Singapore's City Harvest Church founding Pastor Kong Hee has issued an emotionally-charged statement thanking his congregation for standing by him over the past five years and giving his family "wings to ride on" in their "darkest moments".
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Kong 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.
For the past five years, Kong and the others accused 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.
The six CHC leaders face up to 20 years in prison for their roles in the crime.
In a Facebook letter addressed to members of City Harvest Church, Kong expressed his love for his congregation and gratitude for their support throughout the lengthy trial.
"From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much," the 51-year-old pastor wrote. "Thank you for standing strong in these past 5 years and 5 months. Thank you for your steadfast love, belief and encouragement. Thank you for the grace you have shown towards me as your pastor. Thank you for loving me in my spirituality, and also in my imperfect humanity. I want you to know that your prayers for the team and our families have given us wings to ride on in our darkest moments. I love you very much, City Harvest Church ... Thank you."
According to the AP, Kong is currently waiting the prosecution's written submissions to court, which will take place on 6 Nov. His lawyer will respond with a mitigation plea on November 20, and sentencing is expected to take place either on the same day or at a later date.
Meanwhile, the church has announced that it plans to improve its governance, moving forward with a new "CHC 2.0" vision.
The new leadership will 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."
One such leader will reportedly be Sun Ho, who was recently ordained as a pastor of City Harvest Church, according to a two-minute clip posted on Facebook.
On October 19 -- just two days before her husband was found guilty of criminal breach of trust -- Ho was ordained by Dr. Michael Scales from New York's Christian College (NYACK), as well as her husband.
During the ordination, Ho was seen kneeling on the stage, in front of thousands of congregants, with several others standing behind her, according to the AP.
Kong held her head while praying, before handing her his Bible: "I pray when she speaks, fire will come out of her belly," he prayed.
In the caption, Kong asked the congregants to pray for the church's next generation of leaders, saying "Please continue to pray for Sun & our new generation leadership team, as they work together for CHC 2.0!"