Friday, April 17, 2015

The Crystal Cathedral's Reverend Robert Schullar is Laid to Rest

Two of the pioneers that built modern Orange County left us in recent months. Henry Segerstrom, the first, died on February 20 at 91 years of age. He plowed under his family’s lima bean farm in Costa Mesa and built the world famous South Coast Plaza, and then funded the world quality Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. His is a story of success. The Reverend Robert Schuller, formerly of the Crystal Cathedral, died on April 2 at 88. His is a story of rags to riches to rags. Reverend Schuller is not America’s first televangelist, but he brought the church to television, paving the path for other mega-churches and televangelists in Orange County, including Reverend Rick Warren ‘s (The Purpose Driven Life) Saddleback Church and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, as well as nationally. Schuller started his Orange County ministry on the roof of a concessions stand at a drive-in theatre in 1956. He saw the power of the automobile in Southern California, marketing the Church with this phrase: “Come as you are in the family car.” His first week’s collection was $85.75 leading decades later to the $18 million Crystal Cathedral, which reaches to the Heavens, and brought the Hour of Power to the world in 1970 with a peak viewership of 20 million. His sermons and productions brought millions of dollars into his church and financed the Crystal Cathedral and two office buildings on 34 acres of prime real estate in Orange County. The Philip Johnson designed Crystal Cathedral contains 10,000 panes of glass. It seats 2,734 parishioners with an additional 1,000 seats for musicians The Schuller family became a modern American Greek Tragedy. At some point the family stopped serving God, and started serving themselves instead. They prey together and reaped where they had sown. Reverend Schuller installed his son, Reverend Robert A. Schuller, on January 1 2008 as Senior Pastor. But then two years later, he removed his son on October 25, 2008 and installed his daughter, Reverend Sheila Schuler Coleman in the pulpit. Reverend Robert A. Schuller’s apostasy was trying to expand the Church’s reach to a younger generation. The Church was suffering from an aging congregation and declining contributions. Reverend Sheila Schuller was not God’s answer to the Church’s declining fortunes. The Schullers preached the Gospel of Nepotism. All five Schuller children were on the Church’s payroll when it entered bankruptcy on October 18, 2010. The Church listed $48 million in debts, including a $36 million mortgage. The Schullers claimed $5 million was owed them. Four family members received $12.7 million in compensation between 1993-2010. 20 family members were earning a combined $1.9 million when the Church declared bankruptcy. The compensation included $832,490 in tax exempt housing subsidies to 8 family members. For example, Paul Dunn, husband of daughter Jeanne Schuller Dunn, received $142,281 in housing allowance and an additional $161,966 in “vendor billings.” The Dunns live in Hawaii, but Jeanne claimed her compensation was warranted she produced the famous and spectacular Glory of Easter and Glory of Christmas Pageants. The Pageants were cancelled in 2010 because of financial problems with creditors being stiffed until resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings. In addition Reverend Schuller and his relatives borrowed $10 million from the Church’s endowment between 2002 and 2009. The Church laid off 125 workers prior to the bankruptcy, but the Schullers retained their salaries and benefits. They thought the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” applied to them, but it is not in Scripture. The Schuller Clan was terminated from the Crystal Cathedral during bankruptcy. The family has splintered into competing ministries. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County purchased the Crystal Cathedral in November 2011 and is re-christening it as Christ Cathedral. The Reverend Schuller was laid to rest in the Crystal Cathedral next to Arvella, his wife of 63 years. His family had difficulty even agreeing on a memorial service. The Schuller Family Feud continues.

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