Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, has died, and the Los Angeles Times just ran a lengthy obit on him. Schuller must be turning in his grave at this point.
After a short opening anecdote about his "Come as you are, in the family car!” era, complete with reference to his $83.75 offering plate take on the first Sunday in his old drive-in movie theater church, the newspaper of record in Southern California radically switched gears:
Schuller, who built the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove as the embodiment of an upbeat, modern vision of Christianity, only to see his ministry shattered by family discord and financial ruin, died Thursday at a care facility in Artesia. He was 88 and had esophageal cancer.
After a working life of great success and influence, Schuller was forced to watch from retirement as much of what he built was laid to waste. In October 2010, his church, then led by his daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman, declared bankruptcy. That led to the sale of the cathedral and surrounding property to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in February 2012.
Changing tastes, financial overreach and squabbling over a successor were factors in the collapse. Schuller had turned over his pulpit first to his son, Robert A. Schuller, and then to Coleman. In March 2010, he and his wife formally cut ties to the ministry they had founded, bemoaning the “negative and adversarial atmosphere” enveloping the church's leadership.
It was an ignominious end to what had been one of the greatest success stories of postwar American Christianity. The silver-haired evangelist rose from humble beginnings to become one of the late 20th century's most recognized religious figures.
I agree that Schuller’s last 10 years weren’t his best. But did he deserve an obit front-loaded with all his mistakes?