Robert H. Schuller, Southern California Televangelist, Dies at 88

Associated Press
Robert H. Schuller

His Sunday morning broadcast from the glistening Crystal Cathedral in Orange County was watched by millions for decades.

Robert H. Schuller, the Orange County-based televangelist whose live Sunday broadcast, centered around the power of positive thinking, was watched by tens of millions during its heyday, has died. He was 88.

Schuller, whose ministry and TV show originated from the magnificent glass-paned Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, died Thursday — two days before Easter Sunday — at a care facility in Artesia, Calif., his family announced. In 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.

Schuller's evangelical Protestant ministry was part of the Reformed Church in America. He and his late wife, Arvella, an organist, first attracted a following in 1955 when he began preaching from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in. The church’s motto was, “Come as you are in the family car.”

Schuller began broadcasting his Hour of Power in 1970, and the $5.5 million glass-and-steel Crystal Cathedral was built two decades later. “It’s designed, engineered and constructed as a thing of beauty, a joy forever to last literally for centuries,” Schuller said in 1990.

His program attracted some 20 million viewers in about 180 countries at its zenith in the 1990s.

His son, Robert A. Schuller, took over as senior pastor in 2006 but exited two years later amid a family feud. His daughter left later to form a new congregation, and in 2010, Schuller's empire filed for bankruptcy protection, citing debt of more than $43 million.

The Crystal Cathedral was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for more than $55 million in 2011.

A native of Alton, Iowa, Schuller also wrote more than 30 books.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.