Robert H. Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Megachurch Founder Has Died

“The classical error of historical Christianity is that we have never started with the value of the person. Rather, we have started from the ‘unworthiness of the sinner,’ and that starting point has set the stage for the glorification of human shame in Christian theology,” wrote Robert H. Schuller in his book “Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.”

Christian fundamentalists attacked Schuller as a heretic and humanist for statements they believed denied the need for the personal repentance of sin and for his tolerance of Jewish, Roman Catholic and other theologies.  In response, Dr. Schuller gave a sermon on inclusiveness and tolerance:  “I do let people know how great their sins and miseries are,” he said in a 1992 radio interview. “I don’t do that by standing in a pulpit and telling them they’re sinners. …The way I do it is ask questions. Are you happy? Do you have problems, what are they? So then I come across as somebody who cares about them.”

By Marion Algier – Ask Marion

Rev. Robert Harold. Schuller, the renowned Southern California televangelist, motivational speaker and author who shared his upbeat messages on faith and redemption with millions from his famed landmark Crystal Cathedral via the Hour of Power, only to see his dream crumble in his waning years, has died at age 88.

Daughter Carol Schuller Milner reported that her father, Dr. Robert H. Schuller, died early Thursday (04.02.15) at a care facility in Artesia. In 2013, Schuller was diagnosed with a tumor in his esophagus that had spread to his lymph nodes and began treatment.

In this Feb. 9, 2006 file photo, Rev. Robert H. Schuller poses for a photo outside the Crystal Cathedral in Orange, Calif.© AP Photo/Chris Carlson, Feb. 9, 2006 file photo/ Rev. Robert H. Schuller poses for a photo outside the Crystal Cathedral in Orange, CA.

The well-known charismatic televangelist was watched by millions worldwide every Sunday, yet Dr. Robert H. Schuller faded from view in recent years after watching his church collapse amid a failed leadership transition along with sharp declines in viewership and donations because of the economy that ultimately forced the ministry to file for bankruptcy.

The iconic, glass-paned Crystal Cathedral — the centerpiece of Schuller’s well storied ministry — was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in 2011, and Schuller lost a legal battle the following year in an attempt to collect more than $5 million from his former ministry for claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

Schuller, who preached in a flowing grey robe adorned with purple striping and sporting oversized aviator-style glasses, flashing his Cheshire cat smile, suffered a mild heart attack back in 1997, but he was quickly back on the pulpit, saying “the positive person” is not afraid of life’s surprises. Then in July 2013, he was hospitalized for several days after a fall at his Orange, CA home. 

Schuller’s evangelical ministry, part of the Reformed Dutch Anglican Church in America, was a product of modern times and creative thinking. He and his late wife, Arvella, an organist, started a ministry in 1955 with $500 when he began preaching from the roof of a concession stand at the Orange drive-in movie theater southeast of Los Angeles.

The church’s motto — “Come as you are in the family car” — tapped into both the post-World War II suburban boom in America and the burgeoning Southern California auto culture.

By 1961, the foundling church had a brick-and-mortar home — a “walk-in/drive-in church” — and Schuller began broadcasting the “Hour of Power” in 1970.

In 1980, towering glass-and-steel Crystal Cathedral was built to house Schuller’s booming TV ministry, run by his wife Arvella, which was broadcast live each week from the cathedral’s uplifting and sunlit 2,800-seat sanctuary. At its peak, in the 1990s, the program had 20 million viewers in about 180 countries.

The Cathedral was also outfitted with the infrastructure to fly the beautiful Angels for which the church’s Glories were known; an idea that was presented and sold to Rev. Schuller by Mary Martin, who played Peter Pan on stage and had been a Sunday guest.

Summer Angel Solo 2008CC - A Solitary LifeSummer Solo Angel 2008

Angel Summer Miles Singing to Mary © Photos/the UCLA Shutterbug

Video: Flying Angels at Crystal Cathedral Glory of Christmas

Schuller’s message — that “Possibility Thinking” and the love of God overcomes hardships — was a uniquely American blend of Bible and psychology. It was inspired by late author Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Schuller also wrote more than 30 books, including several best-sellers like Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!

“He was a young guy like me, and he was going out there and trying new things,” said his grandson, Bobby Schuller, who pastors his own church that includes some of his grandfather’s former congregants. “He did so many amazing, innovative things.”

Unlike many other televangelists, Schuller seniors’s message lacked fire-and-brimstone condemnations or conservative political baggage, and until the end was relatively scandal free.

“The classical error of historical Christianity is that we have never started with the value of the person. Rather, we have started from the ‘unworthiness of the sinner,’ and that starting point has set the stage for the glorification of human shame in Christian theology,” he wrote in his book “Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.”

Schuller had admirers that ranged from fellow evangelist Billy Graham to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. He also was among the first foreign religious figures invited to preach on Russian television.

But Christian fundamentalists attacked him as a heretic and a humanist for statements they believed denied the need for the personal repentance of sin as well as for his tolerance of Jewish, Roman Catholic and other theologies.

Schuller’s friendship with President Bill Clinton also raised some eyebrows among the conservative Republicans of his Orange County congregation and prompted a deluge of angry letters and phone calls.

In response, Schuller gave a sermon on inclusiveness and tolerance.

In a 1992 radio interview Schuller said “I do let people know how great their sins and miseries are” but…  “I don’t do that by standing in a pulpit and telling them they’re sinners; the way I do it is ask questions. Are you happy? Do you have problems, what are they? So then I come across as somebody who cares about them.”

Schuller sometimes cited the example of his daughter Carol, who lost part of her leg because of a motorcycle accident in 1978 but then went on to become a champion skier.

“When tough times come, we need to take tough action, to hold on until the tide turns for the better, to tenaciously dig in and bloom where we are planted,” he wrote.

And the test of tough times was coming for Schuller and his church as well…

ap_Crystal_Cathedral_Robert_Schuller_Arvella_jt_120311_mnBetter Dayssheila-schuller-coleman

In 2006, Schuller’s only son, 61-year-old Robert A. Schuller, was installed as senior pastor, the start of what was planned as a carefully choreographed leadership transition. Although a father-son succession is rare in the Reformed Church in America, the Schullers considered the church a “family business” and the planned move was sanctioned by the national church, officials said.

The organization fell on hard times after the younger Schuller’s installation who left amid a bitter family feud in fall 2008. His father had removed him from the “Hour of Power” broadcasts, and he quit as senior pastor a few weeks later.

Sheila Schuller Coleman, one of Schuller’s daughters, took over as the church’s top administrator, and a stable of preachers, including her and her father, handled preaching duties on the “Hour of Power.”  Sheila also ultimately left, taking some congregants with her to start a new ministry.

The tumult on the pulpit worsened a pre-existing decline in viewership and donations. And in 2010, the Crystal Cathedral ministries filed for bankruptcy, citing debt of more than $43 million.

Bankruptcy filings indicated the ministry was paying significant tax-exempt housing allowances to Schuller family members and insiders. The allowances were legal but raised concerns among vendors and other creditors who had gone unpaid for months. Schuller friend, long time congregant and frequent performer at the Cathedral Pianist Roger Williams said the Schuller kids spoiled the Crystal Cathedral

In 2012, Dr. Schuller was removed from and his wife quit the board of directors in a dispute over copyright infringement and breach of contract. That same year, they lost a legal bid to recover more than $5 million from their former ministry.

Schuller’s grandson, Bobby Schuller, took the remaining congregation and founded a new church. Bobby Schuller also took over the “Hour of Power,” broadcasting from a new location.

Four Generations of Schullers

Four generations of Robert Schullers  – photo by Donna Schuller

Robert Harold Schuller was born in Alton, Iowa, in 1926, and was ordained by the Reformed Church in America in 1950. He was pastor of Ivanhoe Reformed Church in Chicago from 1950 to 1955 before moving to California.

Besides his son, Reverend Schuller and his beloved wife, Arvella, had four daughters, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen. Arvella Schuller died Feb. 11, 2014, after a brief illness.

The Crystal Cathedral and Dr. Schuller were known for their Glory productions:  The Glory of Easter, the Glory of Christmas and the Glory of Creation as well as for the weekly Hour of Power broadcasts and Schuller’s positive messages from the pulpit and through his 30 books.  Many people’s lives were changed forever after attending one of the Cathedral’s Glory Productions.  And for those of us who had the honor of knowing the Schullers and being part of that ministry and the Glory productions it is a huge and final loss.

The passing of Dr. Robert H. Schuller is definitely the end of an era.

Video: What Can I Give Him? sung by 10 year old Isabelle Plazola

crystal cathedral glory of Creation

Don As Gold King

GOE Crowd

300px-CrystalCathedral sm

The 3 Kings

Marion Algier, Tim Algier, and Summer Miles

3 Kings – Tim Algier, Bruce Martz and Don Eldridge

Photos © Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug and Diane Visser 

Related:

Landmark Crystal Cathedral Gets a New Name — Christ Cathedral… and Slips Into History

Crystal Cathedral Sale to the Catholic Diocese of Orange Closed Escrow on Friday…

The End of an Era: Who Bought the Crystal Cathedral… And What of It’s Parishioners?

Schuller Ousted from Crystal Cathedral board

Crystal Cathedral Put Up for Sale to End Debt Woes

Rifts, debt tear at Crystal Cathedral

TEARFUL SCHULLER PLEADS FOR DOLLARS FOR CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL

Rev. Schuller Retires as Lead Pastor, Takes New Crystal Cathedral Post

Pianist Roger Williams: Schuller Kids Spoiled Crystal Cathedral

Catholic Diocese Starts Removing Hundreds of Donors’ Memorial Stones From Crystal Cathedral’s Walk of Faith

Nativity Scenes and Glories – The Reason For the Season – WoC 2013

Remembering Avella Schuller

Arvella Shuller died the day before Shirley Temple Black who also passed of natural causes at age 85

Dr. Robert H. Schuller Has Esophageal Cancer

About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place". At age 62 I find myself fighting inoperable uterine Cancer and thanks to the man upstairs and the prayers from so many people including many of my readers from AskMarion and JustOneMorePet... I'm beating it. After losing our business because of the economy and factors related to the re-election of President Obama in 2012 followed by 16-mos of job hunting, my architect-trained husband is working as a trucker and has only been home approximately 5-days a month since I was diagnosed, which has made everything more difficult and often lonely... plus funds are tight. Our family medical deductible is 12K per year for two of us; thank you ObamaCare. But thanks to donations from so many of you, we are making ends meet as I go through treatment while taking care of my father-in-law who is suffering from late stage Alzheimer's and my mother-in-law who suffers from RA and onset dementia as well as hearing loss, for which there are no caretaker funds, as I continue the fight here online to inform and help restore our amazing country. And finally I need to thank a core group of family, friends, and readers... all at a distance, who check in with me regularly. Plus, I must thank my furkids who have not left my side through this fight. You can see them at JustOneMorePet.
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3 Responses to Robert H. Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Megachurch Founder Has Died

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