AKA Robert Harold Schuller
Birthplace: Alton, IA
Location of death: Artesia, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - Throat
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: World's most upbeat televangelist
When minister Robert Schuller first came to Southern California to preach, he began by renting a drive-in theater for Sunday morning services, for $10 a week. For six years, Schuller stood atop the concession stand, while his sermons were heard on tiny speakers hung from car windows. His motto, on the drive-in's marquee and in the church's flyers, was "Come as you are in the family car!" Later his mega-church was housed in Schuller's famous $20 million "Crystal Cathedral", with 10,000 windows and a stream running down the sanctuary's aisles. It was still a "drive-in" church, though -- the glass walls allowed worshippers in the 1,000-car parking lot the same view of the pulpit that the congregation had, and the offering plate was passed through the parking lot as well as among the pews.
The Crystal Cathedral was where The Hour of Power was taped, for broadcast on hundreds of TV stations across America and dozens of foreign countries, to an estimated audience of 20 million. It was famous for its optimistic themes, and for the usual presence of "special guests", celebrity entertainers who sing or speak during the broadcast. The show usually steered clear of politics, though special guest and Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev did appear two Sundays prior to the 2000 election with warm words about George W. Bush.
Schuller was sometimes criticized by Christian fundamentalists for his optimistic outlook and his recurring theme of "possibility thinking", generally eschewing hellfire and brimstone. He credited his longtime friend Norman Vincent Peale with showing him the importance of positive thinking. Schuller was a member of the Dutch Reform Church of America, the oldest Protestant group in America. Prior to Schuller, the denomination's most famous moment came in 1628, when the church purchased the island of Manhattan from local Indians for trinkets worth about $24.
In 1997, Schuller was charged with misdemeanor assault after "roughing up" a steward on a United Airlines flight to New York City. Schuller, flying First Class, complained that the steward had been unwilling to hang up his garment bag, and brought fruit and cheese when he had only asked for fruit. The steward said Schuller stood up and shook him by the shoulders, causing whiplash injuries. Schuller eventually paid a $1,100 fine and underwent a six-month diversion program. In a statement to the press, Schuller proclaimed rather pompously, "I am innocent. I have not broken a single one of the Ten Commandments. I have not broken any of the teachings of Jesus Christ."
For decades, Schuller was among the televangelists who generally declined to answer inquiries about his ministry's basic financial information. In late 2006 he retired from the pulpit at Crystal Cathedral, turning over the church's leadership to his son, Robert Schuller Jr., but in October 2008 the elder Schuller fired his son for "lack of shared vision and the jeopardy in which this is placing this entire ministry."
In 2010, the Taj Mahal-esque Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy, with debt exceeding $43M. On the Sunday after the filing, Schuller returned to his church's pulpit and telecast to announce, "I need more help from you. If you are a tither, become a double-tither. If you are not a tither, become a tither. This ministry has earned your trust. This ministry has earned your help."
In 2011 he was voted off Crystal Cathedral Ministries' board of directors, and in 2012 the Crystal Cathedral downsized by swapping facilities with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, moving to what had been St. Callistus Catholic Church in Garden Grove, as the Catholic Church took over the former Crystal Cathedral. Schuller died in 2015.
Father: Anthony Schuller
Wife: Arvella DeHaan (m. 15-Jun-1950)
Daughter: Sheila Schuller Coleman (author of Christian books, b. 17-Apr-1951)
Son: Robert Anthony Schuller (televangelist, b. 1954)
Daughter: Carol Schuller Milner (playwright, b. 1965, amputee)
High School: Newkirk High School, Newkirk, IA (1943)
University: BA, Hope College, Holland, MI (1947)
University: BA Divinity, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI (1950)
Academy of Achievement (1993)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving National Board of Advisors (2001)
Young Men's Christian Association Board of Counselors
Air Rage 28-Jun-1997 (allegedly shook United Airlines flight attendant Khaled Elabiad, fined $1,100, charges dropped)
Aneurysm Amsterdam, Netherlands (1-Sep-1991)
Brain Surgery Amsterdam, Netherlands (Sep-1991)
Heart Attack 1997
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