The Day the Crystal Cathedral Died

I liken my grief of the Crystal Cathedral’s death to grieving a loved one with a terminal illness. Now that it’s over, in this moment, I can breathe a sigh of relief.

In 2008, the first headline hit home hard, “Schuller Ousts Son as Senior Pastor.” The initial shock was crippling, spiraling me into denial, anger and despair. Only through counseling and prayer was I able to accept the situation, addressing it head on.

I am the only family member who has spoken publicly about the truth of what really happened.

Having to cope with an onslaught of never-ending headlines made my head spin as the prognosis worsened. There was nothing I could do to stop my misguided family members. Others in the family seemed to be holding on to “a miracle” that would come just in time. I knew better. Something that defined my life, something I hoped would define my children’s lives, was about to die.

Eventually the madness worsened to the point that death itself signaled relief. If you’ve ever held the hand of a dying loved one, you know that death becomes the final blessing. Yet, during that final moment, you pause in respect. It’s a holy moment to reflect on what was and to grieve what shall never be again.

Yesterday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries died. The music stopped playing. In its place, in three years time, will reside the Catholic Church. The namesake of the ministry will be no more. Just like Esau, their birthright was sold.

I’d like to tell you this brings me comfort knowing that orthodox Christians will continue to worship in this building. But I can’t say that. It’s like telling a grieving a widow there are many fishes in the sea.

In one respect, this human metaphor falls short. The Crystal Cathedral isn’t a person, it is an institution. As such, its problems were not terminal. They could have been solved. My father attempted to fix these problems during his short tenure as senior pastor. He saw the Crystal Cathedral was headed toward bankruptcy. He attempted to restructure the board, cut his sibling’s salaries and establish fiscal responsibility. For these actions, he was fired by the board, which consisted of . . . you guessed it, his siblings.

His siblings fired him because they wanted to control it and had been brewing for some time. Apparently, they thought they could do a better job. They were clearly wrong. Oddly enough, they believed they were more “anointed” than my father. That’s not an assumption; they actually told him that his sermons weren’t anointed. I know from other conversations, and from watching media interviews with Sheila Coleman, they thought God would bless them for taking over the reins.

Clearly, time tells all. God didn’t honor them or their actions.

Through their religious self-absorption, they convinced themselves they were “spiritually superior.” And in the process, they made a public mockery of Christianity and the Crystal Cathedral. A 50-year old institution that helped countless millions lay to waste.

This self-absorbed conviction, a toxic lie, prevented them from reaching out to my father for help. Had they stepped aside and put the Crystal Cathedral’s heir apparent back in the pulpit, I am positive my father would have rebuilt rapport with the congregation, audience and supporters. The Crystal Cathedral could have been saved.

Tragically, this didn’t happen.

I’m certain we’ve all learned from this disaster. It’s reinforced my desire to lead my life and ministry with integrity, humility and truth. May we all learn from my father’s example, and be willing to pursue the right course – even if it costs us what we love most.

Although I had no control over the situation, I can only express what my other family members will never say, “I’m sorry.” This week, as Christians, we are once again reminded that a building is not the Church. We, God’s people, are the church.

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