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Schuller's Status Called Guarded; Drug Ineffective : Televangelist: Spokesman calls condition change relatively minor; new brain scan scheduled; full recovery predicted.

September 06, 1991|DAN WEIKEL and MICHAEL GLENNON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

AMSTERDAM — The condition of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller worsened Thursday, and doctors discovered that medication to check a complication from the minister's emergency brain operation did not take effect.

Michael Nason, a Schuller spokesman, said physicians at the Free University Hospital reclassified the minister's condition from stable to guarded, a change he described as relatively minor.

The minister underwent emergency brain surgery for a blood clot on Monday after he reportedly struck his head getting into a car. He was returned to intensive care Wednesday when doctors found swelling and residual amounts of blood between his brain and skull.

Nason said the medication Mannitol was prescribed to check the swelling but doctors found Thursday that Schuller had not responded to it yet.

Physicians have scheduled another brain scan for today to determine whether the layer of residual blood has increased. Despite the complication, Nason said, physicians have told family members that Schuller will make a full recovery.

"Doctors have assured Mrs. Schuller and the family that this condition is temporary and reversible and is secondary to his initial injury and surgery," Nason said.

With the driving force of the Crystal Cathedral sidelined by the head injury, family and associates said Thursday that the leadership of the 10,000-member congregation might become more diverse should the popular televangelist become less active.

Decision making could be shared by close relatives and the church's top clergy, family members said. Among them are Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller; his son-in-law, Jim Coleman, president of Crystal Cathedral Ministries; and co-pastor Bruce Larson, who has assumed the day-to-day operation of the Crystal Cathedral in Schuller's absence.

No change in theme or format is envisioned for the internationally renowned "Hour of Power" television program, which is carried by 145 television stations and broadcast in 31 countries.

Schuller "has been planning for years for the continuation of the ministry when he is gone," said his wife, Arvella, "but the plans are not based on an individual successor."

Similarly, Robert A. Schuller said church leaders do not want the "Hour of Power" and the Garden Grove-based ministry tied to one dominant individual as has been the case for much of their history.

Part of the reason for diversification, he said, is studies which show that the Crystal Cathedral has more name recognition than Schuller, the founder of the church whose first Orange County congregation worshiped at a drive-in movie theater.

Schuller was stricken en route to Moscow to reinstate his program "Heart to Heart" over the state-owned broadcast network, Gostelradio, and to deliver a videotape of a prerecorded sermon to air on Soviet television.

Arvella Schuller said her husband "is better than I had hoped for." She noted that his face is still swollen from the operation but that he is regaining strength in his hands and responding well to small talk.

Meanwhile, "we lose our spokesman," said Robert A. Schuller. "But that can be replaced" by either Larson or himself. Yet, he added, "you can't ignore that my father is the driving force and in many ways the central hub of the ministry."

Family members said it has not been decided who will replace Schuller on the "Hour of Power" during his convalescence, which could take as long as six weeks. His son and Larson have filled in for him before on both the show and in the pulpit.

Schuller's wife and son will remain in Amsterdam and accompany him home. Doctors continue to expect that he will be released from the hospital next week, but Thursday's change might add a few stays to his stay.

Robert A. Schuller had planned to leave Thursday for Moscow to deliver the prerecorded sermon his father prepared for Soviet television. But the Soviet Union's consular office in the Netherlands refused to grant him a visa, despite intervention by U.S. Embassy officials.

The younger Schuller was told that his application was denied because he did not have the necessary paperwork confirming his hotel reservation in Moscow. Soviet consular officials were unavailable for comment, but a Soviet press spokesman said that it can take up to two weeks to process a visa request.

The videotaped sermon was sent by plane to Moscow, where it will be handed over to officials of Gostelradio by a Schuller associate who had arrived in the Soviet capital in advance of Schuller's entourage. Gostelradio officials now plan to broadcast the sermon next Wednesday or Thursday, a Schuller spokesman said.

Times staff writer Dan Weikel reported from Orange County. Correspondent Michael Glennon reported from Amsterdam.

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