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Family opts to abandon megachurch it founded in Calif.

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — After decades at the pulpit here, the family of the Rev. Robert Schuller has cut its ties with the Crystal Cathedral, the Orange County megachurch he founded.

Amid bankruptcy proceedings for the church, the Rev. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Robert Schuller's daughter and the head pastor at Crystal Cathedral, announced during a service Sunday that it was the last time she would preach at the famous glass-paned church.

The family will also cease to take part in Hour of Power, the televangelist program that began in 1970 and at its peak beamed Robert Schuller's upbeat message to 2 million viewers every week.

"This is the last Sunday that we will worship in this building," Schuller Coleman said. "With the vulnerable economic situation, combined with the hostile relationship with the Hour of Power board, the local church has decided that we need to find a new place to worship."

The Schuller family's exit from Crystal Cathedral Ministries ends a stunning decline in fortune for the church's founder, who was one of the most successful preachers in the world, but who has watched in recent years as the church slid toward financial ruin.

Robert Schuller founded the church in 1955, and by the 1980s it was drawing more than 10,000 worshipers each week. But aggressive expansion of its campus and dwindling membership left the church millions of dollars in debt, and Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

On Saturday, Robert Schuller and his wife, Arvella, resigned from the board of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, citing an "adversarial and negative atmosphere" amid a dispute over payments from the board to Schuller for the use of his likeness and sermons on Hour of Power. That left no family members on the board, which had fired Schuller's daughter Gretchen Penner and two of his sons-in-law just days earlier.

Schuller Coleman pledged to continue her work at another location yet to be determined.

Family opts to abandon megachurch it founded in Calif. 03/11/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 11:01pm]

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