The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, who left the church last weekend, explained in a rare video address why he thinks the ministry's board owes him millions of dollars.
The pastor said the financial future for his wife and himself "may be at risk" due to the church's bankruptcy after he offered a lot of his intellectual property to it for free, in exchange for the church securing a form of a retirement fund for the couple, who founded the Garden Grove, Calif., church in 1955.
The ministrys' founder and a few members of his family are currently entangled in yet another lawsuit in which they are requesting at least $5.5 million from the ministry's board – with the lawsuit coming after Crystal Cathedral has struggled financially for years, going from a prospering institution to an indebted one.
Over the weekend, Schuller and his wife, Arvella, resigned from the board of directors citing disputes with the board over their "substantial monetary and intellectual property related claims," a Crystal Cathedral spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post. The Schullers are currently no longer part of the church which they founded.
Schuller's eldest child and Crystal Cathedral's former senior pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman announced Sunday that she is walking away with some congregants to form a new church. The elder Schuller commended her decision, but said he and his wife will not join her.
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, a Crystal Cathedral spokesperson said in a statement.
Schuller, 85, suggested that the church's bankruptcy left himself and his wife in a difficult financial situation, and that the church owes him money for all the materials he offered the congregation through the years.
"God flourished my ministry and my career of creative thinking, communicating and writing back 50 years," he said in the video address. "Many advised me to use these materials to amass wealth. I believed the better course was to allow my works to generate revenue for the ministry. So over the years, I've allowed the Crystal Cathedral to make substantial use of my teachings, my writings, my sermons, my books."
All of that was done in order to provide the ministry with income and allow it to broadcast God's message, he added. Neither Schuller nor his wife have ever received any revenues derived from the pastor's materials, he assured.
But the church is said to have promised the Schullers a retirement fund.
"My family and I would never receive royalties on the revenue that my materials brought into the church; materials that were created on our own personal time. Then, when I stepped out of active management of the ministry in 2005, in exchange for continuing to use my materials, the ministry granted my wife and me retirement pay that was intended to provide for us for the rest of our lives," Schuller said.
The Official Creditors Committee in the ministry's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case objected to the Schullers' claims, the church leaders said in a statement. The dispute between the Schullers and the ministry's board is reportedly holding up payment to the vendors, who are owed $12.5 million.
"Although the Schullers' representatives, their daughter Carol Milner and their attorney, have asserted that settlement offers have been made which would allow the unsecured creditors to be paid in full while leaving the Ministry with more funds to operate than had been anticipated, this is absolutely not the case," reads the statement released by the church earlier in the week. "In fact, the Schuller settlement proposals have consistently demanded the same amount of money – $3.5 million – which, if paid, would leave the Crystal Cathedral Ministries with virtually no funds to continue its ministry."
Carol Schuller Milner said in an interview last weekend that the multimillion dollar claim is to cover her parents cost of living through the rest of their lives. She reportedly claimed the agreement between her parents and the ministry included a housing allowance of up to $120,000 annually and $198,000 in license fees annually.
"The Crystal Cathedral Ministries Board of Directors hopes to see these matters settled soon and will be praying as the legal system continues to a resolution," church leaders expressed in a statement.
Many members of the local Christian community are outraged by the Schullers' claims.
"I don't think they are as poor as they are saying. I've known for years of this families wealth as they threw it in orange counties face. Maybe they should've not had limos and multimillion dollar home etc," a local woman wrote on her Facebook page.
"No sympathy here... perhaps you should sell one of your limo's! You will never know what it is like to be a true senior citizen living on social security and struggling in this economy. Have you family support you, they have money hidden, I am sure," wrote another observer, whose comments seem to reflect a common attitude among those who have followed the ministries' bankruptcy from the outside.
Meanwhile, the church declared that it is going to operate as usual, despite all the troubles.
"As of right now, the Crystal Cathedral Ministries will continue to worship in the Crystal Cathedral, under which the property lease is in full force and effect since [it was] sold last month to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange," the church's spokesperson, Kristin Cole, told CP in an email. "Under the agreement, the Crystal Cathedral Ministries can lease the property for up to three years. This will also allow for the ministry to continue taping the 'Hour of Power.'"