Robert H. Schuller

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The Reverend
Robert H. Schuller
Born Robert Harold Schuller
(1926-09-16)September 16, 1926
Alton, Iowa, United States
Died April 2, 2015(2015-04-02) (aged 88)
Artesia, California, U.S.
Cause of death Esophageal cancer
Nationality American
Education Hope College, Western Theological Seminary
Alma mater Hope College, 1948
Occupation Christian minister
Years active 1955–2011
Known for Christian minister, author of "positive thinking" books
Notable work If It's Going to Be, It's up to Me
Television The Hour of Power (1970–2010)
Religion Christianity
(Reformed Church in America)
Spouse(s) Arvella De Haan (m. 1950–2014; her death)
Children Robert, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen

Robert Harold Schuller (September 16, 1926 – April 2, 2015) was an American Christian televangelist, pastor, motivational speaker, and author.

Schuller was principally known for the weekly Hour of Power television program, which he began in 1970 and hosted until 2010. Schuller began broadcasting the program from the Neutra Sanctuary, with the encouragement of Billy Graham.[1] He was also the founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, where the Hour of Power program was later broadcast.[2]

Early years[edit]

Robert Harold Schuller was born on September 16, 1926, near Alton, Iowa, the son of Jennie (née Beltman) and Anthony Schuller.[3] He was the youngest of four children. All of his grandparents were Dutch immigrants,[4][5] and he was raised on his parents' farm nearby in a small-knit community of Dutch-Americans, without running water.[6] As a 6 month old infant, Schuller wore the gown on the day of his baptism at a Reformed Church, in Newkirk, Iowa, where he was raised.[7] In 1931, just weeks before his 5th birthday, a visiting uncle, who was a minister, told him to be an evangelist. Schuller called it the "single most defining moment of my early life."[8] After graduating from Newkirk High School in Newkirk, Iowa, in 1944,[9] Schuller studied at Hope College and received a Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary, which follows the theological tradition and Christian practice of John Calvin, in 1950. He was ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. He worked at Ivanhoe Reformed Church in Riverdale, Illinois, before moving to Garden Grove, California. There, he opened the Garden Grove Community Church, in 1955, in a drive-in movie theater. He also rented a 300-seat former Baptist church, about four miles (6 km) from the drive-in theater. Schuller presided at a service in the chapel at 9:30 on Sunday mornings and then drove his organ to the drive-in to preside at another service.[10]

As the size of the congregations grew, Schuller purchased 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land at 12141 Lewis Street in Garden Grove for a "walk-in, drive-in" church, serving both congregations. Ground was broken September 10, 1958, for construction of the new church designed by international architect Richard Neutra. The church was completed in 1961, at a cost of $3,000,000.[11][12] The dedication service was held November 5, 1961.[13]

The design of the new church building enabled Schuller to preach his sermons to worshipers in 500 cars, as well as to members of the congregation inside the church.[14]

A "Tower of Hope" building was added on the north side of the drive-in church building in 1968; the Tower of Hope rose 13 stories (approximately 130 to 150 feet in the air, the highest structure in Orange County at that time, and was topped by a cross. The illuminated cross that stood atop the Tower of Hope was 90 feet tall. That same year, Schuller purchased the 10-acre (4.0 ha) walnut grove that bordered the north side of the Garden Grove Community Church for the construction of the much larger "Crystal Cathedral", designed by architect Philip Johnson. The church, which has glass walls and ceiling, was dedicated on September 14, 1980.[15]


Schuller focused on what he believed are the positive aspects of the Christian faith. He deliberately avoided condemning people for sin, believing that Jesus "met needs before touting creeds". Once in a relationship with God, Schuller emphasized, someone who is sowing positive faith in his heart and actions will discover that the by-product is a reduction of sin. He was known to say, "Sin is a condition before it is an action." Schuller encouraged Christians and non-Christians to achieve great things through God and to believe in their dreams. He wrote, "If you can dream it, you can do it!"[16]

As the Crystal Cathedral's founding pastor, Schuller was seen and heard internationally on Sundays on the world's most widely watched hour-long church service, the Hour of Power, 1500 of which were recorded.[2] In March 2012, under new leadership, the ministry began broadcasting a shortened 30-minute version of the Hour of Power. Discovery Channel and Lifetime are airing the shortened show, but the 60-minute version is continuing on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.[17]

Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, completed in 1961
Inside the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, during a Schuller sermon, July 1962
Church interior shows the choir and organ at the second-story pulpit level, left, front side, July 1962
Schuller greeting parishioners after a Sunday service in the Garden Grove Community Drive-In Church, July 1962

Personal life[edit]

On June 15, 1950, Schuller married Arvella De Haan (1929–2014), a church organist, who was instrumental in developing the music department at the Crystal Cathedral and produced the Hour of Power for over 40 years. The Schullers had one son, Robert Anthony, and four daughters, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen.[18]

Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, and eldest daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, have both been senior pastors of Crystal Cathedral. His grandson Robert V. "Bobby" Schuller succeeded as the lead pastor of the Hour of Power in 2013.

Schuller's second daughter, Jeanne Dunn, and her husband, Paul Dunn, oversaw "The Glory of Christmas" and "The Glory of Easter" productions. Jeanne Dunn has assisted in various editorial contributions to various printed works and for Schuller's books. Her husband co-authored The Possibility Thinker's Bible and Living Debt Free with Schuller.

The third daughter, Carol Schuller Milner, was the writer, director, and producer of Creation: Once Upon All Time that debuted in 2005 to an audience of over 70,000. She co-wrote Schuller's autobiography, My Journey, and has written several other works.

The youngest daughter, Gretchen Schuller Penner, was director of programming for the ministry. Her husband, James Penner, was the producer of the Hour of Power telecast. Both were dismissed in a restructuring of Crystal Cathedral Ministries in March 2012.[19]

Arvella Schuller died on February 11, 2014, at the age of 84.[20] The Schullers had been married for 63 years.

Retirement and succession[edit]

On January 22, 2006, Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, assumed the role of senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. On October 25, 2008, however, Schuller removed his son from that position, citing "a lack of shared vision".[21] Schuller stated that "different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry" with his son "made it necessary ... to part ways in the Hour of Power television ministry".[22] Schuller also said "I love my son and am proud of my son" and that the long-term survival of his ministry was dependent on expanding its imprint beyond the Schuller name. "The real minister's name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller", he said.[23]

On June 11, 2009, Schuller announced that the church's leadership would pass to his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman. On July 11, 2010, he announced that he was retiring as principal pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and would become chairman of the church's board of directors.[24] After a year as interim senior pastor, Sheila Schuller Coleman was elevated to senior pastor in July 2010.

Coleman is the oldest of the five Schuller children and the former head of family ministries at the Crystal Cathedral. Since her brother's departure, she had been the Director of Ministry and Mission.

On October 18, 2010, Coleman announced that the Crystal Cathedral was seeking bankruptcy protection.[25]

On July 3, 2011, it was reported in the Orange County Register that Robert H. Schuller had been ousted from the board of the Crystal Cathedral.[26] In July 2011, Schuller was honored as "Chairman of the Board Emeritus". Sheila Schuller Coleman said that "Dad will continue to provide leadership for this ministry through me for as long as possible" and "I have and will continue to defer to his wisdom and honor him for his unprecedented accomplishments."[27]

On March 11, 2012, Coleman told the congregation of the Crystal Cathedral that she was leaving to start a new church.[28]

On January 24, 2013, the decision was announced that the Crystal Cathedral's board of directors voted to make Bobby Schuller, the son of Robert A. Schuller, the new pastor for the Hour of Power[29] television program as well as a non-voting member of the board.[30]

Bobby Schuller, who was filling in as a guest pastor, remained an unpaid pastor until the ministry moved to a new campus, the St. Callistus Catholic Church, which occurred in June 2013.

Final years and death[edit]

In late August 2013, Schuller was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. A follow-up examination in September 2013 presented Schuller with the possibility of undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy that could extend his life.[31]

According to his son Robert A. Schuller, in early August 2014, his father was in a care facility in Orange County, California and in good spirits.[32]

On January 30, 2015, Schuller was hospitalized for an exploratory endoscopy, winding up needing a stent in his esophageal tract.[32] He underwent throat surgery. On February 14, 2015, he was reported to have lost most of his short- and long-term memory and had moved to a new senior care facility.[33]

Schuller died early on the morning of April 2, 2015, at a nursing facility in Artesia, California, after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013. He was interred next to his wife Arvella at the Crystal Cathedral Memorial Gardens Cemetery adjacent to the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.[34][35] He was survived by five children,[8] nineteen grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and an older brother, Henry.


Schuller has authored over 30 hardcover books, six of which have made The New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists,[36][37][38] including:

  • Way to the Good Life (1963)
  • Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking (1967)
  • Self-Love (1975)
  • You Can Be the Person You Want to Be (1976)
  • Toughminded Faith for Tenderhearted People (1979), Thomas Nelson, ISBN 0-8407-5329-2
  • Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (1982)
  • Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do (1983), Thomas Nelson ISBN 978-0-8407-5287-1
  • The Power of Being Debt Free (1985); Thomas Nelson Publishing, ISBN 0-8407-5461-2
  • Living Positively One Day at a Time (1986)
  • Success Is Never Ending, Failure Is Never Final (1990)
  • Life's Not Fair, But God Is Good (1991)
  • Prayer: My Soul's Adventure with God (1995), Doubleday ISBN 978-0-385-48505-0
  • My Journey: From an Iowa Farm to a Cathedral of Dreams (2001)
  • Hours of Power (2004)
  • Don't Throw Away Tomorrow (2005)


  1. ^ Hour of Power website.
  2. ^ a b "Dr. Robert H. Schuller". Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Retrieved November 3, 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Robert Schuller". Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Robert Schuller A Profil". September 14, 1980. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^ Penner, James. Goliath: The Life of Robert Schuller (1992), p. 119.
  11. ^ Penner, p. 155.
  12. ^ "Drive in church – Garden Grove Community Church". May 21, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  13. ^ Schuller, Robert H. "My Journey"
  14. ^ "Churches: Drive-In Devotion". Time. November 3, 1967. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  15. ^ George, Timothy (September 23, 2013). "From Crystal to Christ: A Once and Future Cathedral". First Things. Retrieved April 3, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Diocese to retain Crystal Cathedral exterior". Catholic Online. November 20, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  17. ^ "'Hour of Power' Airs Without Schullers; Cut to 30 Minutes on Some Networks". The Christian Post. March 29, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2015. 
  18. ^ Robert Schuller at NNDB
  19. ^ Kopetman, Roxana (March 7, 2012). "3 Schuller family members fired from Crystal Cathedral". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Arvella Schuller, wife of Crystal Cathedral's founder, dies at 84". Fox News Channel. February 11, 2014. 
  21. ^ "'Hour of Power' Preacher Removed by Father". October 26, 2008. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  22. ^ Robert H. Schuller (October 26, 2008). "America's Television Church ― The Church of Tomorrow (news release)". Crystal Cathedral. Retrieved October 27, 2008. 
  23. ^ Anton, Mike; Quinones, Sam (October 27, 2008). "Hour of Power in media". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Crystal Cathedral founder stepping down". Orange County Register. July 11, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2010. 
  25. ^ Grad, Shelby (October 18, 2010). "Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy amid mounting debts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  26. ^ Bharath, Deepa (August 17, 2011). "Schuller ousted from Crystal Cathedral board". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Dr. Robert H. Schuller Honored as Chairman of the Board Emeritus". Crystal Cathedral. Jul 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Crystal Cathedral: Robert Schuller commends daughter for leaving church". Los Angeles Times. Mar 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Hour of Power". Crystal Cathedral. 
  30. ^ "Bobby Schuller is new 'Hour of Power' pastor". Orange County Register. Jan 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Doctors say Robert Schuller has cancer, could live another two years — Los Angeles Times". September 5, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Robert A. Schuller's blog.
  33. ^ Robert A. Schuller's blog.
  34. ^ "Televangelist and Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller has died", The Washington Post, April 2, 2015.
  35. ^ Obituary in the Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2015.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Anon. (April 11, 2015). "Retail religion : Robert Schuller, an entrepreneur of televangelism and megachurches, died on April 2nd". Business. Schumpeter. The Economist 415 (8933): 63. 

External links[edit]