Sheila Schuller Coleman and her father, Crystal Cathedral founder Robert… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Jim McDonald, a longtime member at the Crystal Cathedral, wants to preserve the legacy of founder Robert H. Schuller.
Which is why the Fountain Valley resident is continuing to support and organize an online and paper petition to rid the bankrupt church's board of directors of any voting family members, despite Wednesday's announced shake-up in which five independent voices were added.
"If you read the petition, it's really straightforward," McDonald, a spokesman for the effort, said Thursday. "We want no family members."
The petition, launched in early July, calls for a fully independent board. So far, more than 600 people have signed and commented, on a website that has become a cathartic gathering place for those who want their voices heard and where many have shared the impact of Schuller's teachings.
The conflict comes at a crucial time for the church, which is more than $50 million in debt but has suitors interested in purchasing the iconic Garden Grove campus, which includes the 10,000-glass-pane cathedral.
McDonald said he and about 50 other former and current congregants plan to release a proposal Friday outlining who should be on the board, which oversees the weekly televised "Hour of Power." There is a second board that oversees the local congregation, and that too will be addressed, he said.
A church spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Currently serving on the board are Schuller; his wife, Arvella; daughter and senior pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman; son-in-law Jim Penner; and five independent members. Schuller Coleman serves as a non-voting member and interim chairwoman.
The new board comes weeks after a controversy erupted when Schuller's son, Robert Anthony Schuller, said his father had been ousted from the board. The deciding votes came from Rick Mysse, a former official with the cathedral's governing body, and Gwyn Myers, the church's former financial consultant.
The church denied the drama and said the elder Schuller was not ousted but instead elected to a non-voting position.
On Wednesday, the church announced the new board, which restored the elder Schuller's voting rights and removed Mysse and Myers.
Mysse, reached by phone, did not comment on the action except to say, "It's kind of an in-house situation."
Phil Tanis, a spokesman for the Reformed Church in America, the Protestant denomination to which the church belongs, said it would let the congregation settle the issues. "Obviously, the more signatures they gather, the more impact the petition could have to move folks into action," he said.
Many who signed the petition also called for Schuller's son to be reinstated as senior pastor. He resigned in 2008 amid discord over what he saw as the board's lack of transparency.
"At least there are five independent people now," he said Thursday.
Those five are Ruby Rinker, who made a major gift in 2004 to the church resulting in a plaque and a lobby in her name; Walt Kallestad, an occasional guest on "Hour of Power" and senior pastor of Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz.; Diane Highum, a physician; Paul Lips, a retired auto mechanic from Orange; and Yvette Manson, a longtime church member.
Lips, 68, has been a church member for about seven years.
"There's important decisions to be made, and they involve the ministry that I care deeply about," he said. "And that's a real weighty place to be."