Public memorial held for the Rev. Robert Schuller

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Hundreds of people gathered Monday at a memorial service for televangelist Rev. Robert H. Schuller outside the glimmering cathedral he built in Southern California.

Schuller died on April 2 after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 88.

The memorial was held on a plaza at what was formerly Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in the heart of Orange County and is now a Roman Catholic cathedral.

Among those listening to family members and religious leaders was Theresa Boyd, 54. She said Schuller inspired her with his uplifting message and by inviting speakers including political leaders and an Olympic athlete.

“He brought in successful people (as speakers) and said, ‘you can do it too if you believe in God,”’ Boyd said.

A private burial was to follow the service.

Schuller started preaching from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in movie theater in California in 1955. He began the televised “Hour of Power” in 1970 to spread his upbeat messages on faith and redemption — that “possibility thinking” and love of God overcome hardships — to millions.

At its peak in the 1990s, the program had 20 million viewers in about 180 countries.

In recent years, Schuller faded from view after watching his church collapse amid a disastrous leadership transition and declines in viewership and donations that forced the ministry to file for bankruptcy in 2010.

The glass-paned, 2,800-seat sanctuary where Schuller once preached was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

Schuller, who wrote more than 30 books, including several best-sellers, lost a legal battle in 2012 to collect more than $5 million from his former ministry over claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

Robert Harold Schuller was born in Alton, Iowa, in 1926 and ordained 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 had four daughters: Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen. Wife Arvella Schuller died Feb. 11, 2014, after a brief illness.

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