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Founder of Singapore's Largest Megachurch Arrested Over Wife's Pop Music Outreach

(UPDATED) City Harvest Church says it is "saddened" by the resignation of Chew Eng Han, a co-defendant in the church's embezzlement suit.
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Update (July 1, 2013): Former City Harvest Church fund manager Chew Eng Han has announced his resignation. Chew, a co-defendant in the church's case, noted that his decision came after months of deliberation and only as a result of the breach between teaching and practice he saw at the church. He said in a personal statement that "leadership cannot be measured by words but by action. Nobody qualifies to lead, or to preach what he cannot practise in real life."

City Harvest Church leadership issued a response attributing Chew's claims to his "personal views" and urging the church to remain unified. The church's full statement is below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are saddened by news of Chew Eng Han's decision to leave City Harvest Church, which he announced yesterday. Business Breakthrough Group Limited (BBG), which Eng Han leads, has also decided to exit from the spiritual covering of CHC and become independent.

While we can understand Eng Han's situation, what he has expressed are his personal views.

The Board has been working with the senior leadership for many years and knows and believes that the senior leadership has always walked in integrity, adhering to Biblical principles through the leading of the Holy Spirit. We maintain our full confidence in the leadership. Over the last 24 years, they have worked hard to maintain and protect the interests of the church and the members, and we trust they will continue to do so.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the Board and the church leadership have always leaned on God for all decisions of the past, and will continue leaning on Him even in this time of difficulty.

We take comfort in the fact that in the Bible, even colleagues in the ministry, such as Paul and Barnabas, parted ways, only for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel.

It is our hope and prayer as the Board that CHC will be even more united in such a time as this, that as a church, every member will put his and her trust in the Lord and remain steadfast in prayer.

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor13:11, NKJV)

In Christ,

Lee Kiam Hiong
Secretary
2013/2014 Management Board
City Harvest Church

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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.

Meanwhile, the corruption trial over whether church leaders inappropriately used building funds to support Ho Yeow Sun's pop music career has begun.

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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.

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In response to recent allegations, City Harvest Executive Pastor Aries Zulkarnain said in a statement Thursday that the church stands with its accused leaders.

"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."

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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.

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