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Crystal Cathedral divided as Schullers leave, changes planned

March 12, 2012 |  7:52 am


Changes are planned at the landmark Crystal Cathedral after the founding Schuller family announced plans to leave the congregation.

The Rev. Bill Bennett assured congregants that Crystal Cathedral Ministries would hold services next Sunday.

"The congregation can basically stay where they wish to stay," Bennett said.

He said the church would revert to what he called a more "traditional" style of service, with hymns and music. It is unknown who will take over as senior pastor. The church was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in February for $57.5 million, and the ministry has three years to find a new home.

Bennett's comments came after the senior pastor, Sheila Schuller Coleman, announced Sunday that she was leaving to start a new church.

"This is the last Sunday we will be worshiping in this building," Schuller Coleman told congregants during an emotional 11 a.m. service in the 10,000-pane glass cathedral, designed by architect Phillip Johnson.

Schuller Coleman's announcement came one day after her parents, church founder Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella Schuller, resigned from the Crystal Cathedral's board of directors, which oversees the ministry's trademark "Hour of Power" broadcast. The future of the show and the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral Ministries is unclear.

Schuller Coleman said she was leaving because of her family's "adversarial" relationship with the board. She pointed to the recent firings of her sister and brother-in-law, Jim Penner, who served as the executive producer of "Hour of Power" since 1999.

"My entire family has been experiencing a hostile work environment," said Schuller Coleman, who was temporarily removed as chief executive officer of the ministry last month.

The events immediately created a divide among congregants.

Mike Abbott, a 47-year-old mechanical engineer from Highland, said he would move with Schuller Coleman.

"It's a shame to see a church split like this," he said. "I think this is the birth of a new ministry."

But Shirley Zink, of Yorba Linda, said she was excited to see Schuller Coleman out of the pulpit.

"We need to make everyone aware that Crystal Cathedral Ministries is continuing right here," said Zink, 67. "I'm looking forward to a traditional church service with a choir, musicians and a great message."


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