Crystal Cathedral: The Son had it Right, but Siblings and Others Worked Against Him, Says Source
Contact: Ron Keener, Church Executive Magazine, 800-541-2670 ext. 204
MEDIA ADVISORY, Feb. 6 /Christian Newswire/ -- The primary rift between the father and the son in the Crystal Cathedral Garden Grove, CA, pulpit was about changes the son, Robert Anthony Schuller, wanted to make in terms of transparency and accountability, but were resisted by his father Robert H. Schuller, key board members and ministry heads of the church, says a source knowledgeable about the church's inner circle.
"The son did not have all the freedom to do what was needed to make the ministry rebound from a spiritual and financial spiral downward," the source told Church Executive.
"For all outward appearances Robert A. was in charge and had control of how the ministry was to move forward, but nothing could be further from the truth," says the individual who saw the early disputes play out in meetings.
The individual, who asked not to be identified, disputed an earlier report in a Church Executive editorial that the father gave the son "plenty of freedom" to shape the ministry. "Robert A.'s actions were all carefully regulated to the point of specific limitation by his father and key board members with regard to direction, content and funding strategy," the source says, calling the actions "deceitful tactics that were used to relieve Robert A. from his position." The remarks was substantiated by another source as well.
More recently, Jim Poit, executive pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, and his wife Linda, who was director of children's ministries there, were let go by the church in January, following by four months the departure and later resignation of senior pastor Robert A. Schuller, to whom Poit served as executive pastor of the megachurch. Deb Yurk, who had been brought on board by Poit as pastor of congregational life, was also released from her job.
A church spokesman first said they were "layed off" but went on to say that Poit, his wife, and Yurk "didn't fit the vision, I guess, of the new leadership." Changes were made last July whereby founder Robert H. Schuller retained the chairman of the board post, and named two sons-in-law and a third person to an "Office of the President."
As in many organizational struggles the public face is not always the real story. In this case the source claims that "Robert A.'s goals were very simple--install an impartial board not paid by proceeds from the ministry, rework the Hour of Power to attract a younger audience, try different methods of worship to develop a more meaningful spiritual encounter, and to have public financial transparency. This process would install a level of accountability. As of now the leadership is accountable to no one. The leadership behind the scenes limited Robert A's goal advancement and ridiculed him for lack of leadership," the source says.
The Cathedral is not, for example, a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a watchdog group giving transparency to faith-based ministries and organizations.
"The removal of Robert A. was an old fashioned coup that backfired," says the source, and that "the leadership would be wise to look for a way to repair their relationship with Robert A. quickly." Behind the scene, the source says, "his [Robert A.] siblings were promoting division."
Robert Anthony "was leading a worldwide ministry, in a crucial transition period, with a bad economy, with his siblings hindering key moves, while trying to be innovative to change a ministry, that was dominated by elderly membership, to a youthful audience," the source says.
Last May the ministry put up for sale its 170-acre property in Rancho Capistrano that served as a retreat center, and earlier this month the four-story office building, known as the Robert H. Schuller Family Life Center, that houses a school and production offices, was put up for sale for $34 million. The church is looking for a lease-back arrangement. The church in the past has denied that the church is headed for bankruptcy.