(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn)
The "Hour of Power," Crystal Cathedral's landmark television program, will air its first new episode Sunday under new leadership, after the church's founding family, the Schullers, quit the ministry. However, in some markets, the long-running program will be cut to just half an hour.
"You can sense a growing excitement in our congregation," John Charles, CEO and President of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post. "Attendance has been up since we returned to the traditional worship style on which the ministry was founded."
The popular televised ministry program, which has been on the air since 1970, will also air a shortened, 30-minute version, for the first time on the Discovery Channel, church officials said. The traditional 60-minute version will continue to air on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The version aired on Lifetime will shift from 60 to 30 minutes on May 13. The shorter version will include the entire sermon and a few minutes of worship through music, church leaders said.
"We've been considering this move for years," Charles said. "The market has changed, with more demands on people's time and more options for the viewers. Most ministries that televise their services use a 30-minute format. This will give us the capacity to expand our weekly viewership without expanding the budget. Research indicates that our audience could increase by more than 25 percent with this change."
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who founded the ministry in 1955, and his wife resigned from the ministry's board on March 10, citing disputes over substantial monetary and intellectual property-related claims. Immediately afterward, Sheila Schuller Coleman, the church's senior pastor at the time, announced she was walking away with some members of Crystal Cathedral to form a new church, Hope Center of Christ.
In the wake of the shake-up, Crystal Cathedral Ministries, now led by Charles, has been trying to conduct church business as usual.
The new episode of the "Hour of Power," taped March 18, features interim leading pastor Dr. Lawrence Wilkes and "a return to traditional music with hymns, a choir and an orchestra," the church said in a statement. The program will begin taping a string of all new shows on April 15 after a short interruption due to Easter, a time when the program has traditionally aired reruns of the "Hour of Power."
Ratings indicate an average of 230,000 U.S. viewers watch the "Hour of Power" at any point during its weekly broadcast. The ministry also has 14 international offices, which make arrangements with national broadcasters in their own countries. Although precise figures for the international audience were not available, ministry officials say it is in the millions.