Televangelist Robert H. Schuller, one of the forerunners of religious broadcasting and founder of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, died Thursday at a care facility in southeast Los Angeles County. He was 88 years old.
His children and a grandson who now leads Schuller's weekly, televised church service, confirmed that he died after being in critical condition in a nursing home.
"The spiritual leader for presidents, world leaders and the everyday man passed away peacefully today," said his son, Robert Schuller. "I know in my heart he has come home to be with the Lord."
Daughter Carol Schuller Milner said Schuller died early Thursday at a care facility in Artesia.
Schuller started preaching in 1955 at a drive-in theater in Orange County. In 1970, he began a TV ministry called the "Hour of Power" that broadcast to millions, and a decade later built a glass cathedral to house his growing ministry.
The Crystal Cathedral After a disastrous leadership transition that led to a decline in membership, the church filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Schuller resigned from the board in 2012.
Bobby Schuller, who now leads the "Hour of Power" broadcast, described his grandfather as "bold, brave, brilliant."
"He was a testament to the fact that tough times never last and that tough people do," he said, describing the eldest Schuller's rise from farming roots in Iowa.
His daughter-in-law, Donna Schuller, said that the reverend’s condition had been deteriorating since he had an exploratory procedure in January to examine his digestive tract.
Schuller was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013 but has not been undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments since his wife, Arvella Schuller, died in February 2014.
Earlier this year, family members said they were pleasantly surprised with his "amazing" recovery despite the absence of treatment.
Donna Schuller said Wednesday that her father-in-law was not on life support and was breathing on his own, but he was extremely weak because had not "eaten for several days."
Schuller died peacefully, according to his grandson, who said the day was hard not just for the family but for "the millions of people he touched."
It wasn't lost on the family that Schuller died during Holy Week, but Bobby Schuller linked his death to Jesus's: " Even when great men of god are killed, their messsage lives on forever."
John Cádiz Klemack and City News Service contributed to this report.