Monday, October 27, 2008

Schuller Family Squabble Affects "Hour of Power"

I was a bit surprised yesterday to find this very brief news article.

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) - Crystal Cathedral founder Rev. Robert H. Schuller has removed his son as preacher on the church's weekly "Hour of Power" syndicated TV broadcast.

Schuller said in a statement read to some 450 congregants Saturday by church president Jim Coleman that he and his son, Robert A. Schuller, "have different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry."

"For this lack of shared vision and the jeopardy in which this is placing this entire ministry, it has become necessary for Robert and me to part ways," Schuller said.

Robert A. Schuller will remain as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, though it was unknown whether he will continue to preach, a church spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.

The elder Schuller said in the statement that he was bringing in guest pastors to preach during the show.

Church officials did not return messages left Saturday seeking comment from Robert A. Schuller and details about what prompted the schism between him and his father.

Robert H. Schuller had turned over the church ministries and the "Hour of Power" TV program to his son during an emotional service at the Crystal Cathedral in January 2006.

I looked a bit on the web yesterday for more information, but that was the entirety of what I could find, despite the article appearing at multiple sites. My first reaction to seeing the headline: "Crystal Cathedral TV preacher removed by father," was that the younger Schuller had committed some indiscretion that required he be quietly removed from the ministry. When I read the article, that impression changed to concerns that the elder Schuller has ego issues.

This morning, I found a bit more (click for the full article):

The schism between the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his son at Orange County's Crystal Cathedral arose over a disagreement about broadening the church's long-running television show, "Hour of Power," beyond a single personality -- a move opposed by the younger Schuller, pastors involved in the matter said Sunday.
That definitely works in the opposite direction, in terms of who's having the ego problems. I'm still a bit unsure what to think. On the one hand, I wish that the elder Schuller had come up with this decision to "broaden" the ministry a long time ago. If he's really serious about ensuring that the program isn't about a single name (his own, not his son's, which is of course the same name save for one initial), this comes a little late for my tastes.

I'm also a bit concerned by the following:

"I was called to start a mission, not a church," Schuller told his audience Sunday. "There is a difference. . . . You don't try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second."

I'm more than a bit distrustful of the move to argue that the "Hour of Power" is something other than a church service, and the justification for not talking about sin. It's not that I think churches should focus unduly on sin. Indeed, I'm more than a little bothered by the "front-and-center" focus that sin (and particular sins, at that) receives in many evangelical churches. But talking about sin remains an essential part of what Christianity is. It doesn't really matter that we're "saved" if there's no understanding of what we're saved from. Christ's death on the cross holds little meaning for Christians if we don't realize how much we needed it!

Of course, I'm not unbiased when it comes to Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral, as anyone who read the entry written when the elder Schuller passed the reigns to the younger one two years ago (and the comments below it) will attest.

If the newer article is indeed a fair representation of what's happening, then I really have no serious criticism. Even a church should be about the mission of Jesus Christ, and not about the personality of the pastor. I have my doubts about the motives, but trust that God's will can shine through this change regardless.

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