At one time Rev. Robert H. Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., was the very definition of a megachurch. His "Hour of Power" television show featured his warm smiles and positive approach to life and religion. But on Sunday the Orange County Register reported Schuller was "voted off the board of Crystal Cathedral Ministries."
That information came from Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, who succeeded his father in 2006.
The church spokesman, John Charles, told The Los Angeles Times however, "He (Robert H. Schuller) was not voted off the board."
They just took away the elder Schuller's vote, making him an "honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus."
"It's a very sad day and unfortunately, I know how that feels," the younger Schuller told the Orange County Register. Robert A. Schuller quit leading the church after a similar run-in with the board in 2008 — only two years after his dad passed him the torch. That torch is now held by another family member — the 84-year-old Schuller's daughter (and Robert A. Schuller's sister) Sheila Schuller Coleman.
Coleman inherited a ministry her father began in a "sticky tar paper roof of a snack bar in the Orange drive-in theater on Sunday, March 27, 1955," an Orange County Register article from last year reported. "Less than 25 years after his first sermon at the drive-in, Schuller built a $16 million glass and steel architectural masterpiece — the Crystal Cathedral — that soon became one of Orange County's top tourist attractions. By 2005, he was the head of a large congregation with an $80 million budget."
But after Schuller's son left, things have spiraled downward financially and have been peppered with family squabbles over control and direction.
The Orange County Register reported in October last year the church had filed for bankruptcy: "The Cathedral has a $36 million mortgage to pay off and a total debt of $48 million. About $7.5 million of that debt is to unsecured creditors — a majority of them vendors and laborers whose bills have gone unpaid. The church has sold several assets, cut about 150 of its staff members and slashed air time by 50 percent. Its congregation has shrunk to about 5,000."
Robert A. Schuller, according to United Press International, talked about his father's situation: "I feel bad for him because he's had to watch his life's work go down the toilet the last three years."
Pastor James Kok, a Crystal Cathedral Ministries staffer for decades told CNN, "They had effectively stopped listening to (Schuller) two or three years ago. It's symbolic, not functional. He was mostly put on the shelf by his daughters."
UPI reported "Former board member Jim Case, reacting to the report that the elder Schuller had been removed from the board, called it the latest step in a 'power grab' by the majority faction."
The official Crystal Cathedral website, however, is announcing the elder Schuller's move to a non-voting position as if it is a happy occasion — putting a large graphic of the ever-positive Schuller on their homepage and declaring "Dr. Robert H. Schuller Becomes Chairman of the Board Emeritus."
The announcement says Schuller has been "working toward semi-retirement" and this move will "free up Dr. Schuller's time" for speaking and writing. He will also keep speaking at the Crystal Cathedral and on the "Hour of Power" television program.
In the announcement, Coleman says she will continue to go to her father for advice. "Dad will continue to provide leadership for this ministry through me for as long as possible," she said in the announcement. "I have and will continue to defer to his wisdom and honor him for his unprecedented accomplishments."