Thinking Out Loud

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 Elbow grease and much detergent…”)  Robert H. is no longer active in ministry; we’re not sure what he does on Sunday mornings currently, but it may involve sitting at home and watching Joel Osteen.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.

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