The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, a California televangelist who became a household name through his “Hour of Power” ministry, died Thursday. That is according to a statement on the “Hour of Power” website.
Schuller, who was also known as founder of the Crystal Cathedral megachurch in Garden Grove, was 88 years old. According to the statement, he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August 2013.
The Mayo Clinic defines esophageal cancer as a cancer that occurs in the esophagus, a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus carries food you swallow to your stomach to be digested.
Schuller was born in an Iowa farmhouse, where he reportedly longed to preach from his earliest days. In his autobiography, “Prayer: My Soul’s Adventure with God,” he described standing alone by a river and picturing himself delivering sermons to a rapt congregation.
After attending a Hope College and Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, he met his wife of more than 60 years, Arvella, while preaching at her church, where she served as the organist. After starting their family, they traveled west to California, where Shuller rented a drive-in theater and preached from the roof of the snack bar. They eventually made their way to Garden Grove, where they built the Crystal Cathedral and an empire based on his protestant preachings.
Schuller’s grandson, Robert Schuller, III, shared his thoughts on the “Hour of Power” statement. Here is an excerpt:
“I always had a special relationship with my grandfather. He was so warm with all of his grandchildren; we all felt special. I remember he used to love calling me “Robert Schuller the Third” like it was special to him that I carried his name. That made it special for me, too.”
Schuller coined several phrases during his time at the pulpit. He preached not to convert or condemn people, but to encourage them, a sentiment he called “possibility thinking.” People loved it and flocked to his congregation.
Schuller began producing the “Hour of Power” in 1970. It’s believed to be one of the first, if not the very first, Sunday service broadcast regularly on television. The show ran for decades and reached millions, including this writer and her family. We watched the “Hour of Power” at the breakfast table before heading off to our own Church in Minneapolis.
Schuller will be remembered as one of the earliest known televangelists, and perhaps one of the most sincere whose reputation remained strong until the very end.