An Emerging Pattern of a “Power Grab” preceding the Big Change.

By Penrod Schoefield – May 10, 2011 - Updated May 11, 2011

When Dr. Robert H. Schuller, Founding Pastor appointed his only son Robert Anthony Schuller as his successor and Senior Pastor it was an expected transition. In taking the reins, Robert A. Schuller made it perfectly clear that he was not his father and had to “walk” in his own shoes. One had to admire him for being his own man.


In the beginning, “Bobbie” as many in the core congregation knew him, wore the same style robe as his father on Sunday mornings and preached from the Pulpit. But then Bobbie felt a need to ditch the robe in favor of a suit and tie and preach from the marble steps below the chancel. His avowed reasoning is he wanted to be closer to the people. I would have much preferred as others that he kept his formal attire on Sunday Services like his father, However, it was not an important issue.


At the time, Sheila Schuller Coleman, made announcements from the Pulpit just prior to the beginning of the Service. She always introduced herself as Dr. Schuller’s oldest daughter and then made what I thought at the time were harmless humorous comments about her brother. She would say something to the effect, my brother may be Senior Pastor but since I was born first and the oldest child, that makes me number one. Now, I don’t believe it was mere harmless humor, but a sign of growing unrest between the female Schuller offspring and possibly their husbands in a coup to oust RAS.


As an observer, tensions between father Robert H.  and  son  Robert A. seemed to mount.  One could  see that Dr. Robert H.

Schuller had something on his mind as he sat next to his son in the pulpit.


On October 26th, 2008 the local congregation was invited to an important meeting to be held in the Arboretum, (the former church building across the plaza from the Cathedral). The announcement was that Robert Anthony Schuller had resigned as Senior Pastor as well as resigned from the Ministry.


Quoting from a Los Angeles Times article "It is no secret to any of you that my son, Robert, and I have been struggling as we each have different ideas as to the direction and the vision for this ministry," his statement read.

"For this lack of shared vision and the jeopardy in which this is placing this entire ministry, it has become necessary for Robert and me to part ways."


Speaking to the difference in ideas as to the direction and vision for the Ministry, I don’t think for a minute that either Dr. Robert H. Schuller or Senior Pastor Robert Anthony Schuller had a difference in opinion concerning Don Neuen and the Crystal Cathedral Choir. Robert A. always touted the choir under the direction and leadership of Don Neuen as being the best in the World as well as did Robert H.


To my knowledge, there has never been any disagreement among church members as too the quality and high standards of Don Neuen and the Crystal Cathedral Choir.


After  the  Choir  sang the  Anthem,  many  


times they received a standing ovation. For that reason I don’t think Robert Anthony would have ever contrived a scenario to cause Don Neuen to resign along with the World Class Crystal Cathedral Choir.

Taking a few steps back, I think the Schuller daughters were unhappy that their brother was Senior Pastor and in charge of the Ministry. No one really knows what happened inside the family. However, control was wrestled away from RAS through whatever means so the “girls” could be in charge. Since then there has been nothing but controversy surrounding the Ministry. First it was the handling of financial affairs resulting in a forced filing of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. That controversy continues. Then after Don Neuen and the Choir disbanded do to the so-called covenant contrived by Gretchen Schuller Penner and there was need of a interim choir director it was recommended that Senior Organist Sean Groombridge be assigned to the task. I don’t think for a moment that Sean cared whether he would become interim director made any difference to him since it meant a lot of extra duties. However it was the manner in which Gretchen Schuller Penner rejected him as interim choir director that hurt him deeply. So Sean Groombridge has resigned also.

I am just guessing, but I can envision the revelry. Hey, guess what, Don’s gone, Sean is gone, now we can get a mediocre Praise Team and Praise Choir. Sunday, it was announced by Sheila Schuller Coleman that they are now going to form a really good Praise Choir patterned after the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I am not criticizing that choir, but their style of music doesn’t fit the Crystal Cathedral

In closing, I have it on good authority that the Netherlands office of the Hour of Power notified the church that they will not televise any HOP programs other than those with Don Neuen and the original Cathedral Choir. No Praise team for the Dutch.

As a long time member of the local congregation of the Crystal Cathedral, a former employee and one who has been a volunteer I have more than a little experience of the inner workings of the church, its history and its politics. I am more than a casual observer as events have unfolded.