Robert A. Schuller, who took over for his father for two years as the leader of the Crystal Cathedral, said during a leadership conference about pastoral succession this week that had his father simply let go of his responsibilities seven years ago, the church would still be in the hands of its own ministry.
"The Crystal Cathedral Ministries, the assets and the buildings, would still be in the hands of the ministries if my father would have simply walked away," said Schuller during the webcast hosted by Leadership Network on Tuesday. "When I accepted the role as the next senior pastor he had agreed to be an ambassador-at-large and raise funds for the endowment fund. He didn't do that. He became a sounding board for my sisters and other people that didn't particularly care for the new direction for whatever reason.
"There's no question in my mind whatsoever," he added, talking about the founding pastor of the church, his 86-year-old father, Robert H. Schuller, "had I been given the proper authority and all of the responsibility I had, and had my father simply turned to those that came to them and said, 'I don't have anything to do with that anymore' that it would have been a very, very successful transition because we did lots of things very right."
Schuller, 58, explained that the Crystal Cathedral local congregation merged with the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, that included the television broadcast, "Hour of Power," several years ago. Schuller was the lead pastor of the church and president of the broadcast ministry from 2006 to 2008. Last January, Crystal Cathedral's board of directors voted to make Bobby Schuller, the grandson of founder Robert H. Schuller, the new pastor for the weekly "Hour of Power" television program as well as a non-voting member of the board.
The ministry filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 and in February 2012 sold the iconic building and its adjacent campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for future use as the diocese's new cathedral. According to the terms of the sale, the building and most of the campus will continue to be used by the ministry for up to three years before being renovated for use as a Catholic cathedral.
Bobby Schuller, who was earlier filling in as a guest pastor, will remain an unpaid pastor until the ministry moves to a new campus, the St. Callistus Catholic Church, in June and settles some of its financial issues, according to a report in January from the ministry's president and CEO John Charles.
When asked by Warren Bird of the Leadership Network about what was the most critical thing he learned going in and out of succession in the 2006-2008 time period, Schuller said that "the former leadership must resign and really get out of the way."
"I think that it's something that the Presbyterian Church or some Presbyterian denominations understand and have learned a long time ago," he said.
"I think it's very difficult, maybe impossible for some pastors, especially a founding pastor. I look at my dad and other people like him who are lions and tigers … it's counter-intuitive to their personality … to everything they learned throughout their entire life to let go," Schuller said. "I think it was difficult for my father, but it was compounded by the fact that his mental capacities were slipping. They became pretty noticeable to me in the year 2000. That is why I became co-pastor with my father. By 2006, he was not able to follow the program and know when it was time for him to stand up. By 2008, he really didn't have the ability … he was really out of control as far as making decisions. People were making decisions for him.
"What he needed to have done is to completely walk away, but unfortunately he didn't do that."