Robert Schuller

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The Reverend
Robert H. Schuller
Robert Harold Schuller

(1926-09-16)September 16, 1926
DiedApril 2, 2015(2015-04-02) (aged 88)
Burial placeCathedral Memorial Gardens, Garden Grove, California U.S.
EducationHope College, Western Theological Seminary
OccupationChristian minister
Years active1955–2011
Known forChristian minister, author of "positive thinking" books
Notable work
Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do
TelevisionThe Hour of Power (1970–2010)
TitleDoctor (honorary)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)Arvella De Haan (m. 1950–2014; her death)
Children5, including Robert A. Schuller

Robert Harold Schuller (September 16, 1926 – April 2, 2015) was an American Christian televangelist, pastor, motivational speaker, and author.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.


Televangelism is the use of media, specifically radio and television, to communicate Christianity. Televangelists are Christian ministers, whether official or self-proclaimed, who devote a large portion of their ministry to television broadcasting. Some televangelists are also regular pastors or ministers in their own places of worship, but the majority of their followers come from TV and radio audiences. Others do not have a conventional congregation, and work primarily through television. The term is also used derisively by critics as an insinuation of aggrandizement by such ministers.


In his five decades of television, Schuller was principally known for the weekly Hour of Power television program, which he began hosting in 1970 until his retirement in 2010. Schuller began broadcasting the program from the Neutra Sanctuary, with the encouragement of longtime friend Billy Graham after Schuller visited him in 1969. [1] He was also the founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, where the Hour of Power program was later broadcast. [2]

Hour of Power is a weekly American Christian television program formerly broadcast from the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, a cathedral that is now a Catholic church. The program is currently broadcast from Shepherd's Grove.

Billy Graham American Christian evangelist

William Franklin Graham Jr. was an American evangelist, a prominent evangelical Christian figure, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who became well-known internationally in the late 1940s. One of his biographers has placed him "among the most influential Christian leaders" of the 20th century.

Garden Grove, California City in California

Garden Grove is a city in northern Orange County, California, United States, located 34 miles (55 km) southeast of the city of Los Angeles in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The population was 170,883 at the 2010 United States Census. State Route 22, also known as the Garden Grove Freeway, passes through the city in an east-west direction. The western portion of the city is known as West Garden Grove.

Early years

Robert Harold Schuller was born on September 16, 1926, near Alton, Iowa, the second son of Jennie (née Beltman; 18911970) and Anthony Schuller (18821964). [3] He was the youngest of five children. All of his grandparents were Dutch immigrants, [4] and he was raised on his parents' farm nearby in a small-knit community of Dutch-Americans, without running water. [5] As a six month old infant, Schuller wore the gown on the day of his baptism at a Reformed Church, in Newkirk, Iowa, where he was raised. [6] In 1931, just weeks before his fifth birthday, a visiting uncle, who was a minister, told him to be an evangelist. Schuller called it the "single most defining moment of my early life." [7] After graduating from Newkirk High School in Newkirk, Iowa, in 1944, [8] Schuller studied at Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, and received a Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary, which follows the theological tradition and Christian practice of John Calvin, in 1950. He was ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. He worked at Ivanhoe Reformed Church in Riverdale, Illinois, before moving to Garden Grove, California. There, he opened the Garden Grove Community Church, in 1955, in a drive-in movie theater. He also rented a 300-seat former Baptist church, about four miles (6 km) from the drive-in theater. Schuller presided at a service in the chapel at 9:30 on Sunday mornings and then drove his organ to the drive-in to preside at another service. [9]

Alton, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Alton is a city in Sioux County, Iowa, United States, along the Floyd River. The population was 1,216 at the 2010 census.

Hope College liberal arts college in Michigan

Hope College is a private, Christian liberal arts college in Holland, Michigan. It opened in 1851 as the Pioneer School by Dutch immigrants four years after the community was first settled. The first freshman college class matriculated in 1862 and Hope received its state charter in 1866. Hope College is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and it retains a Christian atmosphere. The school's 125 acres (0.195 sq mi) campus is adjacent to the downtown commercial district and has been shared with Western Theological Seminary since 1884.

Holland, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Holland is a city in the western region of the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is situated near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Lake Macatawa, which is fed by the Macatawa River.

As the size of the congregations grew, Schuller purchased 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land at 12141 Lewis Street in Garden Grove for a "walk-in, drive-in" church, serving both congregations. Ground was broken September 10, 1958, for construction of the new church designed by international architect Richard Neutra. The church was completed in 1961, at a cost of $3,000,000. [10] [11] The dedication service was held November 5, 1961. [12]

Richard Neutra Austrian–American architect

Richard Joseph Neutra was an Austrian-American architect. Living and building for the majority of his career in Southern California, he came to be considered among the most important modernist architects.

The design of the new church building enabled Schuller to preach his sermons to worshipers in 500 cars, as well as to members of the congregation inside the church. [13]

A "Tower of Hope" building was added on the north side of the drive-in church building in 1968; the Tower of Hope rose 13 stories (approximately 130 to 150 feet in the air, the highest structure in Orange County at that time,[ citation needed ] and was topped by a cross. The illuminated cross that stood atop the Tower of Hope was 90 feet tall.[ citation needed ] That same year, Schuller purchased the 10-acre (4.0 ha) walnut grove that bordered the north side of the Garden Grove Community Church for the construction of the much larger Crystal Cathedral, designed by architect Philip Johnson. The church, which has glass walls and ceiling, was dedicated on September 14, 1980. [14]

Philip Johnson American architect (1906–2005)

Philip Cortelyou Johnson was an American architect. He is best known for his works of Modern architecture, including the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and his works of postmodern architecture, particularly 550 Madison Avenue which was designed for AT&T, and 190 South La Salle Street in Chicago. In 1978, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize.


Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, completed in 1961 6207-GardenGroveCommunityDriveInChurch.jpg
Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, completed in 1961
Inside the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, during a Schuller sermon, July 1962 6207-GardenGroveDriveInChurch-Interior.jpg
Inside the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, during a Schuller sermon, July 1962
Schuller greeting parishioners after a Sunday service at the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, July 1962 6207-RevRobtSchullerGrdnGrvChurch.jpg
Schuller greeting parishioners after a Sunday service at the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, July 1962
Schuller with President Ronald Reagan in 1982 Reagan Contact Sheet C6225 (cropped).jpg
Schuller with President Ronald Reagan in 1982
Schuller with President George H. W. Bush in 1991 Bush Contact Sheet P19684 (cropped).jpg
Schuller with President George H. W. Bush in 1991
Schuller holding hands with President George W. Bush during a prayer at the homegoing celebration for Coretta Scott King at the New Birth Missionary Church in Atlanta in 2006 President George W. Bush Honors Coretta Scott King at Homegoing Celebration.jpg
Schuller holding hands with President George W. Bush during a prayer at the homegoing celebration for Coretta Scott King at the New Birth Missionary Church in Atlanta in 2006

Schuller emphasized what he believed are the positive aspects of the Christian faith. He deliberately avoided condemning people for sin, believing that Jesus "met needs before touting creeds". Once in a relationship with God, Schuller emphasized, someone who is sowing positive faith in his heart and actions will discover that the by-product is a reduction of sin. He was known to say, "Sin is a condition before it is an action." Schuller encouraged Christians and non-Christians to achieve great things through God and to believe in their dreams. He wrote, "If you can dream it, you can do it!" [15]

As the Crystal Cathedral's founding pastor, Schuller was seen and heard internationally on Sundays on the world's most widely watched hour-long church service, the Hour of Power, 1500 of which were recorded. [2]

Personal life

On June 15, 1950, Schuller married Arvella De Haan (1929–2014), a church organist, who became instrumental in developing the music department at the Crystal Cathedral and was the creator and producer of the Hour of Power for over 40 years. The Schullers had five children: Sheila, Robert, Jeanne, Carol, and Gretchen. [16]

Retirement and succession

On January 22, 2006, Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, assumed the role of senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. On October 25, 2008, however, he resigned. His father cited "a lack of shared vision" as the cause. [17] 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". [18] Schuller also said "I love my son and am proud of my son" and that the long-term survival of his ministry was dependent on expanding its imprint beyond the Schuller name. "The real minister's name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller", he said. The ministry then opened the pulpit to a variety of notable Christian speakers. [19]

On June 11, 2009, Schuller announced that the church's leadership would pass to his eldest daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman. On July 11, 2010, he announced that he was retiring as principal pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and would become chairman of the church's board of directors. [20] After a year as interim senior pastor, Sheila Schuller Coleman was elevated to senior pastor in July 2010.

Final years and death

On October 18, 2010, Coleman announced that the Crystal Cathedral was seeking bankruptcy protection, in the midst of what became known as the "Great Recession". [21]

In May 2011, the senior Schullers, along with their daughter Carol and her husband, Tim, were dismissed from the ministry at the Crystal Cathedral.[ citation needed ] They filed for bankruptcy. The court would eventually allow them approximately 20 percent of what they were owed. [22] The creditors would be paid in full plus interest. In July 2011, it was reported in the Orange County Register that Schuller had been ousted from the Crystal Cathedral board. [23] In July 2011, Coleman attempted to reverse the decision that had been made in her absence, saying, "Dad will continue to provide leadership for this ministry through me for as long as possible", and, "I have and will continue to defer to his wisdom and honor him for his unprecedented accomplishments". [24]

On March 11, 2012, after months of attempting to change the attitude of the ministry's board, Coleman told the Crystal Cathedral congregation that she was leaving to start a new church because of "a hostile work environment". [25] The International Business Times reported that this came following "a bitter fallout between the ministry and its founding family". [26] According to the Religion News Service, the founders were left with little to no assets; their home was fully mortgaged.[ citation needed ]

On January 24, 2013, the Crystal Cathedral's board of directors voted to make Bobby Schuller, Schuller's grandson (he is the son of Robert Anthony Schuller, Robert Harold's son), the new pastor for the Hour of Power [27] television program as well as a non-voting member of the board. [28]

In late August 2013, Schuller was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. A follow-up examination in September 2013 presented Schuller with the possibility of undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy that could extend his life. [29]

Arvella Schuller died on February 11, 2014, aged 84. [30] The Schullers had been married for 63 years.

Schuller died early on the morning of April 2, 2015, at a nursing facility in Artesia, California, aged 88. His funeral was held at Christ Cathedral, the former campus of the Crystal Cathedral. He was interred next to his wife at the Christ Cathedral Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Garden Grove, California. [31] [32]


Schuller authored over 30 hardcover books, 6 of which have made The New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, [33] [34] [35] including:

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  2. 1 2 "Dr. Robert H. Schuller". Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  3. "Robert Schuller". Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  4. "Robert Schuller A Profil". September 14, 1980. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  5. "Rev. Robert Schuller, Founder of Crystal Cathedral Megachurch in Garden Grove, Dies at 88". KTLA.
  6. "Robert Schuller rose from Iowa farm to world fame". Des Moines Register. April 2, 2015.
  7. "'It was a life well-lived': Rev. Robert Schuller, leader of Crystal Cathedral and 'Hour of Power,' dies at 88". The Orange County Register.
  8. "Robert Schuller Biography". Archived from the original on April 10, 2015.
  9. Penner, James. Goliath: The Life of Robert Schuller (1992), p. 119.
  10. Penner, p. 155.
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  12. Schuller, Robert H. "My Journey"
  13. "Churches: Drive-In Devotion". Time . November 3, 1967. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  14. George, Timothy (September 23, 2013). "From Crystal to Christ: A Once and Future Cathedral". First Things . Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  15. "Diocese to retain Crystal Cathedral exterior". Catholic Online. November 20, 2011. Archived from the original on December 24, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  16. "Robert Schuller".
  17. "'Hour of Power' Preacher Removed by Father". October 26, 2008. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  18. Robert H. Schuller (October 26, 2008). "America's Television Church ― The Church of Tomorrow (news release)". Crystal Cathedral . Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
  19. Anton, Mike; Quinones, Sam (October 27, 2008). "Hour of Power in Media". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  20. "Crystal Cathedral founder stepping down". Orange County Register . July 11, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
  21. Grad, Shelby (October 18, 2010). "Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy amid mounting debts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  22. Crystal Cathedral, Orange County Register Roxana Kopetman, November 28, 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  23. Bharath, Deepa (August 17, 2011). "Schuller ousted from Crystal Cathedral board". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  24. "Dr. Robert H. Schuller Honored as Chairman of the Board Emeritus". Crystal Cathedral. July 2011. Archived from the original on November 22, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  25. "Crystal Cathedral: Robert Schuller commends daughter for leaving church". Los Angeles Times. March 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  26. "Split Crystal Cathedral: Sheila Schuller Launches 'Hope Center of Christ' in Movie Theater". March 19, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  27. "Hour of Power". Crystal Cathedral. Archived from the original on April 30, 2013.
  28. "Bobby Schuller is new 'Hour of Power' pastor". Orange County Register. January 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  29. "Doctors say Robert Schuller has cancer, could live another two years — Los Angeles Times". September 5, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  30. "Arvella Schuller, wife of Crystal Cathedral's founder, dies at 84". Fox News Channel. February 11, 2014.
  31. "Televangelist and Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller has died". The Washington Post. April 2, 2015.
  32. "Obituary". Los Angeles Times. April 2, 2015.
  33. " Dr. Robert Schuller: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle".
  34. World Archipelago. "Robert H. Schuller". HarperCollins US.
  35. "Robert H. Schuller".

Further reading