Thursday, April 02, 2015

Obituary: Robert Schuller

Rev. Robert Schuller, 88, a southern California televangelist whose television program, Hour of Power, was seen by millions and who built the Crystal Cathedral, a noted landmark, has died after a battle with cancer of the esophagus.

Although he was an ordained minister with the evangelical Reformed Church of America, he got his start to prominence in a most unorthodox way. He started his church literally as a drive-in church:

Schuller's evangelical Protestant ministry, part of the Reformed Church in America, was a product of modern technology. He and his late wife, Arvella, an organist, started a ministry in 1955 with $500 when he began preaching from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in movie theater southeast of Los Angeles.

The church's motto - "Come as you are in the family car" - tapped into the burgeoning Southern California auto culture and the suburban boom of post-World War II America.

Schuller was not the hellfire-and-brimstone type of televangelist. He modeled his ministry after Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking ideas.

Schuller also cultivated friendships with people regardless of political or religious beliefs, which pissed off the religious right crowd.

Unfortunately, Schuller's empire crumbled once he turned over the reins to a couple of his children. They just didn't have what their dad had in terms of bringing in the viewers, congregation members, and donations. Income fell, and his organization had to file for bankruptcy. There were other legal problems as well.

Here is part one of four Schuller gave to the Archive of American Television:

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