Robert H. Schuller Latest Drama of Crystal Cathedral Mess

Amid reports that Robert H. Schuller, the founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, had been voted off the board of directors, a statement from the church Monday said that only his position changed.

“Recently, the board of directors of Crystal Cathedral Ministries voted to change Dr. Schuller’s position from that of a voting board member to the honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus, a non-voting position,” said the statement released by the church.

The move is apparently aimed at relieving the 84-year-old pastor of administrative burden so that he may have more time for speaking and writing.

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“This will free up Dr. Schuller’s time for more speaking engagements and a writing project he has wanted to tackle. He will also continue to speak in the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and on the Hour of Power, and meet with staff in creative and vision-casting meetings,” the statement added.

This comes a day after Schuller’s son, Robert A. Schuller, told The Orange County Register that his father was ousted because of his differences with the other board members. The elder Schuller had been pressing to add more members to the board, a move resisted by the other members.

“A majority of that board consists of paid employees of the church and that's a serious conflict of interest," Robert A. Schuller added.

He said that in a vote that took place more than a week ago, his mother Arvella, a member of the board, was in the minority who voted against the move to remove her husband.

“They kicked him off. ... I feel bad for him because he’s had to watch his life’s work go down the toilet the last three years,” The Los Angeles quoted the younger Schuller as saying, who was himself ousted by the board in 2008, two years after he had replaced his father as the senior pastor at the Garden Grove megachurch.

The longstanding family dispute has only become more acute in view of financial problems of the church, which last year sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. And this year in May, the church decided to sell the building and 40-acre campus for $46 million to an Orange County developer.

The reins of the church are currently in the hands of two of Schuller’s daughters: Shiela Coleman Schuller and Gretchen Schuller Penner.

Schuller’s eldest daughter, Sheila Coleman, is not a board member but controls the ministry as the executive director of ministries and missions. Her husband, Jim Coleman, is the president of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Meanwhile, Gretchen Schuller Penner leads the television ministry.

“Dad will continue to provide leadership for this ministry through me for as long as possible,” said Sheila Coleman in the statement. “I have and will continue to defer to his wisdom and honor him for his unprecedented accomplishments.”

The father and daughter, however, have been known to have differences of opinions. More recently, it was regarding a controversial step by Sheila Coleman, in which she had asked the choir members to sign a “covenant” that they would adhere to a biblical lifestyle and abstain from homosexual behavior. The covenant also strongly emphasized that church leaders and choir members be all Christians. The father reportedly wasn’t very pleased with this and told The Orange County Register that he would have never personally approved it.

In any case, the statement made by the executive director Monday will do little to silence her critics, among whom her niece, Angie Schuller Wyatt, is the most vocal.

In a guest column she had written for The Christian Post after the May decision to sell the church, she said: “This abhorrent behavior conveniently hides the perpetual underlying issue among Crystal Cathedral leadership. The leadership (my aunts to be more specific) do not want to relinquish control even AFTER they have failed on an epic national scale. In any U.S. corporation, the leadership would be REMOVED in the face of bankruptcy.

“As long as the current leadership maintains control, there will be no positive change at the Crystal Cathedral. They’re buying time by hawking one of America’s greatest cathedrals. Their actions will only delay the inevitable. It’s like loaning money to a gambler.”

According to CNN, about her grandfather’s ouster, Wyatt said: “It was surprising, but not completely unexpected,” hinting that there was a pattern in the way, both her grandfather and father, Robert A. Schuller, were voted out.

“They did it behind his back, just like they did to my dad. They conspired behind his back and made this happen,” Schuller Wyatt said. “This board is causing the demise and the destruction of the Crystal Cathedral.”

“They weren’t letting him do anything anyway. Those of us here see it as symbolically awful,” said Pastor James Kok, who has been on staff with Crystal Cathedral Ministries for 28 years. “They had effectively stopped listening to him two or three years ago. It’s symbolic, not functional. He was mostly put on the shelf by his daughters.”

About the leadership style of the sisters, Kok said, “They just do things. They don’t ask anybody.”

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