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Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Founder, Retiring

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GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founder of Southern California's Crystal Cathedral megachurch and host of the "Hour of Power" televangelism broadcast, announced Sunday he will retire as lead pastor after 55 years in the pulpit and his daughter will take over.

The 83-year-old Schuller told his congregation that Sheila Schuller Coleman will become sole lead pastor, after sharing that role with her father for the past year.

The elder Schuller will not be leaving the church. He'll assume the newly created position of chairman of the church's consistory, which is its board of directors, The Orange County Register reported. And Coleman told the Los Angeles Times that her father will continue to preach "until the day he dies."

Coleman previously served as principal of a private Christian school run by the cathedral and head of the Orange County church's family ministries division.

She was ordained just a month before she was appointed to head up Crystal Cathedral Ministries.

"I'm very proud that Sheila has earned her doctorate at the University of California, Irvine, and that this university has declared her to (have earned) a distinguished alumnus award," Schuller told his congregation during the 9:30 a.m. service. "Congratulations, I'm very proud of her."

Coleman's appointment comes two years after Schuller's son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, split from the church during a family rift that made headlines. The younger Schuller had been groomed to take over for his father.

Robert A. Schuller is now part of Dallas-based American Life Network, a cable channel aiming to produce family-oriented programming.

Coleman, 59, lives in Orange with her husband, Jim, and has four grown children.

"That was emotional for me, and I'm humbled and honored to be asked to take this responsibility," Coleman said Sunday after being commissioned, wiping away tears as she addressed her congregation. "I truly know that God is here, he loves this ministry and my call is to help take the ministry into the future and to continue dad's ministry."

The 10,000-member all-glass church faces significant challenges under Coleman's leadership.

Earlier this year the church said it saw revenue drop 27 percent from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009.

Church leaders blamed the decline on the struggling U.S. economy. They sold 170 acres in southern Orange County, including a retreat and wedding center, laid off employees and cut "Hour of Power" from eight of the 45 domestic broadcast TV stations that air it.

The church also canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple along with the church's "Glory of Christmas" show.

Crystal Cathedral also faces legal action from more than 100 vendors who are owed millions of dollars for their work on the church's pageants and other projects.

The senior Schuller first formulated his outreach to the unchurched in the mid-1950s when he opened a ministry at a drive-in theater in the suburbs of Orange County that catered to Southern California's emerging car culture. He pulled people in with his sermons on the power of positive thinking.

The little church later grew into the Crystal Cathedral, a worship hall with a soaring glass spire that opened in 1970 and remains an architectural wonder and tourist destination.

The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.

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Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com

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