The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the Southern California televangelist and author who beamed his upbeat messages on faith and redemption to millions from his landmark Crystal Cathedral only to see his empire crumble in his waning years, has died. He was 88.
Schuller died early Thursday at a care facility in Artesia, daughter Carol Schuller Milner said. In 2013, he was diagnosed with a tumor in his esophagus that had spread to his lymph nodes and began treatment.
Once a charismatic and well-known presence on the televangelist circuit, Schuller faded from view in recent years after watching his church collapse amid a disastrous leadership transition and sharp declines in viewership and donations that ultimately forced the ministry to file for bankruptcy.
The soaring, glass-paned Crystal Cathedral - the touchstone of Schuller's storied ministry - was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in 2011, and Schuller lost a legal battle the following year to collect more than $5 million from his former ministry for claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract.
Schuller's evangelical Protestant ministry, part of the Reformed Church in America, was a product of modern technology. He and his late wife, Arvella, an organist, started a ministry in 1955 with $500 when he began preaching from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in movie theater southeast of Los Angeles.
As CBS "Sunday Morning" reported in 2012, Schuller was one of the first to preach from the electronic pulpit of television. His ministry at its peak reached 20 million people around the globe with his weekly television broadcast.
At its peak, in the 1990s, the program had 20 million viewers in about 180 countries.
Robert Harold Schuller was born in Alton, Iowa, in 1926, and was ordained by the Reformed Church in America in 1950. He was pastor of Ivanhoe Reformed Church in Chicago from 1950 to 1955 before moving to California.
Besides his son, Schuller and his wife, Arvella, had four daughters, Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen. Arvella Schuller died Feb. 11, 2014, after a brief illness.