July 4th, 2011
06:23 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – The Rev. Robert H. Schuller built the Crystal Cathedral, one of America's first megachurches, from the ground up but now the 84-year-old has been voted out by the church's board.
In a statement issued by the church Monday, church officials said Schuller's role with the board was merely changing.
"Now 84 years old, Dr. Schuller has been working toward semi-retirement, since total retirement is not an option for this pastor who is still just as passionate about his calling," the statement said. "Recently, the board of directors of Crystal Cathedral Ministries voted to change Dr. Schuller's position from that of a voting board member to the honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus, a non-voting position," the statement added.
It continued to say the move would allow more time for speaking engagements and writing opportunities for Schuller.
"He will also continue to speak in the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and on the Hour of Power, and meet with staff in creative and vision-casting meetings," the church release read. "Hour of Power" is a weekly television program that was started by Schuller.
Schuller's granddaughter, Angie Schuller Wyatt, said the vote took place several days ago. "He was ousted by the board in the same way my father was. It was surprising, but not completely unexpected," she said.
In 2006, the elder Schuller stepped down from the pulpit as senior pastor, but continued to preach and be on the the board. His son Robert A. Schuller stepped in as senior pastor. Two years later after a dispute with the board the younger Schuller was voted out by the board.
Today, Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller's eldest daughter, has the reins of the ministry, carrying the title of executive director of ministries and missions.
Coleman released a statement, included with the church's, on her father's change on the board:
Coleman and her sister, Gretchen Schuller Penner, who has a leading role with the television ministry, have faced the brunt of criticism due to declining membership and financial woes for the church.
Schuller Wyatt said the church's board once had as many as 30 members but recently had shrunk to only five members.
Schuller had been advocating adding more members to the board, and Schuller Wyatt said that is what led to the board to vote him out. She said Schuller was not present at the board meeting.
"They did it behind his back, just like they did to my dad. They conspired behind his back and made this happen," Schuller Wyatt said. "This board is causing the demise and the destruction of the Crystal Cathedral."
"They weren't letting him do anything anyway. Those of us here see it as symbolically awful," said Pastor James Kok, who has been on staff with Crystal Cathedral Ministries for 28 years. "They had effectively stopped listening to him two or three years ago. It's symbolic, not functional. He was mostly put on the shelf by his daughters."
"I'm very invested in the people of the church. That's what I'm concerned with," Kok said. "Especially the old people. The ministry has changed from a traditional worship service to a loud music, contemporary type, service to keep up with the other churches."
He said with the Schuller sisters now in charge, voting their father out followed a similar patter, "That is the way the church has been managed ever since Robert Schuller stepped down. They just do things. They don't ask anybody."
"They have no experience in ministry and no care for the people of the church. They have no theological experience. Zero. Those of us who bothered to go to seminary for five years are left on the shelf," Kok said.
Schuller Wyatt said she has remained at an arm's length from the Crystal Cathedral for some time. She has her own ministry called Spiritual Wellness.
The Orange County, California, church has been hit hard by financial woes and last year sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. A spokesman at the time told CNN the church was being sued by a small number of creditors.
The gleaming glass building still hosts the weekly "Hour of Power" telecast, that since 1970 beamed Schuller's smiling face and folksy preaching into millions of American homes. The church said the show has a worldwide audience of 20 million viewers to go along with 10,000 congregants who fill the pews in Garden Grove, California. The church was founded by the elder Schuller in 1955 as part of the Reformed Church in America.
"All we've been told for 25 years was how wonderful this family is, and now it's shattered," Kok said.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.