- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — Several choir members at Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral say they’re upset over a document they’ve been asked to sign that takes a strong stand against homosexuality.

The “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant” recently handed out to members states that they should commit to being Christians by following the Bible in every way, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Former and current choir members said they are particularly offended by a statement in the document that refers to homosexuality. Long-time church members said this is the first time they have seen the cathedral take a firm stand against homosexuality and are disturbed by it.

“I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view,” the covenant reads. “I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.”

The Rev. Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor of the megachurch and a daughter of the founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, issued a statement saying the document is intended to “clarify expectations placed on them as ministry leaders.” Mrs. Coleman also apologized for the pain the covenant has caused some choir members.

Ann Moore Waltz, a longtime church member and former choir member, said she does not agree with the statement in the covenant.

“If I were still in the choir and if that was presented to me, and if a gay person had walked out, I would have walked out with him or her,” she told the Register. “If you are a Christian group and people come to you, you should be a good servant, love them and shine the light of Jesus on them — regardless of who they are.”

Donald Neuen, the cathedral’s longtime choir director, left the church last year because he disagreed with the view of Gretchen Schuller Penner, another of Mr. Schuller’s daughters, that choir members should be “vetted” to make sure they are good Christians, the Register reported.

Mrs. Penner, the church’s executive director of programming, is a producer for the cathedral’s “Hour of Power” program, broadcast to audiences worldwide.

Larry LaBonte, a church member for more than three decades, said he disagreed with the clause in the covenant with regard to homosexuality as well.

John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.

“This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in,” he said.

The megachurch has dealt with a series of controversial issues over the past several years, including a family rift that prompted the founder’s son, Robert A. Schuller, to split from the church, as well as over salaries and housing allowances for Schuller family members.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 18, citing debts of more than $43 million. The church has ordered major layoffs, sold property and canceled its annual “Glory of Easter” extravaganza.

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