The situation is looking pretty grim for the Crystal Cathedral, one of the nation's first prominent megachurches. Last year, in the middle of financial crisis, the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now, internal debate seems to be spilling over into the public sphere after Rev. Robert Schuller -- the founder who literally built the Crystal Cathedral from the ground up -- was controversially removed from the church's governing board.
Crystal Cathedral's demise comes after decades of hard work and dedication on behalf of Schuller, who got his start in Southern California in the mid-1950s preaching about the "power of positive thinking" from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in theater.
He later turned his humble pulpit into one of the nation's first megachurches, beaming his weekly Sunday service into 1 million homes worldwide through the "Hour of Power" TV show, which went on the air in 1970. Watch a KTLA-TV interview below for more:
According to sources, Schuller wanted to enlarge the ministry's board of directors but members voted him off instead. Robert A. Schuller, who was his father's designated successor but himself was ousted from the church by family members in 2008, has also confirmed this in recent interviews.
"It's a very sad day and unfortunately, I know how that feels," the younger Schuller told the Orange County Register. "A majority of that board consists of paid employees of the church, and that's a serious conflict of interest."
Robert H. Schuller has been at odds about the church's direction with his two daughters, including Sheila Schuller Coleman, who has served as senior pastor since 2008. The church has seen a host of problems since then, including succession fights, dwindling attendance and most recently bankruptcy brought on by massive debts.
Schuller and the Register did not give details on the vote, but he said his mother, a board member, voted with the minority to keep the senior Schuller.
"They did it behind his back, just like they did to my dad. They conspired behind his back and made this happen. This board is causing the demise and the destruction of the Crystal Cathedral."
Pastor James Kok, who has been on staff with the church for 28 years, mirrored similar sentiments:
"They weren't letting him do anything anyway. Those of us here see it as symbolically awful. They had effectively stopped listening to him two or three years ago. It's symbolic, not functional. He was mostly put on the shelf by his daughters."
"They have no experience in ministry and no care for the people of the church. They have no theological experience. Zero. Those of us who bothered to go to seminary for five years are left on the shelf."
The move is the latest of several - some voluntary, some forced upon him - that have brought a diminished role in the California megachurch for the elder Schuller. It is not clear what role, if any, he'll still have.
The church has submitted a plan in which its campus and famous, glass-spired sanctuary will be sold to a real estate investment group for $47 million, then leased back to the church for services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.