At his peak, Robert Schuller was one of the most influential preachers in the country. But his ministry began to crumble under financial pressure after his retirement in 2006. The $18 million Crystal Cathedral with 10,000 panels of glass held 2,890 people. At one point, his congregation was estimated to have had a membership of 10,000 under his leadership.
Robert Schuller and his late wife resigned from the board of Crystal Cathedral Ministries in March 2012 after the ministry filed for bankruptcy, citing debts of $43 million. Their resignations from the board came shortly after the firings of their daughter Gretchen Penner, and her husband, Jim Penner, as producers of the “Hour of Power,” and son-in-law Jim Coleman as director of creative services.
Crystal Cathedral Ministries, a congregation of the Reformed Church in America founded in 1955, was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million in February 2012. The cathedral, which has glass walls and ceiling, is now called Christ Cathedral.
Schuller’s “Hour of Power” radio program, which is now continued by his grandson, was filmed in the cathedral’s main sanctuary, and at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries. Church attendees could sit in the parking lot at the church and listen to his sermons like a drive-in movie theater.
Schuller was influenced by the late Norman Vincent Peale, the minister known for his motivational preaching. Schuller was known for his preaching on the power of positive thinking, criticized by some as being focused too heavily on emotional needs and self-esteem.
His daughter-in-law Donna Schuller said that the idea of Robert Schuller’s passing during the week leading up to Easter would be a fitting exit. “He always did everything in a grand fashion,” she told the Orange County Register. “It’s just like him.”
(This story has been updated from its original version.)
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