Thinking Out Loud

March 7, 2013

Granddaughter of Robert Schuller Pens Controversial Book

After Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, could the faith-related book market possibly push the envelope any further?

Angie Schuller WyattThe answer is a resounding yes with the release of God and Boobs: Balance Faith and Sexuality by Angie Schuller Wyatt, first granddaughter of Cyrstal Cathedral/Hour of Power founder Robert H. Schuller and wife of Christopher Wyatt, founder of GodTube.

But the cover of the new book — even a static image of it — would probably not meet the standards of the video sharing network.

I’ve opted not to reproduce it here.

PRNewswire reports:

[The book is] a surprising twist to take on religion, a male dominated vocation, especially from a famous family with four generations of men with the same name, Robert Schuller. Her bold move has everyone asking, “Is Schuller Wyatt committing spiritual suicide?”  Schuller Wyatt is already paying the price. 

A third-generation pastor, Schuller Wyatt was scheduled to appear on the Hour of Power broadcast where her brother Robert “Bobby” Schuller III preaches.  But when word got out that Schuller Wyatt had written God and Boobs, she was unceremoniously dumped via email from a church executive who gave no explanation.

continue reading here

But don’t expect to browse a copy of the self-published title at your local bookstore anytime soon. The book is available on various e-book platforms but the print edition is presently the exclusive property of Amazon. The back cover blurb states:

The idea that women can live sexy and strong is counter to church culture. But Angie Schuller Wyatt, granddaughter of celebrated televangelist Dr. Robert H Schuller, exposes the reasons women are repressed and offers her secrets to living sexy and strong.

Growing up in the world’s most famous church, Angie Schuller Wyatt spent her years at the Crystal Cathedral in the shadows of a male dominated society. It was a painful time, but years of study and hard work provided her the tools she needed to break free.

Through a beautifully woven tapestry of real-life stories, Angie and other women share their powerful and personal experiences and provide practical suggestions for how to live the life God intended. Through these life-changing stories, you’ll discover how to have faith AND femininity; live sexy, strong and self-aware; feel sensual without shame; break free from religious constrains; enjoy the faith your mom never told you about; find true love in today’s “sex sells” world. 

So to all my women readers, my wish for you today is that you can “enjoy the faith your mom never told you about.” Live sexy. Live strong.


December 27, 2012

Money for Llamas and Donkeys and Sheep, Oh My!

Christmas pageant authenticity

A provider of live animals for past Christmas productions at the Crystal Cathedral is finally going to see some payment, albeit it years later.  A week ago the Orange County Register reported:

…attorneys and staffers planned to work late Friday to verify amounts and start stuffing envelopes with the checks, which should be arriving after Christmas, Ringstad said. “Creditors have been waiting a long time. We can work late into the night. The creditors deserve it,” he said.

But Robert H. Schuller, who will also receive some money in this round of settlements, has filed an appeal of a judge’s decision over money he feels is due him for damages, which some reports have indicated includes payment due for royalties for books he authored. (It’s all very confusing!)

While that story isn’t finished yet, it is, in the meantime, a great victory for people who rent sheep, camels and cows to large glass churches.

Not-so-related llama video. (13 million views!)

 

May 5, 2012

Crystal Cathedral: Cast of Characters

This is St. Callistus Catholic Church, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which just bought the Crystal Cathedral, and a possible future home for the present Crystalites. Confused? I hoped you would be; that’s why you really need to read this article

Apparently some of you are bewildered, as you have every right to be; so here, as a public service, is your guide to who’s who in the ongoing story; and a refresher for those of you who know.

[Note: Some of this may be less than reliable.]

Robert H. in happier times

Robert H. Schuller is the founder of Garden Grove Community Church which later became better known as The Crystal Cathedral.  His self help messages are known for short rhyming catch-phrases like, “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch;” “It takes guts to get out of the ruts;” and “If it bleeds it leads.” (Maybe not the last one.)  He is married to Arvella, whose contribution to Hour of Power includes rewriting classic hymns so as to contain less emphasis on the blood of Jesus and more emphasis on possibility thinking. (“What can wash away my sins? Elbow grease and much detergent…”)  Robert H. is no longer active in ministry; we’re not sure what he does on Sunday mornings currently, but it may involve sitting at home and watching Joel Osteen.

Hour of Power is the broadcast ministry of the church.  These days, it is actually the Half-Hour of Power. TV stations carrying the program now require prepayment, not unlike self-serve gas stations which after midnight want to run your MasterCard first.

The Crystal Cathedral itself was recently sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.  That’s Orange as in Orange County, California; not a reference to the Orange Lodge, which is decisively Protestant. “Now the building will be a true cathedral;” people were heard to say. How dare Protestants use the word “cathedral” when it isn’t.  Apparently in order to use the word, there must be a bishop’s chair, or bishop’s throne.  The furniture at the big glass church on Lewis Street was apparently lacking as the money for chairs was spent on the fountain.  Over the last few weeks, the church has experienced a bit of revival in terms of attendance; which is rather unfortunate timing.

Robert A. Schuller, sometimes referred to as Robert Anthony is the son of Arvella and Robert H. He is married to Donna, who sometimes reads this blog, so we’re going to tread carefully with this paragraph. In 2009, after unceremoniously leaving the Crystal Cathedral in a controversy involving his rather annoying habit of preaching from the Bible, he became chair of Comstar, a media company that has been slowly buying other media companies including FamilyNet and American Life TV, the latter now known as YouToo (a name often easily confused with that other popular site, Facebook) which combines elements broadcast television with video uploading. (Correction: YouToo is actually always confused with Pinterest.) Last week, for the first time in years, Robert A. showed up at Crystal Cathedral after getting lost on the freeway while heading for Calvary Chapel.

A room at the Anaheim Marriott. The ballroom is believed to be much larger.

Sheila Coleman Schuller is the eldest daughter of Robert H. and Arvella.  (They have three other daughters.) She often gets confused with pop singer Sheila E. The former early childhood education specialist became lead pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, proving that you really don’t need much in the way of theological training to pastor a megachurch. (See yesterday’s post here.) Last week, nearly 100 people showed up to hear her preach at her new venture, Hope Center of Christ, or as the cool people say, Hope Center OC; which meets downstairs at the Panda House Restaurant on Harbor Blvd.  Okay, just kidding, they really meet in the Crystal (there’s that word again) Ballroom of the Marriott Suites Hotel.

Disneyland is a theme park located just blocks away in Anaheim, California.  It has no bearing on this article.

Bobby Schuller is actually Bobby V. Schuller, with the V. for Vernon, son of Robert A. and Donna.  Continuing the family tradition, he has a Masters in Divinity from Fuller and pastors Tree of Life, sometimes referred to, as in this blog, as The Gathering, where you can watch sermons online.  He is our last hope. (I don’t know what that means, I just thought the sentence fit in well at that point.)  He is also associated with The St. Patrick Project, whose mission is thus described at this page: “We care for the homeless, mentor kids, help feed the hungry, and support the arts. We encourage hope.”  He showed up at big glass church last week sporting a new haircut.

Angie Schuller Wyatt is also important to this story, but this has taken far more time than I had expected.

Anthony Schuller, son of Robert A. has not posted anything to his blog since February, 2010, and is believed have changed his last name to Zaguenni. He is pursuing a career in international missions so he can get far, far away from Orange County. In the meantime, you might find him catching some rays at Laguna Beach.

Well, I hope that helped you on this Saturday morning as much as it helped me stay away from garage sales, swap meets and flea markets.  If you have any questions, check with the Orange County Register, they have all the answers.


Important trivia to know:  American Life TV was once owned by the Unification Church, aka The Moonies.  source As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

Even more important: The five manual organ at the big glass church, with its 16,061 pipes, is the largest in the world. source  If you push the button labeled “Doublette 2′ ” the organ starts playing the song Never Gonna Give You Up with baroque accompaniment.

March 15, 2012

Sheila Schuller Coleman Lauches Hope Center of Christ

It was, after all, the United States’ first true megachurch. So when things at the Crystal Cathedral began to unravel a few years ago, this blogger thought it all worth mentioning even when others didn’t or wouldn’t, which resulted in much unexpected traffic.

But then, in the last few days, as the whole saga seemed to reach the final chapter, it all seemed rather anticlimactic. First there was the resignation of Robert H. and wife Arvella, widely reported. Then, on Sunday, the rather sudden announcement at the second service by daughter and pastor Sheila Coleman that it was her final service at the iconic Southern California church.

The Orange County Register story linked above chose to headline the story, “Schuller Coleman leaving; Crystal Cathedral congregation faces split;” but indeed, with only 700 in attendance at both services — many of them tourists — how do you split a congregation so small and still leave much left?

But out of the ashes, something new begins.

First, the word, that Sheila and brother-in-law Jim Penner would begin a new work, Hope Center OC — with the “OC” standing for “of Christ” while of course also intoning “Orange County.”  Another detail nested in the story:

She indicated she had received a $50,000 donation from a supporter to help with the move – “a heck of a lot more than what mom and dad” had when they started, she said.

But the location is still TBA, as in “to be acquired.” The elder Schullers announced that they would neither be going with Sheila nor continuing to attend whatever takes place at the famed church on Lewis St. in Garden Grove.

“How we will express ourselves in worship remains up in the air,” Robert H. and Arvella Schuller stated in the release.

Schuller: The Next Generation

At this rate, grandson (Robert A.’s son; pictured right) Bobby Schuller’s church, The Gathering (aka Tree of Life Community) might have more people in attendance next Sunday than either iteration of what met last Sunday, a concept that would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago.

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion finds the reporting on the story “hollow,” and suggests that even knowing more about the contents of the sermon that Coleman delivered, or what music was sung that day would give us a better picture of Sunday’s events. Whereas I’m somewhat relieved that the story is over, he finds so much more waiting to be told.

Like, for example, Robert Anthony’s take on the whole thing. The younger R.S. has been wisely silent throughout this process, but I’m sure he has both substantive ideas and strong emotions about all that’s taken place. Would the Crystal Cathedral ministry still be intact if the original succession had lasted? We’ll never know.

Perhaps Terry Mattingly is right. This is a continuing drama. The same day that Sheila Coleman and Jim Penner posted their video, this video appeared:

Favorite quotation from the video, “…Many have told me that I redefined the Christian message.  I had to…”

Had to? Yes, the gospel that the church preached for centuries was wholly inadequate. It needed, apparently, new possibilities.

And apparently it still does. Stay tuned. This story is not over.

November 18, 2011

Reformed Church of America Moves to Sever Ties with Crystal Cathedral

St. Callistus Church ain't the Crystal Cathedral, but, with its overhead stained glass window, it ain't too shabby either.

As noted earlier today at Bene Diction Blogs On, not only has the iconic Crystal Cathedral decided to accept the offer of the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County, but the church’s parent denomination, The Reformed Church of America, has decided to end a decades-long relationship that had always existed outside of normal denominational protocols and paradigms.

First story first, as reported at the Orange County Register:

Late Thursday evening U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kwan issued the ruling, acknowledging the tremendous work put in by Chapman University, the diocese’s competitor, which offered as much as $59 million for the 40-acre Crystal Cathedral campus. The diocese will get the property for $57.5 million.

Under the diocese’s plan, the ministry will be able to lease the core buildings – including the cathedral and the Tower of Hope – for three years, at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for years two and three. They also will be able to lease the school building for $10,000 a month until the end of school year 2013.

After three years, Crystal Cathedral Ministries and the school will move to the 10-acre property on Lewis Street where St. Callistus is now located.

Several longtime congregants who supported Chapman’s bid in an effort to remain in their home church left in tears after the judge announced the decision.

…continue reading here…

This has to beg the question: Will there be enough congregants left to continue in the large glass church for three years?   The same news story noted:

Congregants, who left the courthouse tearful and disappointed, said they felt betrayed.

“The cathedral’s administration and the board have really stripped us of our ministry,” said Bob Canfield. “In the end, it was all about the money. The congregants have lost their ministry.”

Chuck Stalter called the decision “the death of the church.”

“There will be a mass exodus tomorrow,” he said.

Other issues raised in the discussions included a perceived superiority of Catholic churches in general to maintain burial grounds.  Many former members of the Crystal Cathedral are buried on the property while others have expressed that intent in their wills.

The denominational issue, while it won’t be the focus of many mainstream news reports today, is in some ways significant, though most will view it as a rather anticlimactic move that has been a long time coming.

[R]epresentatives of the Reformed Church in America say they are in the process of discontinuing their relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

Scott Treadway, president of the Reformed Church in California, says the cathedral’s goals and mission, including worship style, are not in line with those of the denomination – leaving them with no choice but to discontinue their long and unique relationship with the Crystal Cathedral.

“We have resolved that the governance requirements of the (Crystal Cathedral) and RCA are mutually exclusive, and discussions are underway toward a gracious parting of ways,” he said in an email response.

The Reformed Church’s relationship with the Crystal Cathedral was unique because the cathedral had grown into much more than a local community church when it became a worldwide television ministry, Treadway said.

So an agreement was forged, he said, where the Reformed Church continued to ordain the ministers, but that the ministry and property were administered solely by Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Although the agreement worked well for many years, the relationship became stressed when “there was a dissonance in ministry direction, music style, bankruptcy and risk to the property,” Treadway said, referring to the ministry’s shift from traditional music to a praise style of worship.

“It became an unsolvable mess,” he said.

…complete story here…

Back to the building and property sale, the church’s lead pastor continues to hold on to optimism in the face of what is probably insurmountable obstacles:

Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder’s daughter, sought to reassure members and supporters of the iconic house of worship Thursday night, saying “there is still time for God to step in and save Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

“Lest you think it is too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you that it is not too late for a miracle,” said Schuller Coleman, the church’s director of ministry and mission.

…continue story at CNN Religion…

Sadly, this last pronouncement shows that the story is not over, and really won’t be over, until the church comes to terms with the idea that its time has passed.  We do not, in the Evangelical world, have a protocol for shutting down churches smoothly.  People get emotionally bonded to land and buildings, when in fact, our love and devotion should be directed toward Jesus Christ.

Many other stories in this saga are available on this blog:  Use the search bar in the upper right corner and type “Crystal Cathedral” and hit enter.  Results will appear in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest.

October 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Property Sold to Chapman University

In the end, the university bid was the one the Schullers approved.

The board “had to reluctantly vote to accept a plan due to the deadlines required by the court,” Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral Congregation, said in the statement.

The story is summarized at the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The church will continue to have the use of some of the buildings, but the Orange County Register reports that the annual Christmas production won’t be happening for 2011.

Crystal Cathedral’s iconic “Glory of Christmas” pageant is unlikely to happen this year with the pending sale of the 40-acre property, even as a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the 60-year-old ministry founded by Robert H. Schuller.

On Wednesday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ board announced their decision to “reluctantly endorse” Chapman University as the preferred buyer over the highest bidder, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Chapman is offering $50 million for the campus and options to continue the ministry on the property and buy back core church buildings in five years. The university plans to start a satellite campus there which will offer health science courses.

Even the Wall Street Journal followed this epic tale.

In the suit, filed Sept. 30, the creditors insist that claims filed in the bankruptcy case—related to everything from employee salaries to alleged copyright infringement—should be bumped back in the line to be repaid. Most of the 10 defendants targeted in the suit are related to the Schullers by blood or marriage.

“R. H. Schuller used his control and influence to cause the debtor to enter into the above-described agreements that benefitted himself and his family, to the detriment of the creditors of the debtor and in breach of his fiduciary obligations to the debtor,” the creditors said, referencing deals that governed everything from compensation for a Schuller son-in-law charged with executing the church’s “Glory of Christmas” pageant to the transition that installed Robert H. Schuller’s son as senior minister for a time…

Though the founders continue to do battle with the creditors regarding their claims, they seem to be on board with the recent turn in the case. Even though their first-choice ending for the proceedings—raising enough money for Crystal Cathedral to remain in control of the entire campus—didn’t materialize, the couple are now set to “embrace Chapman,” according to a statement released Wednesday.

“If Chapman emerges as the owner of the Crystal Cathedral campus, we will welcome the future students and faculty with all that our positive faith has to offer,” Robert H. Schuller said, adding that the board’s decision to tap Chapman as the preferred buyer “took weeks of deliberation and prayer.”

End of story?  Methinks not.  The drama, which has been faithfully recorded on this blog — type “Crystal Cathedral” into the search field at the top of the sidebar — is really a multi-dimensional story involving:

  • overspending, bad management
  • a family feud gone very public
  • the lack of substance, or spiritual shallowness of the Cathedral’s core message
  • the traditional vs. contemporary (and Mainline vs. Charismatic) music wars involving congregational and choir (performance) music
  • the untold story of the Cathedral’s thriving Hispanic church

…and much, much more; though for some, the middle one, the relentless self-help message of possibility-thinking that overshadowed more profound Biblical teaching, was the Achilles Heel that eventually caused the ministry organization to come undone.

No, this story is a continuing drama.

Stay tuned.

August 10, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Introductory paragraph providing a friendly greeting and visual balance to the list which follows; often accompanied by a picture of a lynx allowing for lame “Wednesday List Lynx” pun.

  • The Meeting House, Canada’s largest multi-site church, is wrapping up a very unusual summer sermon series that you can catch online.  For each Sunday, teaching pastor Bruxy Cavey has invited representatives of different denominations to share their history and distinctives and then do a ten-minute mini-sermon on a passage of their choice.   We’ve especially enjoyed the Anglican, Salvation Army, Presbyterian (Reformed) and Pentecostal guests.  Check it out on audio or video.
  • How good is your church at dealing with families with special needs children?  Jason Wert guests at Wrecked for the Ordinary with a post titled Autism in the Church.
  • Worship Song searchers: Here’s a video to Your Great Name by Krissy Nordhoff.
  • Bradley Wright says that the average American doesn’t despise Evangelicals, in fact they rather like them.  Warning: This is a seven page CT article!
  • A Texas jury finds the polygamist with the 12-year-old and 15-year-old ‘wives’ guilty of sexual assault. The CNN story cites an audio recording played at the trial.  Who records stuff like this?  Was the video camera not working?  Bizarre.
  • Matt Chandler and Geoff Ashley sit down in front a camera for eight minutes of discussion on the necessity of seminary education.
  • Anne Graham Lotz and Joel Rosenberg are hosting a nation-wide simulcast on the evening of September 11th — the tenth anniversary of the event that made that date infamous — titled A Wake Up Call for God’s People.  Find out how a church in your area can be part of the event.
  • Rebecca St. James was due to travel to Norway on the weekend for concerts that were scheduled before the tragedy there last month.  She hopes her visit will be part of the healing process for that nation.
  • The next installment of Schullergate is an August 1st story saying the church has said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to all offers and has taken the church off the market to try to resurrect it themselves.
  • Trevin Wax returns from his summer blogging break only to report it wasn’t much of a break.  Pray for TW and his family.
  • For whatever reason — perhaps contrast to the above link — Trevin Wax celebrates 50 years of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown with a catalog of the annual Sunday comic panels.
  • The WordPress blog name DialingForDoctrine is available.  Just thought I’d mention that.  But don’t take it if you’re not going to have some fun with it.  And shouldn’t there be a rule that if you never posted anything, and a year is up, the name should release back into the available pool?  Or if you put up a single post, but it’s been two years?  Blogspot squatters, this means you especially.

August 3, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday list lynx

All the news that’s fit to link.

  • A U.S. judge has ordered the ban on circumcision to be removed from the fall ballot in San Francisco.
  • Nicholas Kristof remembers both John Stott and the idea that not all Evangelicals are blowhards in this New York Times article.
  • We’re getting weary following the Schullergate story, but the latest has Robert H. back on the board
  • Can’t post enough of these type of links:  Jim Martin on Six Ways to Avoid Having an Affair.
  • Or Jon Acuff on three perfectly easy ways to wreck your marriage with social media.
  • Randy Alcorn looks at the two books written in response to Rob Bell‘s Love Wins and finds great material with surprisingly little overlap in the books by Francis Chan and Mark Galli.
  • You can’t call it televangelism any more because they no longer use television.  So how about intervangelism.
  • This link is actually from 2009, but it’s good every once in awhile to get inside the anatomy of a witness/evangelism experience.    (Note: Go Buses are a provincial transportation system serving the Toronto hinterland.)
  • The amazing thing about this online book about Biblical Relationships is not the solid Biblical content or the clarity of the online formatting, but the fact that the author, Regis Wengel is only 19.
  • Nothing intensely spiritual about it, but here’s an interesting one minute video about What Matters Most.
  • ‘That was a great talk, can I have your notes and PowerPoint slides?’  John Stackhouse explains why the answer to that will always be ‘no.’
  • Tony Campolo on ‘Baby smiles’ and having a joyful countenance.  After you read this, copy and paste it and create your own brand of email forward.
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Boyett now has a parenting blog; check out Dadequate: Ordinary Adventures of a Write-Brained Dad.
  • This fall, Canada honors its own Christian musicians with the cross country Maple Noise Tour featuring Thousand Foot Krutch, Greg Sczebel, Manafest, Johnny Diaz, To Tell, Jon Bauer, Jodi King, Manic Drive…  oh yeah, and some group called The Newsboys.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk reports — with tongue firmly in cheek — on a group that finds the book of Genesis too explicit and is fighting to get it banned.
  • Our closing cartoon this week is a somewhat random sample of what’s going on at Mighty Mag.  Richard Gunther is a New Zealand artist whose work can also be seen on Ray Comfort’s webpage.  In addition to various types of illustrations, a “daily nibble” provides a brief devotional thought.  This one illustrates I Tim 1: 3-4

May 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Land, Buildings To Be Sold in June

In a desperate bid to eliminate debt, an Irvine, California real estate partnership will acquire the land and buildings and then grant the church the option to lease back the facility for 15 years.   The church has been cutting back expenses, but membership, weekly attendance and revenue have kept falling faster than the cutbacks.

The debt relief could also allow what the Orange County Register terms “23 insiders” to continue to live in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.  Although it limits salaries, there isn’t mention of the ever conspicuous “housing allowances” paid to key staff.  The newspaper reports:

Greenlaw Partners would pay $46 million for the cathedral and surrounding buildings, leasing back the cathedral to the ministry. Most of the cash would go to creditors.

After four years, the ministry would have the right to buy back the cathedral, parking lots and most other buildings for $30 million. Greenlaw would get the right to build apartments on some of the 30-acre property…

…The key to the plan is real estate development. Greenlaw wants to build apartments – potentially hundreds of apartments – on what are now parking lots, low-slung buildings and lawns near the corner of Lewis Street and Dawn Avenue.The deal is critical to the ministry’s precarious financial health. Each apartment Greenlaw builds would knock $20,000 off the price the ministry pays to get back the cathedral and its core buildings. In an example cited in court papers, 400 apartments would reduce the repurchase price by $8 million…

…The family of founding Rev. Robert H. Schuller would give up some of its financial power over the cathedral to an independent board. Although the elder Schuller and his wife, Arvella, would sit on that board, an executive board controlled by outsiders would set the ministry’s budget and would also appoint the chief financial officer.

In addition, the bankruptcy plan limits the salary of the ministry’s chief executive officer, Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, to $69,525 a year.

The church owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors including many longtime vendors who provided services for its annual Christmas and Easter pageants. Church administrators say the cathedral will continue its local worship services, community outreach programs and its weekly “Hour of Power” broadcasts. Also, the plan will immediately eliminate both the church’s mortgage and the majority of its vendor debt, they say. Any remaining vendor debt will be repaid over the next 42 months, officials say….

Continue reading the story at OC Register.

Crystal Cathedral staff are quick to lay the blame on economic factors, but readers of this blog know otherwise.   While megachurches elsewhere are booming, the difference lies clearly in the message preached.  Even though some identify the big glass church as within the parameters of Evangelicalism, the church’s “positive thinking” teaching more resembles that of mainline Protestant churches — most of which are also seeing rapidly declining numbers — if not, on some Sundays, coming across with a message that would be fully acceptable to most Unitarians.

The cathedral’s court filings’ blame its financial troubles partly on “unsettled leadership” but mostly on the recession.

However, a financial statement filed Friday shows that the ministry’s losses predate the recession…

Perhaps they predate even the founding of the church.  Let me explain.  Like Chicago’s Willow Creek, the Crystal Cathedral was founded on the basis of a door-to-door survey.  But while Bill Hybels’ neighbors (a) didn’t want to be asked for money and (b) wanted to be anonymous or not singled out; those in Schuller’s survey made it clear they didn’t want to be judged, or preached condemnation.  On that premise, and under the influence of Norman Vincent Peale, Robert H. Schuller embarked on a message of self-improvement that at times is indistinguishable from that of Oprah Winfrey.  In a church-saturated country, it wasn’t the message that either those within the fold, or those outside it craved.

Evangelicals have always admired the quality of the Hour of Power’s television productions, the choir and orchestra, and the colorful list of weekly guests.   But the message was always watered down, light years away from the “full gospel” of Pentecostals, and often not even a “half gospel” that more conservative Christians could endorse.

In the end, Schuller’s own son, Robert A. Schuller couldn’t endorse it either; and the pastor, who credits a Billy Graham crusade with his own personal conversion, began a more aggressive exposition of Biblical texts, much to the dislike of some in the church’s executive branch.

The younger Schuller’s dismissal and absence from the weekly telecast was the wake up call that many faithful viewers needed to realize that there was indeed trouble in the camp. 

And so, the once mighty Crystal Cathedral limps onward, but a shadow of its former self. 

May 2, 2011

Orchestra Members Walk Out on Crystal Cathedral Concert

The paychecks they received were half of what they were verbally promised, so eight musicians representing one quarter of the Crystal Cathedral orchestra, decided to walk with just an hour remaining before showtime.*   The L. A. Times reported that the Cathedral later blamed accounting errors, but other parts of the story suggest that some orchestra members had not been paid for the previous Easter.

The impact this had, according to the cathedral, was minimal. 

About a quarter of the orchestra — including an oboist, flutist and four French horn players — walked out a mere hour before services began Sunday…

Crystal Cathedral spokesman John Charles said Easter services weren’t affected by the eight people who walked out. Checks have been sent to those who performed.

“No one would have ever known they were missing,” he said of the eight.

No one noticed the entire French horn section missing?  As a musician, that seems somewhat hard to fathom, and at least one woodwind blogger was insulted.  But not so hard to fathom is the underlying bitterness the musicians — like so many others having contracts to do work for the church — are feeling:

“This church is known for three things: an inspiring minister with a vision, fabulous music and wonderful architecture,” said oboe player Holly Patterson, one of the musicians who walked out Sunday. “Out of those three things, only one exists now.”

You can read the story at the L. A. Times; also this blogger has a friend who had to sue the church to get paid;  while a longer story in the Orange County Register, notes that a website has been formed to rally those who are fans of the church’s unique music:

A few members have started a new website, crystalcathedralmusic.net, which says its mission is to “host a gathering place for Hour of Power viewers and the local congregation interested in keeping alive the traditional music of the Crystal Cathedral.” Most of the music featured on the website is from before April 2011. The site says that some most recent music has been featured for “purposes of comparison only.”

Of course, some will argue that this is part of the folly of having paid church musicians; of having a system whereby ministry is being done so professionally, that only professionals participate; and that, in the average church, the musicians are all volunteers. Should churches use paid musicians to augment special seasonal performances, or use them regularly as do some churches?

*The choice of the word “showtime” as opposed to “church service” or “concert” was intentional.    

Click picture for photo credit.

The use of today’s discussion question is in no way intended to detract from the more obvious question: Should not churches pay their bills?

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