Misguided? Maybe, here’s excerpts from Bloomberg that amuses me:
Wearing a white leather jacket and jeans, Senior Pastor Joseph Prince asked God to reward a crowd of about 1,200 with houses, cars, jobs, pay raises and holidays if they contributed to New Creation’s multimillion-dollar funding drive.
At the New Creation service, PowerPoint slides showed attendees how to write checks to the church, while armed security guards watched the cash.
Worship and Holy Communion were followed by a video about a woman who donated on Miracle Seed Sundays even when her husband’s cancer treatments saddled the couple with debt. Images of a Volkswagen and a condominium showed the rewards that came to them for giving.
“As they come forth Lord to sow, release upon them Father the power to get, to create, to receive wealth in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Prince said in the rented Rock Auditorium at the Suntec City Mall. “Prosperity is right. Amen. We prosper to prosper others. We prosper to prosper God’s kingdom, so come believing.”
City Harvest Church, a non-denominational church founded by senior pastor Kong Hee, 48, has attracted a reported 20,619 members as of last year. It proposed in 2010 to spend S$310 million for a stake in the Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Centre as well as related rents and renovation costs.
In contrast to the U.S., where churches often champion political and sometimes anti-government views, religious groups in Singapore refrain from criticizing those in power. The laws “provide a broad framework to ensure that these pastors stay clear from discussing the politics of the day,” said Mathew Mathews, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore who has written about mega churches.
With regards to the City Harvest Church inquiry, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) commenced investigations into financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related or connected to the City Harvest Church (Charity). Misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity is uncovered.
Financial irregularities of at least $23 million from the Charity’s funds have been discovered. These funds were used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career to connect with people.
There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders.
The following persons from the exercise of their office or employment as governing board members, officers, agents or employees of the Charity are suspended with immediate effect:
Kong Hee (Member of the Charity’s Board and Executive Member);
Lam Leng Hung (Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Agent and Executive Member);
Tan Ye Peng (Vice-Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Employee, Agent and Executive Member);
Tan Shao Yuen Sharon (Employee and Executive Member);
Chew Eng Han (Agent and Executive Member);
Ho Yeow Sun (Agent and Executive Member);
Kelvin Teo Meng How (Agent, Employee and Executive Member); and
Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline (Employee and Executive Member).
Ho Yeow Sun (or Sun Ho) music endeavor
In 2002, the Charity’s founders, Kong Hee and Ho Yeow Sun (“Sun Ho”), embarked on a “Crossover Project” [“the Project”], with the purported intention to use Sun Ho’s secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians.
Despite the representations made by the Charity and unknown to the Executive Members, the Charity’s funds were used to fund the Project. Over a period of 3 years (2007 to 2010), at least $23 million was used. However, during this period of time, the Executive members were not told of the actual purpose of the use of these funds.
Between December 2007 and May 2010, the Charity’s funds were used to finance the Project under the guise of donations to its affiliated church in Kuala Lumpur, known as the City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur [“CHCKL”]. The funds were then transmitted by CHCKL to support the Project in the United States. During this period, at least $2.1 million was transferred from the Charity to CHCKL to fund the Project.
In addition, donations and tithes to the Charity were transferred into a private fund known as the Multi-Purpose Account [“MPA”]
For the period April 2007 to March 2010, the funds were used for purported expenditures of Kong Hee and Sun Ho, amounting to approximately $600,000 and $3 million respectively.
In or around April 2009, a plan was conceptualised by Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee Gek Yin and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon to transfer monies amounting to $600,000 donated by Wahju Hanafi to the Charity’s Building Fund via a “refund” of Building Fund donations into the MPA to meet some funding needs of the Project, which included US$100,000 to finance a media team from Singapore to publicise and write about Sun Ho’s music career in the United States.
at least $23 million was used, over a period of 3 years (2007 to 2010),
at least $2.1 million was transferred from the City Harvest Church to City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur to fund the “Crossover Project,”
Kong Hee expenditure: $600,000,
Sun Ho expenditure: $3 million,
transfer monies amounting to $600,000 donated by Wahju Hanafi to the Charity’s Building Fund,
US$100,000 to finance a media team from Singapore to publicise and write about Sun Ho’s music career in the United States,
Kong Hee’s company sold over $3 million worth of merchandise to the City Harvest Church,
However, in 2008, Kong Hee “refunded” royalties to the Charity amounting to approximately $770,000,
Chew Eng Han suffered financial difficulties, the Charity refunded donations amounting to about $338,000 to him in two separate tranches, i.e. $240,000 and $98,000. However, in respect of the $98,000, the Charity’s Board only gave approval for the refund of donations to Chew Eng Han 9 months after the refunds were made.
This is not the first time a charity, in this case City Harvest Church (CHC), was scrutinized, previously there was the National Kidney Foundation as well as Ren Ci.
Latest after the Commercial Affairs Department probed into the alleged misuse of church funds in May 2010, this has led to the arrest of the pastors:
City Harvest church founder Kong Hee and 4 others arrested
City Harvest church founder Kong Hee and four others from his ministry were arrested by the police on Tuesday morning, two years after investigations first began into the homegrown church.
Mr Kong, deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng and three other church leaders were picked up by the police at their homes early on Tuesday morning and taken in for questioning over the alleged misuse of church funds as well as alleged breaches under charity laws.
CAD arrests 5 City Harvest Church members, including Pastor Kong Hee
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean has stressed that the charges filed by CAD are against the five individuals from the City Harvest Church regarding the use of church funds.
He said the charges are not filed against CHC itself and the church is free to continue its church services and activities.
Mr Teo added that CAD carries out investigations when it receives information that a criminal offence may have been committed.
Sun Ho has not been arrested but is suspended from her position as an Executive Member of the Church. Story is still developing.
Over 18 people from City Harvest Church called up in probe so far
SINGAPORE : More than 18 people from City Harvest Church, including pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, have been called up so far to help police investigations into the alleged misuse of funds at the church.
Founder Kong Hee and 16 others were questioned on May 31.
MediaCorp understands that others have also been called in since then.
The police probe into the church concerns specific incidents that could involve the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust, involving millions of dollars and transactions that date back years. (Source: Channel News Asia)
Other notes from The Straits Times:
TNP said Ms Ho, 40, had flown in from the US on Monday, and was called in to assist police with their investigation into the finances of City Harvest Church. She was at the Police Cantonment Complex from about 10 am to 6.30pm and was questioned by officers from the Commercial Affairs Department. (Source: Straits Times)
It appears that normal church members of City Harvest Church (CHC) are not allowed to be present in their general meetings despite being entitled to as CHC is registered as a society too. I’ve attached the relevant news article for your reading:
Ordinary members ‘have no right to attend general meetings’
According to City Harvest Church’s (CHC) constitution, which MediaCorp has obtained a copy of, ordinary church members have “no right to attend General Meetings”.
Only executive members – such as pastors, the board of directors and cell group leaders who have served at least three years – are entitled to do so.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said that while it encourages members to comply with the Code, it is a voluntary association and each member determines its own policy and action.
CHC is a member of NCCS.
NCCS does not oversee its members’ financial matters, said its general secretary Lim K Tham.
Whether members are able to attend AGMs depends on how their church is incorporated, he added.
Members of churches registered as societies are entitled to attend AGMs. City Harvest is registered as a society and a charity.
Some churches are, however, registered as companies limited by guarantee, and whether members are allowed to attend AGMs would rest on a document called a memorandum of association – which sets out the contract between the organisation and its members, said Mr Lim. (Read more coverage at Today Online)
New Creation Church talks about its affiliated companies
SINGAPORE: About a week after it emerged that 17 members of City Harvest Church had been called up for investigations into alleged misuse of funds, another mega church, New Creation Church, spent time during each of its four services on Sunday to talk about its five affiliated companies.
That year, New Creation, which has 17,000 followers, announced that its business arm Rock Productions had teamed up with mall developer CapitaMalls Asia to build an “integrated hub” in Buona Vista.
The $1-billion project – half of which the church has invested in – will house shops, a concert hall and a 5,000-seat theatre for services when ready in 2012.
Rock Productions also owns and manages the Rock Auditorium in Suntec City where services are held now and its adjoining Rock Gifts and Book Centre as well.
It also owns Marine Cove, a recreational and restaurant cluster at East Coast Park, which cost $10 million.
Meanwhile, a 10,000-strong congregation at City Harvest Church’s weekend services at Singapore Expo was told that senior pastor Kong Hee, 46, is taking a “needed rest”. (Source: ChannelNewsAsia)
In my opinion, it isn’t so much as to what businesses a church is associated with that their members want to know; rather, it’s why do they even need to get into these business affiliations. To grow money? Perhaps I’m shortsighted, but what justifiable reason is there for a church to get richer than it already is?
This case has gotten rather big this couple of days. Several people linked to City Harvest Church has been investigated for a possible misuse of church funds. There are even rumors that Senior Pastor Kong Hee and his singer wife Sun Ho are having troubles with their marriage due to issues relating to this issue.
Church people under investigation
THE police rounded up several people linked to City Harvest Church for alleged misuse of church funds. The 17 who are assisting the police with investigations include the megachurch’s founder, Senior Pastor Kong Hee, who was picked up on May 31.
The police also took away financial records and computers from the homes and offices of the people involved. They did not say what offences they were investigating.
A joint statement from the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department said they were investigating “several individuals and companies, related or connected” to the church. The four-paragraph statement said the commissioner had received complaints about the misuse of church funds. It had looked into the matter and decided that the police should become involved.
Responding to queries, the commissioner said the financial transactions being investigated were not related to, nor initiated by, the church’s controversial $310 million stake in Suntec City, which was announced in March. (Source: Asia One)
City Harvest Church is Singapore’s largest and possibly most successful church.
Mega church City Harvest Church (CHC) moves to snap a downtown property. Church plays monopoly?
Church to co-own Suntec
Amid cheers from the congregation, City Harvest Church (CHC) yesterday announced that it will pay $310 million to become a co-owner of Suntec Singapore, a prime piece of downtown real estate.
Senior pastor Kong Hee broke the news first at CHC’s service at its Jurong West building, then later at another service at the Singapore Expo in Changi.
He said CHC had acquired a ‘substantial stake in a consortium company that owns 80 per cent of a joint venture fund that owns Suntec Singapore’.
The complex’s full name is Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The $310 million includes the cost of acquiring shares in the consortium, rental costs, renovation costs and others.
Suntec Singapore was acquired by ARA Asset Management through the ARA Harmony Fund last year, with its investors comprising Suntec Reit – which holds 20 per cent – and a consortium company which holds 80 per cent. (Source: The Straits Times)
Rony Tan, the founder of Lighthouse Evangelism, badmouthed Buddhism and was called up by the Internal Security Department, Singapore (ISD) regarding remarks that he has made which has lacked sensitivity.
Rony Tan made the following comments:
When we talk about religion, false religion [in context of Buddhism], we are not talking about a set of teaching, we are talking about a spiritual war, we are talking about satan and his demons.
A demonic power has supernaturally put some ideas into her mind [refers to the interviewee]. And the same demonic power you cannot see put the same kind of thoughts into the Tibetan monk. So when they check out the facts, it dazzles us. But if you have to look behind the scene, it is a cheap David Copperfield trick. Nothing more; nothing more. So conclusion, there is no truth in reincarnation.
[Referring to Buddhism] When you do good, then you will go higher. Then the definition of ‘higher’ is always a man; higher than a lady. Of course a lady is higher than a cow. That’s their scale of things.
The theory of reincarnation is rubbish.
When Buddha is dying, he says “I am still searching for the way.” But when Jesus comes, he says “I am the way.” [audience laughs]
[In the context of reincarnation] I tell you, ladies should be very offended — they tell me, one of the Buddhist — if you want to argue and you are such an unbeliever he said, next life, next life, Pastor Rony, you will be born as a woman. Ladies are of a lower stature to God. You ladies should say a good “Amen” to the God. We are equal.
If the men is the high of the home, it is not because of his higher status, it is because of a greater responsibility for the household.
According to Buddhism, if you are a lady and you behave yourself, you become a man. But some of you ladies you don’t want to be man. Right? You just don’t want to be a man. I see lots of ladies shaking their heads. You don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to be a woman too.
Actually the interviewees are quite funny if you watch it with an open mind. One of the interviewees revealed that he had some bowel problems causing blood during defecation. In a moment of fear, he prayed to Jesus and was totally healed.
Pastor Rony Tan blasts Buddhism Part 1
Pastor Rony Tan blasts Buddhism Part 2
Pastor Rony Tan blasts Buddhism Part 3
Pastor Rony Tan blasts Buddhism Part 4
Here’s the news report:
Pastor apologises personally to Buddhist & Taoist federations
SINGAPORE: The pastor who was called up by the Internal Security Department (ISD) for making insensitive remarks against the Buddhist and Taoist faiths has apologised personally to the leaders of the two religions.
The leaders of the two faiths accepted Pastor Rony Tan’s apology, and wish to let the matter rest.
Pastor Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism made the comments at his church sessions. These sessions were video—recorded and made available on Lighthouse Evangelism’s website.
In response to MediaCorp’s query, the Singapore Bible College said it trains would—be pastors to be mindful of what they say, especially in a multi—religious society.
Dr Albert Ting, principal of Singapore Bible College, said: “You can talk about your uniqueness, you can talk about your values, you can talk about your doctrines, you can talk about what constitutes the basis of your faith.
“That is all within the allowable discussion. That is your faith, you can’t change it. But whenever you’re engaged with others, then you want to show your respect.”
In a statement, the National Council of Churches said an advisory was issued to Christians in 2008 “not to denounce other religions” even as they evangelise. (Source: Yahoo News)
I should point out that religion is a sensitive issue, especially in Singapore, where the risks of tensions are high. We will not want to jeopardize peace in the process. Singapore has been strict on religious harmony.
In the church I frequented, there is a strong belief that Christianity is the only true religion and all other religions are Satan attempting to bring away people from the Christian God.
Religion is a highly personal position, evangelize with care. Most of the things brought up by Rony Tan are badly delivered. Christians indeed do not believe in the concept of reincarnation. Regarding men and women having similar stature, the Christian Bible has preached otherwise. It has, however, been explained that many of these Bible teachings were applicable to the society in the past and is not meant for literal practice today. The general consensus is that man and woman are of equal level although more progress is required in reforming the church leadership selection process which has barred women from key positions.
[Disclaimer: I come from a Christian background, however, I currently show no interest in any theological positions.]