The Crystal Cathedral, Orange County’s landmark megachurch, now faces an online petition launched by senior members alleging nepotism and a doctrinal shift by founder Robert H. Schuller’s daughters.
“It is time to rise up and take our church back!” says the petition, soliciting signatures of Crystal Cathedral members, former members, friends and viewers of Schuller’s Hour of Power weekly show.
The petition, which had received over 330 signatures as of Sunday, seeks “a truly independent board,” meaning “no family member, no paid staff, and no paid contractors.”
The board of trustees of the Crystal Cathedral currently includes salaried employees apart from Robert H. Schuller’s daughters and son-in-laws. Schuller, who along with his wife Arvella founded the church in 1955, was removed as a voting member early this month. His son Robert A. Schuller was voted off the board three years ago. Their dismissals followed their attempts to induct members who had no self-interest.
“We have been in contact with the Classis and Synod of the RCA [Reformed Church in America] Denomination Headquarters, who governs our Church, and they will help us,” adds the petition. Once 1,000 signatures are obtained, the petition will be sent to the RCA, the denomination the church is affiliated with.
The feud in the Schuller family became prominent in 2008 when the founder’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, took control of the ministry after his son Robert A. Schuller’s departure. Robert H. Schuller, then 81, had given leadership of the church to his son.
Quoting longtime member Jim McDonald, The Orange County Register said Saturday a section of the church wanted the Schuller family to be transparent and was concerned about the large sums of money the church owes to creditors, and a “recent decision to move the church toward a Pentecostal-type service with praise music.”
The petition, posted on a new website started to bring supporters of traditional music together, also seeks to restore the long-established music of the Crystal Cathedral as presented by former choir director Don Neuen and pianist Roger Williams.
“In my opinion, the Reformed Church did not do their job over the years to protect us members, but they were not consulted by the cathedral administrators either,” McDonald said, adding that the Schuller children had brought down what their father built with their in-fighting, which is why it was time for them to leave.
McDonald recalled a meeting church members and elders had with Sheila Schuller Coleman in April 2010, which made no difference. When Robert H. Schuller was overthrown, they resorted to the petition seeking intervention of the denomination’s headquarters.
The megachurch, known for its iconic glass sanctuary but which owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors, filed for bankruptcy last October. The church owes money mainly to the vendors that provided services rendered for its Christmas pageant, overseen by Schuller’s second daughter, Jeanne Dunn, and her husband, Paul Dunn.
The church’s budget crunch forced it to lay off 140 people in a little over a year, cut 50 percent of its Hour of Power air time, sell assets and cancel key functions last year.
When founded over 55 years ago, the Crystal Cathedral was known as the Garden Grove Community Church and its first services were held in an Orange drive-in theatre. The construction of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove was completed in 1980 and cost $18 million.