Televangelism Empire In Chaos Over Family Split
- NHNE Wavemaker News List
Current Members: 435
Be The Wind In NHNE's Sails. Join Our 58 Monthly Supporters:
Join NHNE on Facebook:
Subscribe / unsubscribe / important links at the bottom of this message.
TELEVANGELISM EMPIRE IN CHAOS OVER FAMILY SPLIT
By Gillian Flaccus
January 31, 2009
GARDEN GROVE, CALIF. - Once one of the nation's most popular televangelists,
the Rev. Robert H. Schuller is watching his life's work crumble.
His son and recent successor, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, has abruptly
resigned as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral
<http://www.crystalcathedral.org/>. The shimmering, glass-walled megachurch
is home to the "Hour of Power" broadcast, an evangelism staple that's been
on the air for more than three decades.
The church is in financial turmoil: It plans to sell more than $65 million
worth of its Orange County property to pay off debt. Revenue dropped by
nearly $5 million last year, according to a recent letter from the elder
Schuller to elite donors. In the letter, Schuller Sr. implored the Eagle's
Club members - who supply 30 percent of the church's revenue - for donations
and hinted that the show might go off the air without their support.
"The final months of 2008 were devastating for our ministry," the
82-year-old pastor wrote.
The Crystal Cathedral blames the recession for its woes. But it's clear that
the elder Schuller's carefully orchestrated leadership transition, planned
over a decade, has stumbled badly.
It's a problem common to personality driven ministries. Most have collapsed
or been greatly diminished after their founders left the pulpit or died.
Members often tie their donations to the pastor, not the institution, said
Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University. Schuller,
with a style that blends pop psychology and theology, has a particularly
devoted following, she said.
"Viewers are probably much less likely to give when it's not their preacher
they're giving to," she said. "There's something about these televised
programs where people develop a certain loyalty."
Today's increasingly fragmented media landscape is also to blame, said
Quentin Schultze, a Calvin College professor who specializes in Christian
Church-based televangelism led by powerful personalities filled TV in the
1980s, but now only a handful of shows remain, he said. Among the struggling
ministries are those of Oral Roberts and the late D. James Kennedy of "The
Coral Ridge Hour" TV show.
"I don't see a scenario for maintaining a TV-based megachurch anymore. The
days of doing that in the models of Schuller and Jimmy Swaggart and Oral
Roberts are over," Schultze said. "It's amazing to me that the 'Hour of
Power' was able to keep going as long as it did."
Through a spokesman, Schuller Sr., his family members and other cathedral
officials declined to comment. The younger Schuller, 54, did not respond to
an e-mail requesting an interview.
The elder Schuller, who called his weekly show "America's Television
Church," founded his ministry in a drive-in theater after moving to Southern
California in 1955.
He studied marketing strategies to attract worshippers and preached a
feel-good Christianity, describing himself as a "possibility thinker" and
spinning his upbeat style into a 10,000-member church and a broadcast
watched by millions worldwide.
The church's main sanctuary, the Crystal Cathedral, is a landmark designed
by renowned architect Philip Johnson, with a spire visible from afar amid
Orange County's suburban sprawl. Thousands make the pilgrimage to see where
the broadcast is filmed before a live congregation.
The Schullers consider the church a family business and the younger
Schuller's 2006 appointment was sanctioned by the Crystal Cathedral's parent
denomination, the Reformed Church in America.
But the church announced on Nov. 29 that Schuller Jr. had resigned as senior
pastor, just a month after he was removed from the church's syndicated
broadcasts. In a news release, Schuller Sr. said: "Robert and I have been
struggling as we each have different ideas as to the direction and the
vision for this ministry."
The church has since instituted a rotating roster of high-profile guest
preachers, including Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, the
Chicago-area megachurch, and evangelist Luis Palau.
Schuller Sr.'s daughters and sons-in-law remain involved in the church, some
in key roles. But Juan Carlos Ortiz, the interim senior pastor, hopes to
appoint a senior pastor with no ties to the Schuller family within two
On the church Web site, concerned members and TV fans have posted hundreds
of comments protesting the upheaval, with some indicating they have stopped
giving or will leave altogether.
Several angry viewers have launched petitions to get the younger Schuller
Melody Mook, a 58-year-old medical transcriptionist from El Paso, Texas,
said she stopped her $25 monthly donation and is looking elsewhere for her
spiritual needs. She said she dislikes the guest pastors.
"I feel hurt and confused and I'm not sure that I want to sit and watch when
I know there's problems beneath the surface," she said. "You feel like
you're in somebody else's church every Sunday."
Others said they felt betrayed that the Schullers couldn't put God before
their family spat.
"They have not been forthcoming at all," said John Dewart, an insurance
agent from New Jersey who's watched for 30 years. "Why can't a father and
son work together for the glory of God? That's my big question."
NHNE Wavemaker News List:
Send Some Green Love To NHNE:
To subscribe, send a message to:
To unsubscribe, send a message to:
To review current posts:
Visit NHNE's Mother Ship:
Visit NHNE's Online Community:
Visit Integral NHNE:
Visit NHNE on Facebook:
Published by David Sunfellow
Phone: (928) 257-3200
Fax: (815) 642-0117
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339