(Photo: Hope Center of Christ)
After a shake-up in Crystal Cathedral Ministries' leadership, the church, led now by John Charles, is trying to conduct services as usual and restore new episodes of the "Hour of Power." Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman had announced just a few days ago that she is leaving to establish a separate church.
Sunday worship times will take place as usual, church leaders said in a recent statement. However, it seems that only the times of worship will remain unchanged. Sermons will be delivered this weekend by guest preacher Lawrence Wilkes, president of the California Graduate School of Theology, in Schuller Coleman's absence, the ministry's board announced Tuesday. Wilkes is reportedly a house name in the church, familiar to the remaining congregants.
Church officials also announced Tuesday that the "Hour of Power," the landmark Christian television broadcast that has been produced and copyrighted by Crystal Cathedral Ministries since 1970, will continue to be aired domestically and internationally.
Renewed services, following the board of directors' cleansing that saw most of the founding Schuller family – including the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and wife Arvella – go, "will feature the traditional music and message which is synonymous with the ministry's legacy," church officials said.
"We invite everyone to join us next Sunday for worship in the Crystal Cathedral," Charles, the current chairman of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries' Board of Directors, stated. "Since sharing this news with our congregation, we have received an outpouring of assurance and encouragement from numerous members of the congregation about their excitement over the return to the traditional worship style on which the ministry was founded."
Over the past weekend, the elder Schuller and his wife resigned from the ministry's board citing disputes over their substantial monetary and intellectual property related claims. The Schullers, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Timothy Milner, have filed breach of contract claims wherein they are seeking immediate cash payments in excess of $5.5 million, a claim to ownership of all of the ministry's intellectual property and for unspecified monetary damages for infringement.
Immediately after the news emerged, Schuller Coleman announced during the Sunday service that she is walking away with some members of the ministry to form a new church, Hope Center of Christ. Schuller Coleman suggested in a video statement that her ministry is the continuation of the Crystal Cathedral church under a different name. She also said the new location will be announced within two weeks, and will be based as close as within 5-10 minutes from the old one.
Previously, Schuller Coleman quit the ministry's board, while Jim Penner and Jim Coleman, Schuller Coleman's husband who was the director of creative services, were fired along with several other family members. Penner, the former executive producer of the "Hour of Power," will follow Schuller Coleman to Hope Center of Christ.
Thus far, the elder Schullers do not appear to have any plans to join their daughter, Schuller Coleman, at her new church.
The church also recently saw the departure of its popular Spanish-language ministry led by Dante Gebel. That congregation has found a new location at the nearby Anaheim Convention Center.
Meanwhile, the Crystal Cathedral congregation is legally obliged to leave the Garden Grove campus within three years, in line with the sale agreement.
The Christian community in California and throughout the nation has been watching very closely what has been described as the downfall of this once immensely popular ministry. Many people, including congregants, expressed on multiple occasions their distaste for the Schuller family's alleged preoccupation with money matters.
Recently, one observer posted in regards to the recent Crystal Cathedral news on his Facebook page: "Money so often seems to be the driving factor. When Jesus began His organization He called those who would serve Him. He said, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you... (John 15:16)' By whose authority does one begin a new church in this day and age? If it is not the Savior, whose church is it?"
Crystal Cathedral's troubles appear to have begun with the ministry's financial difficulties in the early 2000s and led to the church filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, before eventually selling its signature Garden Grove, Calif., property to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, which was supposed to pull the ministry out of an estimated $50 million debt. However, clashes with creditors as well as between the ministry's board of directors and the board of church administrators, made matters worse, and donations to the ministry have also reportedly taking a deep dive.