Robert Schuller, Legendary Televangelist and Founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, Dies at 88

( [email protected] ) Apr 02, 2015 11:24 AM EDT
Robert Schuller, Legendary televangelist and founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, has died at 88.
Robert Schuller is known for promoting the idea of "possibility thinking"

Legendary televangelist and founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries Robert H. Schuller died early Thursday morning at the age of 88 in a skilled care facility, his daughter has confirmed.

According to the AP, Schuler, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013, went off chemotherapy or radiation treatments after his wife, Arvella Schuller, died in February 2014.

Schuller is indisputably one of the most recognized televangelists of the 20th century. The son of Dutch immigrant parents, Schuller started out with humble beginnings, first preaching in 1955 at a rented drive-in theater.

In 1970, he began a TV ministry called the "Hour of Power," where he often promoted the idea of "possibility thinking," redemption, and grace. The program eventually became the most-watched religious program in the world, reaching as many as 20 million viewers during its peak. Today, the show is hosted by Schuller's grandson.

"Miraculously, lives in our tiny congregation began to transform," Schuller wrote in his biography. "The congregation began to grow.... I realized that every sermon I preached should be designed not to 'teach' or 'convert' people, but rather to encourage them, to give them a lift. I decided to adopt the spirit, style, strategy and substance of a 'therapist' in the pulpit."

By 1980, Schuler's ministry had grown astronomically. To house his massive congregation, he built a soaring cathedral made entirely out of glass known as the "Crystal Cathedral" in Garden Grove, California. In 2006,  Schuller's son, Robert, assumed the role of senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. On October 25, 2008, however, Schuller removed his son from that position citing "a lack of shared vision" 

Schuller and his wife resigned from the board of Crystal Cathedral Ministries in March 2012 after the ministry filed for bankruptcy, citing debts of $43 million. In February 2012, the building and its adjacent campus was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for use as the diocese's new cathedral.

Schuller's simple, positive approach to preaching and "come as you are" mantra influenced numerous megachurch pastors of today, including bestselling authors Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. He also authored numerous best-selling books, six of which have made the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Donna Schuller said that her father-in-law's passing during the week leading up to Easter was fitting: "He always did everything in a grand fashion," she told the Register. "It's just like him."

Donna also said Schuller gave his son, her husband, a document detailing his funeral arrangements.

"He gave it to my husband 10 years ago," she told the Register. "Perfectionist that he is, I'm sure he has planned out and specified every little detail." 

Besides his son, Schuller and his wife, Arvella, had four daughters, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen. .