Thursday, 5 November 2015

Mega Church Scandal In Singapore

Reveals Religion As Business Model

Over the centuries, all great religious leaders and philosophers, including Jesus Christ, have drawn attention to the evils of excessive greed and taught honesty and integrity to overcome it. The guilty verdict by a Singaporean court in October, convicting six leaders of a large Christian Evangelical Church in a 36 million U.S. dollar fraud case, has raised question marks on whether so-called Mega Churches with thousands of devout followers generously donating to their coffers are a business or a religion?

The City Harvest Church (CHC), which had a congregation of 33,000 followers when the court case started three years ago, but since reduced by half, got embroiled in one of the biggest corruption cases in Singapore’s 50 year history, when its founding pastor Kong Hee and five of his senior staff were charged with misuse of church funds. On October 21, Singapore’s District Courts found all six guilty of acting dishonestly in conspiring to misuse church’s funds running into millions of dollars.

Kong Hee was found guilty of secretly funnelling 18 million dollars of the church’s funds into sham investments to bankroll the controversial pop music career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun. CHC’s finance committee member John Lam, fund manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, Finance Managers Serina Wee and Sharon Tan were all convicted of devising plans to use a further 19 million dollar to cover the tracks by setting up sham companies.

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Kong Hee and Sun Ho paid for expenses from account made up of "love gift" donations
HELP: Court documents revealed that City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho were able to fall back on 'love gifts' from churchgoers

City Harvest Church founder and wife paid for expenses from multi-purpose account made up of church members' donations

Travel expenditure that ran into the hundreds of thousands.

Hair, make-up and medical costs that hit more than $100,000.

Sun who? Why Sun Ho failed to crack US market
Judge: Sun Ho's music success was 'inflated'
sun ho | The New Paper
CHC trial judge: Church leaders unrealistic about Sun Ho's
Sun Ho 'disappointed' - The New Paper
Kong Hee & Sun Ho paid for expenses from ac made up of "love gift" donations
The New Paper - Sun Ho's costly music career - Facebook
The New Paper - Sun Ho had an apparently successful track
Sun Ho’s music success was ‘inflated’

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Controversy over church's 'prosperity gospel'
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee (left) was among six church leaders convicted of misusing church funds to bankroll his wife Ho Yeow Sun's (far left) music career.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Former church members and some pastors have publicly questioned some practices at City Harvest Church (CHC), after several of its leaders were found guilty on Oct 21 of misusing church funds.

Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church Yang Tuck Yoong wrote an online note to his congregation, saying CHC's founding pastor Kong Hee had not taken heed of the proverb which says "a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches".

He added that he was grieved many people had "left the faith, backslid, stumbled, or who had been so disillusioned by the whole fiasco".

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Sound church governance important

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) is a voluntary fellowship of churches, hence, it does not have executive authority over its members.

Churches may withdraw from membership at any time.

The main role of NCCS is to facilitate good working relationships among Protestant churches in their mission and ministry, to consolidate Christian views and responses to major issues in the public square, to encourage member churches in their social and national responsibilities, and to contribute to inter-religious harmony.

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In face of rising religiosity, keep faith with the secular state
Pastor Kong Hee takes to the stage to address the congregation, with his wife, Ho Yeow Sun at the first City Harvest Church service since Pastor Kong Hee and 4 others were arrested

For those like me who believe that rising religiosity is the greatest pressure on the status quo in Singapore now, and for decades to come, the City Harvest trial has been a bellwether saga.

Since its start in 2012, the criminal investigation and judicial proceedings against six leaders of one of the largest and most powerful churches in Singapore have been a delicate balancing act for the secular state.

Can it punish the City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders while reaffirming the church's freedom of worship? Can it hold its religious leaders to account and persuade their flock, 30,000 Singaporeans at its peak, to accept the legitimacy of secular judgment?

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City Harvest Church Pastor Kong Hee, Wife Sun Ho Update: Advisory Pastor Says 'New Days are Unstoppable' Despite Guilty Verdict
Kong Hee posts video excerpt of Sun Ho's ordination as pastor

Less than two weeks after pastor Kong Hee, founder of Singapore's City Harvest Church, was found guilty of misusing millions of church funds for his popstar wife's career, Kong's mentor, Phil Pringle, encouraged church members to draw near to God and find their comfort in Him despite overwhelming odds.

On Sunday, Pringle, who is also the church's advisory pastor, preached on the topic of Fearlessness, referencing Psalm 23:4, which reads "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

"God has not given you timidity; If you ever feel timid, that is not coming from God," he told the cheering congregation. "It doesn't matter what valley you're in, you're going to get to the other side...even though you might have experienced the sunset, you're going to experience the sunrise. New days are unstoppable; winter will not remain forever...Jesus is no longer in the tomb."

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City Harvest Church Pastor Kong Hee, Wife Sun Ho Apologize to Congregation Following Guilty Verdict, Say They Will 'Rise From the Ashes'
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee pictured with his wife, Sun Ho

In delivering his first sermon since being charged with misusing $50 million of church monies to fund his wife's pop career, City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee apologized for the "pain and turmoil" members of his church had to endure over the past few years but emphasized that "out of the ashes, we will rise".

Speaking at the Suntec convention center on Sunday, Kong took a deep bow, and told congregants packed into the 6,000-seat auditorium, "Pastor is sorry."

According to a report from The Straits Times, the pastor went on to apologize for the "pain and turmoil" his congregation had faced over the past few years and bowed three more times in different directions as the attendees stood up and applauded.

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Ex-City Harvest Devotee: Buying Sun Ho’s Albums and an “Investment Banker” God Amongst 9 Church Nightmares

Local blogger and ex-City Harvest church-goer Geraldine Sim has let rip on her experience being part of the church.

In a post titled “9 Reasons Why City Harvest Church Was the Devil To Me“, she describes how “stupid” she was to have joined the City Harvest family.

Amongst the reasons:
  • offerings
  • tithings
  • pledging monies
  • God the investment banker
  • bringing in new people
  • accountability
  • buying Sun Ho’s albums
  • Sun Ho’s crossovers
  • outcasting
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Full Coverage
Love gift - The New Paper
Kong Hee & Sun Ho spent S$3.6 million of church members
Kong Hee and Sun Ho paid for expenses from account
Love gifts covered Kong Hee and Sun Ho's salaries
Kong Hee and Sun Ho paid for expenses from account made up
More results from
Judge convicts all six City Harvest Church leaders
Singapore news today | CHC'S KONG HEE & SUN HO ...
City Harvest Church - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun Ho | C3 Church Watch
CHC | Thoughts of a Cynical Investor

Church Leaders Get Rich or Die Trying

– City News: CN Interviews… Dr AR Bernard: “We’re On The Right Track”
– Under The Angsana Tree: Mega Church Scandal In Singapore

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5 CHC Leaders begin jail terms
City Harvest Church appeal against conviction
Sentence of City Harvest Church leaders
Verdict of City Harvest Church Trial
Mega Church Scandal In Singapore