Religion News Blog — Last Saturday Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, announced “with great sadness” their resignations from the Crystal Cathedral board of directors.
“We cannot continue to serve on the Board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere, especially since it now seems that it will not be ending anytime soon,” Arvella Schuller was quoted as saying in a news release.
“They’re removing themselves from the governance of the ministry,” Carol Schuller Milner, their daughter, said in an interview Saturday. “They’re not cutting all ties. They’re still planning on worshipping in the congregation.”
The elder Schullers have been embroiled in a legal battle with the board of directors regarding intellectual property and copyright infringement claims as well as back payment for services rendered, Schuller Milner said.
One day after the Schullers resigned, Crystal Cathedral’s Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman told congregants she’s leaving to start a new church, citing her family’s “adversarial” relationship with the church’s board of directors.
She said she is taking the congregation to a new location under the name Hope Center of Christ, but also told worshippers that regular Sunday services will continue in the Crystal Cathedral, leaving church members to make a choice on where they will meet next Sunday morning.
Last month the Crystal Cathedral was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange when escrow closed on the $57.5 million court-ordered sale.
Under the terms of a three-year lease with the diocese the current congregation can continue to worship at the Crystal Cathedral, after which it will become the spiritual home for 1.2 million Orange County Catholics.
Meanwhile Robert Schuller says his “financial future may be at risk” due to the bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries.
In a four-minute video titled, “Financial Security Uncertain for Aging Founders,” Schuller refers to his battle with the Crystal Cathedral’s board of directors over who owns the rights to materials he generated as the founder and leader of the now-bankrupt ministry.
Schuller says he has always allowed his work to generate revenue for the ministry, and that he and his family never received royalties on the revenue that his material brought into the church.
“Then, when I stepped out of active management of the ministry in 2005, in exchange for continuing to use my materials, the ministry granted my wife and me retirement pay that was intended to provide for us for the rest of our lives,” he says.
But the Orange County Register reports that
Crystal Cathedral officials released an announcement Tuesday disputing the Schuller family’s statements in recent days that their offer would satisfy all the parties, including the many vendors who have not been paid. At least one of the vendors lost her home after the cathedral failed to pay her.
“The Schuller settlement proposals have consistently demanded the same amount of money — $3.5 million — which, if paid, would leave the Crystal Cathedral Ministries with virtually no funds to continue its ministry,” the news release states.
The elder Schullers, along with daughter and son-in-law Carol and Timothy Milner, originally filed a breach of contract claim seeking “immediate cash payments in excess of $5.5 million, a claim to ownership of all of the ministry’s intellectual property and for unspecified monetary damages for infringement,” the release states.
In an interview last weekend, Carol Schuller Milner said the multimillion dollar claim is to cover both octogenarians through the rest of their lives. The agreement between her parents and the ministry included a housing allowance of up to $120,000 annually and $198,000 in license fees annually.
The board, Schuller Milner said, is “putting the Schullers in a real predicament. They’re saying the Schullers have to sacrifice more.”
For many decades, her parents donated their materials to the ministry, she said.
Meanwhile, the dispute between the Schullers and the ministry’s board is holding up payment to the vendors, who are owed $12.5 million, Kristin Cole, a Crystal Cathedral Ministries spokeswoman, said Tuesday. Many of the vendors had been working with the cathedral for years.
Due to his unorthodox theology Christian critics have referred to Schuller, who preaches what he calls “possibility thinking,” as “the evangelist without a gospel.”
Crystal Cathedral timeline
Crystal Cathedral, Wikipedia entry