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Crystal Cathedral Brought Down by Sibling Rivalry?

The Rev. Robert H. Schuller's Son Says Sisters Challenged His Leadership

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By Ivana Kvesic , Christian Post Reporter
March 21, 2012|3:16 pm
  • Dr. Robert A. Schuller
    (Photo: Comstar Media)
    Dr. Robert A. Schuller, Chairman of Comstar and former senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral talks to The Christian Post.

Is sibling rivalry to blame for the fall of California megachurch the Crystal Cathedral? According to the youngest son of Crystal Cathedral Ministries founder the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, rivalry among the minister's children is what may have finally brought the financially-troubled church to its knees.

Robert A. Schuller, the Schullers' only son, alleges that during the time of his transition to leadership of the Crystal Cathedral in 2006, his sisters took advantage of their faither's struggle with dementia to gain greater control of the ministry.

"They didn't want to be accountable to me, their brother," Schuller said in a recent interview. "So they took steps into their own hands to make sure that they had job security."

"My sisters were able to manipulate that because of his mental capacities," he claimed.

The Crystal Cathedral ministry was founded five decades ago as a start-up congregation in a Garden Grove, Calif., drive-in movie theater. The Rev. Schuller's ministry eventually became one of America's most noteable megachurches with a congregation that had up to 10,000 members at the height of its popularity.

Schuller's recognition enabled him to become a worldwide figure for the evangelical community and one of the most prominent pastors of his time as he oversaw the opulent, $18 million Crystal Cathedral church.

But it was when the father of five began struggling with dementia that the ministry began tearing at the seams due to an alleged sibling rivalry among his children, says the younger Schuller.

Robert A. Schuller transitioned into the role of senior pastor at Crystal Cathedral following his father's 2006 retirement. He was set to become his father's heir to the ministry, preaching to millions worldwide, until he abruptly retired in 2008.

The younger Schuller's retirement came as church leaders, including the Rev. Schuller, envisioned a different direction for the ministry and made the decision to have multiple Sunday preachers.

The sudden transition into a multiple-preacher church left a gaping hole for the youngest Schuller's role within the ministry, which he believes was in actuality implemented and pushed for by his three older sisters. The former senior pastor also claims his brothers-in-law were involved in the implementation of the change.

Although Schuller, who is now chairman of Comstar Media Fund, shared in the recent interview that he holds no grudges against his family and has since reconnected with his parents and sisters, he believes that the sibling rivalry was ultimately responsible for "the demise of the ministry."

Indeed, in the younger Schuller's absence, Crystal Cathedral Ministries underwent a highly public bankruptcy, was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, and most recently, lost all associations with the Schuller family.

Just last week, a highly public dispute between the church board and the Schullers regarding intellectual property rights, as well as financial and theological concerns saw every remaining member of the Schuller family depart from the church, which is now led by John Charles.

In addition, the church's most recent senior pastor, Sheila Schuller Coleman departed from the ministry along with loyal members of the congregation to form a new church, the Hope Center of Christ, which held its first service at a movie theater this past weekend and will reportedly hold future services at a local hotel. 

The Crystal Cathedral will continue to carry out normal worship services and also air its popular "Hour of Power" segment, but observers have said that the loss has signaled the end of an era in which the Schuller's reigned over Orange County's evangelical Christian community.

"I miss being the senior pastor of Crystal Cathedral," Robert A. Schuller told The Christian Post last year. "Since I have left it has been very sad for me to see what has been happening and to witness the current circumstances of the cathedral."

 

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