GARDEN GROVE (CBS) — The Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, have resigned from the board of the Crystal Cathedral, the mega-church he founded more than 55 years ago.
Their resignations, announced Saturday “with great sadness,” come less than a week after three of their relatives – including a daughter – were ousted amid ongoing financial squabbles, declining donations and suspension of production on the church’s signature television program, “Hour of Power.”
“We cannot continue to serve on the board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere, especially since it now seems that it will not be ending anytime soon,” the couple said in a statement to the Orange County Register.
The Cathedral, which once drew millions of visitors and television viewers worldwide and was noted for its rectangular shape and glass-paneled walls, filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 citing $43 million in debt.
In February, the property was sold to the Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million, but the monetary setbacks and in-fighting didn’t let up.
Schuller retired from actively running the Cathedral in 2006, but continued to serve on the board with his wife.
However, earlier this week, the board fired the Schullers’ daughter, Gretchen Penner, and her husband, Jim Penner, as producers of “Hour of Power.’ Another Schuller son-in-law, Jim Coleman, was also dismissed from his job as director of creative services.
The Schullers abstained from voting on the firings. And they continued their fight with the board over back pay, intellectual property and copyright infringement.
In their statement to the Register, the Schullers said the board failed to reach an agreement and “the Schullers received word that the board had no interest in continuing their dialogue aimed at positive resolution.
“We were told the board would not discuss the matter further and that it was terminating all negotiations,” the statement said. “Particularly in these difficult times for the ministry, the ministry’s decision to spend its money on attorneys and court proceedings is bewildering to us.”
Classic episodes of “Hour of Power” are airing while production of new shows is on hold. It was reported earlier this month that donations are down 68 percent.
The Schuller’s daughter Carol Schuller Milner told the register her parents do not plan to sever all ties to the ministry.
“They’re removing themselves from the governance of the ministry,” she told the Register. “They’re still planning on worshipping in the congregation.”
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