Schuller Family Breaks Away From Crystal Cathedral

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago; last year the building was bought by the Catholic Diocese in Orange County. i i

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago; last year the building was bought by the Catholic Diocese in Orange County. Jae C. Hong/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jae C. Hong/AP
The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago; last year the building was bought by the Catholic Diocese in Orange County.

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago; last year the building was bought by the Catholic Diocese in Orange County.

Jae C. Hong/AP

On Sunday, the Hour of Power television show opened with characteristic optimism, encouraging people who needed a lift to watch the program.

But when Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman began her sermon, she acknowledged that she doesn't always practice the positive thinking that she preaches.

"For instance this past week, my attitude was a little down, a little negative," she told the congregation, "making life miserable for people around me, most of all moi, myself."

Schuller Coleman is Robert Schuller's daughter, and she, along with the entire Schuller family, is cutting ties with the Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller founded the church and launched its Hour of Power TV show decades ago. But in recent years, the church has fallen on hard times.

On Saturday, Robert Schuller; his wife, Arvella; and daughter Carol announced that they were resigning from the board because of the "adversarial and negative attitude" of other board members. They allege the church owes them money, something the church disputes. Now Schuller Coleman is looking for another place to preach.

"This is definitely the end of an era," says Jonathan Walton, assistant professor at Harvard Divinity School. He says when Robert Schuller opened his doors in 1955, America was in a postwar boom, economically and spiritually.

The Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and his wife, Arvella, in Los Angeles, in 1997. The Schullers announced on Saturday that they would resign from the board of directors of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. A day later their daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman announced she would be leaving to start a new church. i i

The Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and his wife, Arvella, in Los Angeles, in 1997. The Schullers announced on Saturday that they would resign from the board of directors of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. A day later their daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman announced she would be leaving to start a new church. John Hayes/AP hide caption

itoggle caption John Hayes/AP
The Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and his wife, Arvella, in Los Angeles, in 1997. The Schullers announced on Saturday that they would resign from the board of directors of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. A day later their daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman announced she would be leaving to start a new church.

The Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and his wife, Arvella, in Los Angeles, in 1997. The Schullers announced on Saturday that they would resign from the board of directors of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. A day later their daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman announced she would be leaving to start a new church.

John Hayes/AP

"Robert Schuller's early preaching caught the spiritual strivings and desires of a postwar generation that wanted to have more, wanted to do more, and they wanted to be more," Walton says.

With the wind of positive thinking in his sails, the young Robert Schuller, a pastor in the Reformed Church in America, expanded his congregation to add some 10,000 people. Millions more tuned into Hour of Power, and Schuller hired architect Philip Johnson to build the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

But when Schuller tried to pass the baton to his children, Walton says, the church faltered. They preached the same positive Christianity, but without the charisma.

"I think this is a quintessential example of a failure to institutionalize charismatic leadership so it can stand the test of time," Walton says.

The members grew grayer, their numbers dwindled, and so did their contributions. Meanwhile, Walton says, the church never figured out how to reach a younger generation.

"We see preachers that may not have the tools of production to produce an Hour of Power, but they can produce three minutes of power on YouTube," he says. "An hour of power just may be too exhausting for Generation Y."

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago; last year, the building was bought by the Catholic Diocese in Orange County. The church is planning to rent back the building for up to three years.

But in a Web video on Sunday, Schuller Coleman said she was taking the choir and some of the staff to a new place to worship.

"Today, we are going to need a new home sooner than we thought, and we are going to move full speed ahead," she said.

Schuller Coleman said the church will be called Hope Center OC [of Christ], and she hopes to find a location within a week. In the meantime, those who want to worship at the Crystal Cathedral may do so, though the church says it does not yet know who will be preaching.

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