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Church leaders say the recession took its toll in 2008 as donations and ticket sales for holiday pageants began to drop. But some experts say the church failed to attract younger members while alienating older churchgoers with an ill-fated attempt to turn the church over to Schuller’s son that ended in a bitter and public family feud.

As revenues declined, the church laid off more than half its employees, cut salaries and canceled contracts with more than 100 television stations nationwide. But unpaid bills along with a $36 million balance remaining on the church’s mortgage pushed the Crystal Cathedral’s debts above $43 million.

Last year, the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to be able to keep operating while getting its finances in order under supervision of the court.