Thinking Out Loud

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.


  1. Thanks for the news. I was so naive. I thought that I had been watching current shows. I did wonder why no current events were mentioned in the TV service which was one my churches. [I need TV church for medical reasons.] Thanks again!

    Comment by goodolewoody — March 18, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  2. No doubt all of the recent events at the church is very stressful for Dr. Schuller and his wife. They founded the church for heaven’s sake. Now that things have fallen apart, which does happen sometimes when the founder of the ministry steps aside, things no doubt have gone from bad to worse. The church should for the sake of Christ, turn over the rights to the writings of Dr. Schuller to him. That may not be the “business” thing to do, but it most certainly would be the Christian thing to do. Of course, if the church is now a business then the bottom line is all about money and not about Jesus. As the future unfolds everyone will know fact from fiction. And usually a church turns it’s back on the founder when the founder no longer meets their standards of practice they have set for themselves. Yet, the founder is the one who put his/her blood, sweat and tears into making the church happen and most if not all of church boards ride the founders coat tails as long as they can and them dump the founder at the most opportune moment.

    Comment by Dr. Donley GF Jenkins — March 20, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and a sense of balance. I don’t know if I can continue with the new guy they got. I should give him a second try to be fair. I pray that Dr. Schuller and his wife are comfortable.

      Comment by goodolewoody — April 2, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  3. I listen every Sunday to the Crystal C have visited in person and loved walking on the beautiful grounds. This should be preserved and an Historical Entity for the city of Garden Grove. Robert A. Schuller should have been allowed to stay on as the Head Pastor, his Father appointed him and should have had the final decision in their family. I felt when Sheila took over there wouldnt be much time left. I am so sad about this mess. Garden Grove better realize that it has nothing else to attract tourists therefore KEEP UP THE GRUNDS and PRESERVE THIS PROPERTY!

    Comment by Darlene Eliason — April 1, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    • It’s actually interesting that some feel that the property will fare as good or even better under Roman Catholic ownership. For example, there is small burial ground on the property, and someone noted that the Catholic church has much experience running cemeteries. Also Catholic shrines and cathedrals are really big on tourists and vistors, so access to the property by the general public won’t be an issue.

      For updates on this story click:

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 1, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  4. Sometimes children have to leave the nest.
    God bless each of them for continuing
    What their father and grandfather started
    Continuing also what Jesus asked to Simone
    “tend my sheep”.

    Comment by Kay Redford — April 8, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  5. I lived with the old format for a long time. The new group is saying that they are bringing back the way things used to be. I ask, I that a good thing? Is that a condemnation of what Sheila and Jim Penner were doing? I liked the new format; however I wanted more of the Bible like I get from Pastor Sandra Kennedy of Whole LIfe Ministries. BTW, she has healing services where she say miraculous things happen. I am fascinated by her interpretation of scripture. I would add that to Sheila’s format. I wonder how soon it will take her to get on TV.

    Comment by goodolewoody — April 9, 2012 @ 8:24 am

  6. Even though Sheila is a daughter of Dr. Schuller, she talks like a school teacher/principal, not a preacher of The Word. She needs a good speech coach to develop her delivery. Check out Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Pricilla Shirer, etc. you are convinced that they really believe what they are teaching. She cannot even hold a candle to Robbie Schuller’s delivery.

    Comment by Doranna Cooper — April 10, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  7. […] 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 […]

    Pingback by Crystal Cathedral: Cast of Characters « Thinking Out Loud — May 5, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  8. Why would you think the Catholics are going to destroy the grounds and the Church? I am sure there will be some changes, but I very much doubt you need fear of anything drastic. The Church doesnt care to half-ass these things, take for example the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Spain, work began in 1882, & with the Basilica a little more than 50% complete, its hoped to be completed by 2026.ília

    Comment by Harry — June 3, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    • I am going to assume that this is a response to comment #3, which I’ve already replied to. There is no question that the grounds will be well cared for under the new ownership.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 3, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  9. God save them all

    Comment by derick — October 27, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

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