SINGAPORE: Singapore’s government and police have warned the city’s mega-church City Harvest Church from attempting to raise funds from worshipers in order to fund legal cases against their top officials.
Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities (COC) said it has issued a warning to City Harvest Church over its employees’ efforts to raise funds to pay the legal fees of the church’s leaders facing criminal charges for corruption and embezzlement.
“The Commissioner of Charities (COC) office had earlier issued a Restriction Order to the Board of City Harvest Church (CHC) to restrict CHC from paying the legal fees of the six accused persons and entering into transactions relating to payment of services to the suspended individuals and their related entities, without the approval of the COC,” it said in a statement.
Christians in the city are angry over the reports that the church is trying to get average citizens to help fund their legal campaign.
“They are charged with misusing their own worshipers money and now they are asking for them to give more, which they probably wasted on personal projects? It is ridiculous and wrong on a number of levels,” said David Wong, a Christian man in Singapore, who told Bikyamasr.com that he had attended a few services at CHC in the past.
“But is was a big show and I didn’t really like it,” he added. “And now this scandal. It doesn’t make sense for people to give them money.”
Pastor Kong is facing a number of charges including embezzlement and using church funds for personal use. The controversy has left many in the city questioning the role of faith and business.
The pastor is one of six members of the church to face charges in what is believed to be the largest financial scandal to hit Singapore’s charity sector to date.
He was arrested in June and accused of “dishonestly misappropriating monies” from the church’s building fund to promote and support the pop music career of his wife, Sun Ho, who is in her early 40s.
Bikyamasr.com has followed the controversy closely over the weeks, highlighting the inside workings of the mega-church. The issue has struck home for many Christians in the country who feel the situation in Singapore for them is being tarnished by the actions of a few individuals.
The founder of Singapore’s embattled City Harvest Church Kong issued a statement late on Wednesday detailing the charges against him as well as maintaining that he did not participate in any wrongdoing and again maintained his “integrity.”
“The Prosecution has brought three charges against me, which I have carefully considered with my lawyers,” he began in a statement to the media.
“I do maintain my integrity, and will rigorously defend that integrity against these charges,” Kong continued.
He is charged with misusing church funds and corruption charges as the head of the Singapore mega-church. If convicted, he could face a lengthy jail sentence.
“I have and will continue to place my faith and trust in our judicial system. I will explain the facts and circumstances to the Court, and am confident that I will be vindicated.
“Sun and I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for all the people who have blessed us with their love, kindness and prayers during this challenging period of time. We have been tremendously humbled by the support and encouragement from the public, family and friends. We especially thank all those from City Harvest Church and the Christian community at large. They have been a constant source of strength.
“I respect the Court proceedings which are underway, and will not make any comment about the charges until the appropriate time and forum.”
The case was adjourned until August 30.
In late June, as the church was charged with misusing some $50 million of church money, they appointed New Zealand’s Reverend Phil Pringle and Reverend A.R. Bernard to function as advisory pastors in order to maintain services for worshipers without break.
Pringle is the founder and senior minister of Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia.
But now that he is in Singapore, working for a church embattled with corruption charges, he has become targeted by the Christian watchdog organization C3 Church Watch, which tasks itself with overseeing good practices at Christian organizations globally.
The group’s blog said that it was “designed to watch and monitor C3 Church and its pastors, specifically Phil Pringle.”
It has raised questions about the New Zealand-born pastor’s religious credentials and teachings.
It is the latest in a weeklong battle over embezzlement charges and fears that the situation could potentially see the end of City Harvest, which hosted some 14,000 over the weekend in services.
The church allegedly diverted some S$23 million (RM57 million) of the church’s money to fund Ho Yeow Sun’s music career in the United States. Ho is Kong Hee’s wife.
CNA said they were charged for another S$26.6 million (RM66 million) of misappropriated funds, used to redeem “sham bonds” to cover their tracks.