The path to the Destruction of a Successful Ministry in Less Than Three Years!

The Foibles of  a Reactionary, Regressive Leadership and

The New Face of the Crystal Cathedral – A Recipe for Disaster

By: Penrod Schoefield – Posted: September 16, 2011

So in Sheila’s reasoning, she and her minions didn’t hijack the Ministry– she was just taking back what she thinks is rightfully hers.  However, this must have been either a late revelation that came out of the “blue” (another one of the “God told her to) or an expedient delusion to justify in her mind, a reason to take over. Had she always felt that she was “heir to the Ministerial Throne,” certainly she would have pursued a course of study to become an ordained minister in stead of studying to become a school teacher.

Perhaps I should make it clear to the reader, lest you get the idea that I dislike Sheila, Gretchen, Jim Coleman, and/or Jim Penner. How could I– we are brothers and sisters in Christ! However, I have seen a change in all of their behavior that has diminished my respect.

Why? On the one hand, we are told the Crystal Cathedral is no longer for sale. On the other hand, they continue to reach out to entities far outside of RCA theology hoping to find a more contemporary purchaser and are even willing to see out someone who is both controversial and has a dubious past and present such as Morris Cerillo.

The congregation has also been told that “we had to change to Praise style music because the local demographics have changed.” That argument doesn’t hold water because the local demographics should have no impact on a church that is televised world wide.  We have always been a traditional mainstream congregation. Our church service has been televised world wide for over forty years and at one time had twenty million viewers. As mentioned previously in this editorial, those numbers began to fall when Gretchen became Program Director. Just as changes in worship style have driven away Hour of Power viewers, changes in worship style have driven away local members. Although current leadership continues to boast three thousand volunteers, it is easy to see far fewer volunteers on campus.

In summary, perhaps we should consider Sheila urging us as of late to “walk by faith and not by sight.” That is sound biblical advice were the current leadership not urging us to do so because if makes the playing of their “shell game” easier to put one over on the congregation.

In closing, let’s consider the consequence of regressive leadership and the damage it has done.

Drastically changed the style of worship and drastically reduced membership and attendance. Blew off paying the bills and plunged the church into bankruptcy. Dishonored their father and mother and virtually destroyed fifty-five years of their hard work. There is more, and more, and more...

So now, Sheila, Jim, Gretchen and Jim, if you have any shred of respect for your mother and father and the hardships they endured in building this fine Ministry for the Greater Glory of God, you will IMMEDIATELY RESIGN from the Ministry  so your parents with the help of the remaining traditional members of this church can get about the business or salvaging it from bankruptcy sale.



Now that the worst has happened and your father appointed your brother, in this case, Robert A. Schuller as Senior Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, you must develop a plot to remove him. One way is to begin by making what others will perceive to be benign comments about him when you give the announcements from the Pulpit before the Sunday services. You can say things like, “My brother may be Senior Pastor, but I am the first born so that makes me number one.” Everyone snickers so you are encouraged and escalate the sibling rivalry. No doubt your sister Gretchen has been an instigator of the plot to take the leadership role from brother Robert A. and encouraged you to take what you perceive to be rightfully yours.

Rewind to 1994 for a relevant point. In that year, Gretchen Schuller was hired to replace Arvella Schuller as Program Director. It was after Gretchen had assumed the position that the Hour of Power numbers began to drop and have continued to diminish.

During Gretchen’s reign of terror, she has offended many. Once, she said to World Renowned Organist, Fred Swann, “You really don’t know how to play hymns, do you?” We all know she offended Don Neuen’s ethics and sensibilities with her now infamous “Anti-Gay Worship Covenant” and her demand that he have his choir sign it. More recently, Gretchen had a disagreement with someone in the “IT” department, so she fired the whole department. Now, the Cathedral web site is not what it once was.

Certainly, there have been many other areas in which Gretchen has offended very talented persons such as Roger Williams and Sean Groombridge at great loss to the Ministry as a whole.

No one outside the Schuller family really knows how long Sheila’s and Gretchen’s resentment of their brother Robert A. had been festering. However, one can only guess that the resentment intensified to a larger degree after their brother was named Senior Pastor and Robert H. assumed the title role of Founding Pastor.

Although most who makeup the core congregation (meaning members who make a point of attending all church functions regularly) could sense the developing friction between Robert H. and Robert A. At the time we had little understanding of the underlying cause. Perhaps most of us thought over time they would resolve their differences.

It wasn’t until November 2008 when a congregational meeting was called that we learned the extent of the rift. It was announced at that meeting by, I believe Jim Coleman, Sheila’s husband that Robert A. had disappointed his father and mother and had resigned from the Ministry. From that point, Robert H. once again began preaching in the pulpit.


Sometime early in 2009, Robert H. Announced from the pulpit with Sheila at his side, that Sheila was going to be the “good daughter” and become his hands and feet. Because of his age, he could no longer manage the Ministry alone. At that service, Sheila stepped up and promised to carry out her father’s every command and wish and help him with every little detail.

Again, some time had then passed and it was announced that Sheila would be named Senior Pastor, even though she did not hold a divinity degree. This has to be a first– a Senior Pastor of a very large, well known RCA Ministry that is not an ordained minister.”

Since that time and with the escalating degradation of this once fine traditional Ministry, many of us in the congregation spent hours and hours piecing together snippets of information.

It is a large church and someone is always within earshot of something going on. One such instance was when a few persons were in an office near where a meeting was taking place in late 2008. We now know RHS was present as well as Robert A. and others that were perhaps on the board at the time. Suddenly, the door to the meeting room violently swung open and RAS stormed down the hall, passing the open office. It has been said he looked into the open office door and yelled, “I just resigned,” and continued down the hallway.

As the story goes, Robert H. Was hot on his heels and his booming voice could be heard shouting, “I will not accept your resignation!” However, Robert A. left anyway. It is said that a week later, Robert A. returned to his father’s office and stated he had thought through his decision and wanted to withdraw his resignation. RHS, reportedly took the resignation paper from the pocket of his suit coat and handed it back, saying, “I never accepted your resignation.” What happened after that is not known to us at this writing. Perhaps we will have the good fortune to locate someone willing to fill in the blanks.

What has been pieced together from bits and pieces of information is that Robert A. intended to fire his sisters, Sheila and Gretchen as well as to pursue a course for more transparency in the Ministry. No doubt his sisters were not about to let that happen. Certainly, if they were discharged, their husbands would be out also.

A former staff person whom we will not identify, in a one-on-one, face to face conversation with Sheila, reported that Sheila said, "Biblically the pulpit is mine– it was never meant to be Robert's. The Bible says the first born shall inherit... not the first born son. I am the first born."



First, be born into a family where the father is a young Minister, ordained in a denomination that is one of the oldest on American soil. It helps if the mother has a background in music and is an organist. During your young adult years while your father and mother are very busy building a church that is rapidly becoming a “megachurch,” stray from that mainstream protestant church and attend places like Calvary Chapel and the Vinyards and also get a good grounding in freshman ministry destruction.  It also helps if a brother happens to be born to your parents and helps even more if he is being groomed to take your father’s place as Senior Pastor. Now, fast forward to when that day comes that your brother, now an ordained minister actually becomes Senior Pastor of the very successful mainstream church your father and mother built for over fifty years.

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