June 27, 2012
Founder of Singapore's Largest Megachurch Arrested Over Wife's Pop Music Outreach
(Updated) Trial begins this week to determine if pastor Kong Hee used US$18 million in church funds to finance his wife's ministry-related singing career.
Update (May 14): City Harvest Church has announced that two suspension orders against Ho Yeow Sun, wife of pastor Kong Hee, have been lifted. According to a statement from the church, "Sun is once again able to exercise her executive powers for City Harvest Church. She is once again an Executive member of the church she co-founded."
The Singapore Commissioner of Charities (COC) also has given the church two extra months to submit representation for eight other City Harvest executive leaders in COC's proposal to remove them from their church roles.
Update (May 13, 2013): Wednesday will mark the beginning of the trial against six leaders of City Harvest Church, all of whom are accused of embezzling church funds.
According to a statement from the church, at least five church leaders have consented to step down from their leadership roles while the trial takes place. The statement says that Singapore's Commissioner of Charities will permanently remove a total of eight suspended leaders if they do not step down themselves.
“The people currently in the news are our pastors and trusted staff and leaders who have always put God and CHC first,” Zulkarnain stated. “As a church we stand with them, and I believe fully in their integrity. Pastor Kong is still our Senior Pastor."
Zulkarnain also responded to the charges directly, denying any foul play with funds.
"It has been suggested that the church has been cheated of $50 million. This is not accurate,” Zulkarnain said. “The $24 million, which went to investment bonds, was returned to the church in full, with interest. The church did not lose any funds in the relevant transactions, and no personal profit was gained by the individuals concerned.”
Singapore's charities commissioner has charged the founder of a 30,000-member megachurch with diverting US$18 million in church funds in order to support the ministry-related singing career of his wife.
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, along with four other church leaders, was arrested and charged this week with "conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust." This is the biggest case involving misconduct at a registered charity in Singapore, according to Singapore Press Holdings' AsiaOne website.
Kong and his wife, Ho Yeow Sun (popularly known as Sun Ho), launched the "Crossover Project" in 2002 to use her secular music as outreach to non-Christians. Allegations that the church was funding her music career first surfaced in 2003, but the church denied it.
The Commissioner of Charities accuses Kong of siphoning off funds to the Crossover Project under the guise of contributions to a sister church in Kuala Lumpur, among other methods.
“These funds were used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career to connect with people,” stated the Commissioner of Charities, according to the Wall Street Journal. “There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders.”
City Harvest posted a statement saying that no charges exist against the church itself and that regular worship activities will take place.
CT has interviewed Singapore theologians on how Asia's religious pluralism can help American Christians respond to relativism, how "missional theology" has not gone far enough, and how to stop cultural drift within the evangelical movement.