My Father was a sailor in his youth and grew into a man with a strong faith. He had many things to be proud of but one of the small things he loved was his contribution to the building of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County California. The amount of money wasn’t all that great, but he purchased at least one of the glass panels that would be added to the tall and gleaming structure that opened in 1981.
Dad’s health had already started to fail by that time from a long family history of heart related illness. His faith however seemed to grow stronger with each passing year. He had several loves besides my Mom. The remembrance of the sacrifices of so many in our countries wars was a focal point in his life. From my earliest memories, I can recall that Memorial Day was a bigger holiday in our house than the secular Christmas was. (The real Christmas was about the Christ child).
I will always remember the Sunday morning he showed me the letter from none other than Robert Schuller (the man who built the ministry and the Crystal Cathedral) thanking him for his contribution to completing such an amazing tribute to the spirit. Dad watched the Hour of Power for years. It came on right before our regular church and he enjoyed the speakers, the music, the testimonies, and the powerful messages that spoke so much to him in his passing years.
The Schuller Family was centered around their Hour of Power ministries. Robert Senior and his wife had started the ministry in 1955 holding services in a rented outdoor movie theater. Over the years, the ministry grew until it was a global organization with millions of followers. It seemed like a natural progression for Robert Junior to eventually take over in the pulpit as his father retired. Robert Jr. had been an accomplished minister in his own right and brought a fresh new perspective to the franchise.
The cathedral was built in Southern California so the structure was built to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake. Unfortunately it was not built to withstand an event in 2008 that might as well have shaken the entire building to the ground.
“From 2006 through 2008 the Hour of Power had over 25 million viewers worldwide making it the number one watched religious show and making him the most listened to orator in the world.
On October 25, 2008, his father announced that Schuller had been removed from the Hour of Power television program, citing “a lack of shared vision”. In a prepared statement, founder Robert H. Schuller stated that “different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry” with his son “made it necessary … to part ways in the Hour of Power television ministry” It was subsequently announced on November 29, 2008, that Schuller had resigned from his position as Senior Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral.”
No explanation has been made publicly since that time. In the three years since then however, the entire ministry was shaken to its core.
Again, from Wikipedia:
“Beginning in 2010, creditors filed lawsuits to collect money due to them for providing goods, services and broadcasting The Hour of Power weekly TV show. A board member said that the total debt was $55 million. The church’s board filed for bankruptcy on October 18, 2010, citing $43 million in debt including a $36 million mortgage and $7.5 million in other debt. Church officials said that they had been trying to negotiate payments but after several suits were filed and writs of attachment were granted the church had to declare bankruptcy. The church has received offers for the building from a real estate investment group and from Chapman University, both with the provision of being leased back to the church.
On July 7, 2011, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange announced that it was “potentially interested” in buying the church building.
On November 17, 2011, a federal judge approved selling the Crystal Cathedral to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.”
The ministry has been able to negotiate renting the facility for three years but after that it will be modified for use in a way that the Diocese has yet to determine.
I am not sure what lessons the world can take from the demise of this once great institution. They did a lot of good works and helped a lot of shut in people to stay connected with the spiritual power they sought.
For me, I suppose the lessons are these:
- Even the mightiest and most well planned structures can fail, so be very careful placing your faith in anything man builds
- Staying together, even as a family takes a lot of work, so make a point of working at it every single day (no matter how close you think you are)
- If you want to grow, honor the past but embrace the future
- Power and money will still fade if those who control it cling to it too tightly
I hope something good comes from this. The charitable work the Church did will be missed. For those who believe in the scriptures, anytime outreach programs fail it hurts the real evangelistic message. But as my Grandmother use to say: