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.
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Judge See Kee Oon charged that Kong, 51, and five other CHC leaders were found guilty of funneling more than $35.5 million in church donations to promote the singing career of Sun Ho, who is Kong's wife and fellow CHC founder.
The six CHC leaders face up to 20 years in prison for their roles in the crime. Kong and the others accused have denied any wrongdoing and dismissed reports that they controlled management company Xtron, which was handling Ho's career. Despite such claims, the prosecution presented evidence that the CHC leaders used it as a conduit for money that went directly toward Ho's career.
"I am saddened with the outcome of the trial," Kong said on Sunday. "But this I do want to say: You have suffered much over the past few years because of your commitment to City Harvest Church and your commitment to me."
He emphasized that regardless of the what happens next, the church's future was secure, "because of you and the new leadership that has been put in place." He added: "Out of the ashes, we will rise."
"I've absolute confidence regardless of what happens to me ... I've been telling you this for the last three months ... This church is going to be a powerful, powerful church," Kong said.
The new leadership will reportedly involve "selecting well-diversified board members, appointing a legal firm to advise the board, setting up an internal compliance team and also carrying out an annual audit using an outsourced firm."
Before Kong and his wife closed the service with a song, Ho, the church's executive director, echoed her husband's apologies, stating: "I know individually for every one of you - you have people that you need to face, questions that you need to answer, and I'm so sorry for the pain that you have to go through with us."
She added, "Thank you for being here, for being courageous and supportive. Thank you for your love. It has made a difference for all of us and our family members. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Besides the two church founders, executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain also spoke at the service and thanked members for "standing so steadfastly" when the six CHC leaders were on trial, according to Today Online.
"I know that (you're all) very deeply saddened by the verdict ... I know some of us didn't expect that," he said. However, he promised that "The six (CHC leaders) are studying the judgment and will take legal advice from (their) respective lawyers in the days to come."
In a Facebook post shared on Thursday, Kong said he trusts God will use the entire situation for good: "This is a difficult time for me, and especially for my family, just as it is for the other co-accused persons," Kong wrote. "As was the case throughout these past three years of court trial, and the earlier two years of investigation, I have put my faith and my all in God, and trust that whatever the outcome, He will use it for good in His time and in His way (Rom. 8:28; Eccl. 3:11)".