City Harvest Church pastor Kong Hee has praised congregants for being "tenacious" in their faith and thanked them for continuing to attend the church even though he and five other CHC leaders were found guilty of misusing millions in church donations.
In a Facebook post shared last week, Kong, 51, wrote, "What powerful services we had last weekend in church. I am so grateful to God for all of you, the most wonderful members of CHC. In the midst of life challenges, you have been so tenacious in your faith, and you kept on loving one another, serving the young & the old, fellowshipping in unity, sharing the Word, and praising God with all your hearts. Thank you for showing up, and keep on keeping on ... this is truly our Church, our life."
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Kong and the five other CHC members are awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of funneling more than $35.5 million in church donations to the singing career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.
A recent report from The Straits Times featured several interviews with CHC former members who accused the church's leadership of questionable practices.
"Former members also told The Straits Times about practices in church, saying they felt compelled to give donations, had their whereabouts constantly monitored by church members, or were pressured into buying Ms. Ho's music albums," the article stated, referring to singer Sun Ho, who was recently ordained as one of the church's pastors.
Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church Yang Tuck Yoong added that he is grieved for people who have "left the faith, backslid, stumbled, or who had been so disillusioned by the whole fiasco," referring to the recent guilty verdict.
Another former member identified as "Mr. Khoo" said his cell group leaders would confront him when they believed he wasn't making adequate donations to the church.
"At that point of time, I was still a student, but I was driving my dad's car - I think they felt I was quite well-to-do," said Mr. Khoo.
He also accused CHC leaders of promoting the "prosperity gospel," in which church members are told they will receive material and spiritual rewards if they give money to the church.
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."
Speaking in an interview conducted shortly after Kong's guilty verdict was handed down, Phil Pringle, the church's advisory pastor, said he believes CHC will "only get stronger" when asked if the church was prepared for such trials.
"The church will stay together," he emphasized. "You'll be strong. You'll only get stronger. The church is not built on Kong Hee. It's built on Jesus Christ. The church is more together and more resilient than you think it is. It survives any kind of persecution. The worst kind is when Christians fight against each other, when ministers criticize each other. It's the worst kind because it's confusing for the younger believers."