US televangelist, megachurch leader Robert Schuller dies at 88

Televangelist Robert Schuller and his wife Arvella arrive for a memorial service for the late actor Gregory Peck in Los Angeles, in this file photo taken June 16, 2003. Schuller, known worldwide for his weekly Hour Of Power broadcasts, died in Southe
Televangelist Robert Schuller and his wife Arvella arrive for a memorial service for the late actor Gregory Peck in Los Angeles, in this file photo taken June 16, 2003. Schuller, known worldwide for his weekly Hour Of Power broadcasts, died in Southern California on Thursday, his grandson said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Televangelist and Crystal Cathedral megachurch founder Robert Schuller, known worldwide for his weekly Hour Of Power broadcasts, died in Southern California on Thursday, his grandson said.

He was 88.

The death of Schuller, who was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2013, marked a closing chapter for a congregation he began in 1955 when he started holding services in a rented drive-in movie theatre and built into a worldwide following.

His weekly television broadcast aired for more than four decades, featuring celebrity guests and drawing some 30 million viewers a week at its peak.

He retired as senior pastor of the Protestant church in 2006 and resigned from its board six years later in a financial dispute with its leaders following the US$57.5 million bankruptcy sale of the Crystal Cathedral.

The towering landmark, which opened in 1980 and was distinguished for its 10,000-pane glass walls, was purchased by a Roman Catholic Church diocese.

The Crystal Cathedral Ministries moved its services to new quarters at the Shepherd's Grove Church under the direction of a new pastor, Schuller's grandson, Robert Vernon "Bobby" Schuller.

"My Grandfather Robert H. Schuller passed this morning into eternal life with Christ," he said in a post on Twitter.

Supporters had said on Wednesday that the elder Schuller's condition was swiftly declining, and they called for prayers for him and his family.