The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the “Hour of Power” religious broadcaster, once raised $18 million to build his landmark Crystal Cathedral in Southern California’s Orange County.
Yet when he was laid to rest April 20 on the grounds of the cathedral he longer controlled, his fractured family resorted to crowdfunding to cover the costs.
“Dr. and Mrs. Schuller were left financially crippled by the loss of their retirement income previously promised by the organization,” Carol Schuller Milner, Schuller’s daughter, wrote on the site GoFundMe.
“Living on social security for the past years, they were not able to preserve a fund that would cover arrangements for funeral and memorial tributes.”
Christ Cathedral — the name the Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., gave the building after purchasing it in 2012 — and a private benefactor covered the funeral’s basic costs, Milner wrote.
The GoFundMe appeal seeks $30,000 to establish a website, an archive of Robert Schuller’s work, and a broadcast of the funeral.
“The funds we seek will help to give Dr. Schuller a lovely, albeit modest, goodbye,” the appeal said.
To date, a little over $6,100 has been raised from 44 donors. Individual donations have ranged from $25 to $1,000 since the campaign’s start April 11. Schuller died April 2 of esophageal cancer at the age of 88.
In a building swap, the Crystal Cathedral has announced it will move its congregation to a smaller Roman Catholic church after the iconic Protestant megachurch was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif.
The cathedral, plagued by huge debt and squabbles among family members of founder Robert H. Schuller, will move to a space with less than half of its current seating capacity. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s daughter and the recent pastor at the cathedral, started a new church nearby in March.
As the Crystal Cathedral tries to find its footing without any members of founder Robert H. Schuller's family at the helm, the only son and one-time successor says "sibling rivalry" played a key role in the California megachurch's decline.
"They didn't want to be accountable to me, their brother," said Robert A. Schuller, the church's former senior pastor, of his sisters and brothers-in-law, some of who were board members and ministry staffers. He chalked it up to "sibling rivalry."
"So they took steps into their own hands to make sure that they had job security."
In an interview Monday (March 19), Robert A. Schuller, 57, said his siblings took advantage of his father's signs of dementia and halted the younger Schuller's 2006 succession to his father's ministry within two years. He left the gleaming megachurch in 2008.
Last Sunday, Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman appeared for apparently the last time before some 800 people at the morning service of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.
For members of the extended Schuller family who had built and shepherded the iconic megachurch into the spiritual home for 10,000 members, so much had changed:
- Faced with staggering debts and a bankruptcy filing, the glass building was recently sold to the local Catholic diocese, but can remain Protestant in the short term.
- The staff had dropped from 350 to 200, including the recent firings of Coleman's sister, husband and brother-in-law, who had all worked on its "Hour of Power" broadcasts.
- Just the day before, her parents, Robert H. and Arvella Schuller, had departed the ministry they started more than 50 years ago, citing a multimillion-dollar fight with its board.
As members of the Schuller family head in new directions — Coleman and brother-in law Jim Penner plan to start a new church this Sunday — the famous glass-walled church offers a cautionary tale of the potential pitfalls facing family-run ministries.