Singapore: Church Scandal Sparks Dissent

Five executive members of Singapore's City Harvest Church – including founder pastor Kong Hee – were arrested and charged with criminal breach of trust. City Harvest Church, which boasts the largest congregation of 33,000 people in Singapore, practices tithing: its members donate 10 percent of their income to the church. Pastor Kong Hee, in a video clip of his preaching, refers to the amount of money donated to the church as a measure of devotion to God:

Investigators allege that the Church has misused up to S$50 million, and that a portion of it was used to fund the pop music career of Kong's wife Sun Ho, who has had some success singing Mandarin and English songs in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States.

City Harvest Church launched The Crossover Project in 2002, with the idea that Sun Ho's secular music would reach out to non-Christians and bring them to the church. After news of the arrests emerged, attention was drawn towards Ho's music and her YouTube videos gained thousands of new hits.

One of the most viewed videos was a track Ho recorded with Wyclef Jean and Elephant Man, entitled ‘China Wine':

Ho's music was criticised by some for not reflecting Christian values and being in bad taste. Michelle from syntaxfree writes about the inappropriateness of ‘China Wine':

Out of the clusterfuck of nonsequiturs that make up this song, the biggest one may be why the hell a Singaporean is calling herself “Geisha” to sing a song about how much “we” in “China” love to dutty wine. Perhaps Sun hit her head after being slain in the Spirit one day and it affected her geographical knowledge.

The song also attracted comments on Twitter such as this one:

@desdcool: Just watched ‘China Wine'…Hahah…Oh my! We're pushing piousness to a whole new level aren't we.  ‪#CHC.

Critics have also hit out at the Church after local media reported that Kong Hee and Sun Ho are currently living in a high-market bungalow in Sentosa Cove, worth a hefty S$9.3 million. While working on her career in the US, Sun Ho lived in a house in the Hollywood Hills where the rent was about USD20,000 a month.

Abraham writes to Singapore Hall of Shame, questioning Kong Hee and Sun Ho's sources of income:

Pastor Kong Hee and his wife stay in a $10mil Sentosa apartment, drives expensive cars, wears high fashion, got capital to run high-end boutiques and live like multi-millionaires. Sun burnt tens of millions in Hollywood trying to launch her Geisha image. Even if they did not misused church funds like their fervent supporters would like to believe…where did they get the rest of the money from? Drop from the sky?

However, members of City Harvest Church also took to social media to voice their support and faith in their church leaders. Daphne Ling at Mother, Inc. reaffirms her trust in her church:

I have absolute trust in the fact that none of the money was embezzled for personal gain. I believe in the Crossover Project and there was certainly no intent to deceive, as had been alleged. Pastor Kong and all the other 4 individuals on trial have not breached the trust of the church members.

I make no apologies for giving every dollar that we gave and we will continue to do so knowing that the funds will not be misused.

City Harvest Church is my family. It has been for the last 15 years and I don’t think anything will ever change that.

Ed at Ed Unloaded refutes claims that the congregation was coerced into giving money to the church:

Some people have the impression that CHC is all about money, where members get brain-washed into giving and pledging loyalty to the church. Well, I’m a committed CHC member and my family & friends who are not from CHC know that I’m a regular guy, of sound mind and not hypnotized. I have my share of opinions and make decisions based on my faith and convictions.

I made numerous monetary contributions to the church, and I fully believe in the church’s vision and cause. To me, it is a worthy investment, and I wasn’t coerced or forced to give, and I definitely have no regrets giving. The fruits of my giving are seen in the thousands of lives changed and impacted by the ministry of CHC.

The Church has also responded to the allegations, saying that the Crossover Project is a mission fundamental to the church and its congregation, and that the board has acted in accordance to government codes.


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