The post mortem on the Crystal Cathedral continues. The iconic southern California megachurch pastored by Robert H. Schuller once represented the innovative and market-savvy dexterity of American Christianity. Schuller started his church at a drive-in movie theater, allowing visitors to stay comfortably inside their cars. Then he utilized television with the "Hour of Power" ministry broadcast. Its success allowed him to build one of the largest churches in the country.
But last year the church filed for bankruptcy, the soaring glass building was sold to the Roman Catholic diocese, and the ministry is in shambles. What happened?
Some view Schuller's ministry as the canary in the megachurch mine. It was one of the first megachurches in the country, and does its demise forecast the fate of others? Others point to demographic shifts. When built, the Crystal Cathedral was in a young and affluent community. But today the area is more economically and racially diverse.
But there is another aspect to the Crystal Cathedral's story worth exploring: family.
Robert Schuller's children were deeply involved in the church and television program. When the senior Schuller stepped down as senior pastor in 2006, his son, Robert A. Schuller, took over both the church and "Hour of Power." Eventually he also resigned amid disagreements over the direction of the ministry.
Then Schuller's daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, was installed as the pastor. The decline continued. Staff has dropped by 150, the building has been sold, and conflict on the board has resulted in Robert H. Schuller and his wife leaving the ministry they started over 50 years ago.
A former Crystal Cathedral board member believes family dynamics led, in part, to the decline of ...