Dana Parsons of the Los Angeles Times does a fine job today in reporting about Robert H. Schuller's second attempt to appoint a successor from among his grown children. This time his eldest daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, will be responsible to preach on occasion and keep the Schuller name at the forefront. Parsons quotes Coleman and her younger brother, Robert A. Schuller, as saying supportive things about each other. He also quotes Coleman as acknowledging pain, both for her father and brother, about the failed succession.
His best touch is in finding a religion scholar who places such failed successions in a broader context:
As with any organization that relies on donations, the economic downturn has made the cathedral vulnerable, says William Swatos Jr., executive officer of the Religious Research Assn. and editor of the "Encyclopedia of Religion and Society."
"Passing the torch in these situations is often difficult," Swatos says, "because when you look at these movements -- religious among them -- there isn't necessarily an inheritance factor that operates strongly. In many cases the footsteps ... may be harder to follow when you're the son than when you're an outsider because people are expecting almost a duplication. If you brought in someone everyone knows isn't the son, you begin with a kind of clean slate."
Indeed, very few prominent pastors and evangelists have achieved clean, undisputed successions. I think the two smoothest successions have involved Jimmy Swaggart (whose only son, Donnie, does most of the preaching these days) and the late Jerry Falwell (whose sons Jerry Jr. and Jonathan have divided his duties).