Robert Schuller, 88, Crystal Cathedral megachurch founder dies

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

((FILE) REUTERS/Larry Downing)Dr. Robert Schuller joined hands with President George W. Bush as they prayed with others at a memorial service for Coretta Scott King at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, February 7, 2006.

UPDATED

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- Robert H. Schuller, 88, televangelist and founder of Crystal Cathedral, a Southern California megachurch has died.

"My father-in-law passed away peacefully early this morning. He was a great Dad and a great man of God," said Schuller's daughter-in-law, Donna Schuller, in a Twitter message.

Schuller, who was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer in 2013, died early today at a care facility in Artesia, his daughter Carol Schuller Milner said. He reportedly declined chemotherapy and radiation following the death of his wife, Arvella Schuller in February 2014.

The "Hour of Power" radio program, now continued by his grandson Bobby Schuller, at one time drew 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries. Church attendees sat in the parking lot outside the glittering crystal domed auditorium where it was being taped and listened to sermons like they were in a drive-in movie theater.

At the height of his ministry, he was considered on of the most influential preachers in the United States, a pioneering west coast firebrand who use modern technology to spread the message of faith -- showcasing exploding fountains, pageants and show-biz theatrics -- in a prototype of the modern megachurch erected from 10,000 panels of glass.

He avoided Pentacostalism, politics, and personal scandals, however, instead choosing to focus on "possibility thinking," according to an obituary in the Washington Post.

He was infuenced by the late Norman Vincent Peale, who penned "The Power of Positive Thinking," and was often criticized for focusing too heavily on emotional needs and self-esteem.

An Iowa native, Schuller headed west to California after attending a Presbyterian college in Michigan, according to CNN. He got his start at a drive-in theater he rended where he preached from the roof of a snack bar. 

Schuller called the explosive growth of his own congregation a "miracle," although critics were put off by the indignity of the sinfulness of the culture.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Rick Warren and others sought his advice, but by 2010, Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy after Schuller's failed attempt to install his son as pastor of the congregation.

The towering building is now owned by the Roman Catholic church.

Bobby Schuller, in a statement, recalled standing with his grandfather on top of the Crystal Cathedral's 12-story Tower of Hope in Garden Grove.

"YOu could see the whole world from there," he said.