Televangelist Robert Schuller Of The Crystal Cathedral Dies At 88

(FOX 11 / CNS) Televangelist Robert H. Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, died Thursday. He was 88.

Schuller, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013, died this morning at a skilled nursing facility in Artesia, his daughter, Carol Milner, told the Los Angeles Times.

He had not been undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments since his wife, Arvella Schuller, died in February 2014, the Orange County Register reported. Earlier this year, family members said they were pleasantly surprised with what appeared to be an "amazing" recovery despite the absence of treatment.

Donna Schuller told the Register earlier this week that her father-in-law was not on life support and was breathing on his own, but he was extremely weak because has not "eaten for several days." He was asleep most of the time, but seemed to be at peace, Donna Schuller said.

Schuller, who evangelized from the roof of a drive-in, from TV screens and the pulpit, built a towering cathedral in Garden Grove, preaching the Bible but also preaching what attracted millions of followers: "possibility thinking."

He also lived to see his influence wane and his ministry slip into financial and familial chaos.

Arvella was Schuller's partner in the ministry and joined her husband in the creation of the popular Hour of Power, a television program that beamed into homes around the world with upbeat sermons, celebrity interviews, and music from a renowned choir and one of the largest organs in the world. The Hour of Power also implored viewers to donate to Schuller's ministry, raising millions over the years.

Touted as one of the longest running religious shows on television, the Hour of Power is still broadcast globally and translated into different languages by 11 international Hour of Power ministries. Schuller's grandson, Bobby, hosts the program, which now features the young minister's Sunday morning services.

As head of a large, international congregation, Schuller is credited as being a leader in the megachurch movement. But he also saw the downfall of his own Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which in 2010 filed for bankruptcy and, in his later years, was embroiled in a family squabble about the direction of the church and its finances.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange bought Schuller's Crystal Cathedral campus in 2012, and is converting it into the Christ Cathedral.

His ministry -- which started in 1955 with Schuller preaching from atop a snack bar at an Orange drive-in theater -- grew to a point where he befriended presidents, movie stars and foreign heads of state.

"Robert Schuller was one of the original pioneers of the megachurch movement," Donald E. Miller, executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC, told The Times. "However, his message of positive thinking became frozen in time appealing to an aging audience of adults, but never really connected to the post-boomer generation."

Schuller is survived by the couple's son, Robert Anthony Schuller, and daughters Sheila Coleman, Jeanne Dunn, Carol Milner and Gretchen Penner; and 19 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

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