 a.m.: The U.S. Trustee has filed objections in federal bankruptcy court over the high salaries of three Crystal Cathedral employees.

As you might have guessed,  two of those earning mega-paychecks from the Garden Grove mega-church are members of the founding Schuller family.

Schuller family members alone make a little more than $1 million in salaries each year, court documents reveal.

The Orange County Register has the scoop.

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Too much crystal, not enough cathedral: discuss!
Specifically, the U.S. Trustee, an employee of the Department of Justice who works in an administrative capacity with the court, questioned the $132,019 housing allowance for Chief Financial Officer Fred Southard, who has been in that position since 1978 and also earns $12,000 in yearly salary. It's unclear to the trustee why the church even has a CFO since Crystal Cathedral has a full-time accounting staff.

The DOJ official also wonders about the annual salaries of $70,000 for Gretchen Schuller Penner, the producer of Hour of Power broadcasts and the youngest of Robert H. Schuller's daughters, and $55,000 for Penner's daughter Neyva Penner Klaassen, who schedules Hour of Power musical guests. Many of the mother and daughter's duties overlap, according to the trustee.

A hearing is to be scheduled to determine, given the current financial situation, whether the church should keep those positions. If a CFO post remains, the trustee has recommended that the housing allowance be eliminated entirely.

Crystal Cathedral, whose guiding philosophy is strong faith brings great economic prosperity, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. The church has a $36 million mortgage, $60 million in total debt and outstanding bills of about $7.5 million.

Among those owed are longtime vendors of The Glory of Christmas, the annual extravaganza that, along with The Glory of Easter, has been cancelled. About 150 staff positions at Crystal Cathedral have been cut and several assets have been sold off, including a San Juan Capistrano retreat that many Orange County churches and missions rent.

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