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Schuller resignation from Crystal Cathedral board is end of era

March 11, 2012 |  8:50 am

Robert H. Schuller

Robert H. Schuller and his wife cited the "negative" environment at the church he founded when announcing their resignation from the Crystal Cathedral board.

"We cannot continue to serve on the board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere especially since it now seems that it will not be ending any time soon," Arvella Schuller said in a statement Saturday.

The Schullers' resignation marks the end of an era. For the first time, no family member is serving on the board of the church that Robert Schuller founded 42 years ago.

A minister from the Midwest, Schuller began preaching in Southern California in 1955 from the roof of a snack shop at a drive-in theater. With Schuller relentlessly pushing a message of the power of positive thinking, the church's astonishing growth mirrored that of Orange County. It was also the birthplace of the popular weekly televangelist series "Hour of Power," which reached millions of viewers.

The financially ailing church sold the Crystal Cathedral campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in February for $57.5 million.

The resignations are a result of a breakdown in negotiations over financial claims against the church that the Schullers filed in Bankruptcy Court.

Schuller; his wife, Arvella; their daughter Carol Schuller Milner; and her husband, Timothy Milner, allege that the church owes them money for copyright infringement, intellectual property violations and unpaid contracts.

Sorting through competing financial claims has delayed $12.5 million in payments to some church creditors and could threaten the church's ability to continue its ministries, including the "Hour of Power" broadcasts.

Payment to creditors was expected this spring, but because some claims are for unknown amounts and the Milners and Schullers have not agreed to establish a payment reserve, vendors cannot be paid until those amounts are determined by the court, said Nanette Sanders, attorney for the creditors.

The Schuller family insisted Saturday that they did not want to delay payments to creditors. They blamed the current church leadership for halting discussions.

The family received word Tuesday that there would be no further negotiations, Carol Schuller Milner said.

"This could be a long deal," she said in an interview Saturday. "That's why we feel bad for the creditors too."

"We've been hoping there was another way," Schuller Milner said. "It will continue to be a long and probably painful time."

She added that her parents were "baffled" by the breakdown in talks.


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--Nicole Santa Cruz and Howard Blume

Photo: Robert H. Schuller, shown in 2010, founded the church 42 years ago. (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times / Feb. 15, 2010)