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Schuller Family Breaks Away From Crystal Cathedral
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Schuller Family Breaks Away From Crystal Cathedral



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Robert Schuller and his family are leaving the Crystal Cathedral. It is a sea change for the megachurch that towers over Orange County, California. The family is synonymous with the church. Robert Schuller founded it and launched its "Hour of Power" TV show, but in recent years, the Crystal Cathedral has fallen on hard times.

Here's more from NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, BYLINE: Yesterday's "Hour of Power" opened with characteristic optimism.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If you need a lift today, you've tuned to the right program. Join us for the best hour on television, the "Hour of Power" from the Crystal Cathedral.

HAGERTY: But when senior pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman began her sermon, she acknowledged that she does not always practice the positive thinking that she preaches.


SHEILA SCHULLER COLEMAN: So, for instance, this past week, my attitude was a little down, a little negative, making life miserable for the people around me, but most of all, moi, myself.

HAGERTY: Understandable, perhaps. Schuller Coleman is Robert Schuller's daughter and she, along with the entire Schuller family, is cutting ties with the Crystal Cathedral. On Saturday, Robert Schuller, his wife and daughter Carol announced that they are resigning from the board because of the, quote, "adversarial and negative attitude of the other board members." They allege the church owes them money, something the church disputes. Now, Schuller Coleman is looking for another place to preach.

JONATHAN WALTON: This is definitely the end of an era.

HAGERTY: Jonathan Walton is an assistant professor at Harvard Divinity School. He says when Robert Schuller opened its doors in 1955, America was in a post-war boom, economically and spiritually.

WALTON: Robert Schuller's early preaching caught the spiritual strivings and desires of a post-war generation that wanted to have more, they wanted to do more and they wanted to be more.

HAGERTY: 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 some 10,000 people. Millions more tuned in to his services on the televised "Hour of Power." He hired architect Philip Johnson to build the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. 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.

WALTON: I think this is a quintessential example of a failure to institutionalize charismatic leadership so that it can stand the test of time.

HAGERTY: 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.

WALTON: 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 and "Hour of Power" just may be too exhausting for generation Y.

HAGERTY: Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy two years ago and, 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 yesterday, Sheila Schuller Coleman said she's taking the choir and some of the staff to a new place to worship.

COLEMAN: We are going to need a new home sooner than we thought and we're moving full speed ahead.

HAGERTY: She 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.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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