Kong Hee, the lead and founding pastor of Singapore's megachurch City Harvest Church, has been convicted for misappropriating Sg$24 m of the church funds. The charismatic pastor and five aides spent some of the money on music videos featuring scantily clad dancers to support Hee's wife Sun Ho's singing career in Asia and try to crack the US market.
Kong and Ho founded the City Harvest church (CHC) in 1989. Ho has always wanted to pursue a singing career. She had worked on an album with the rapper Wyclef Jean (and producer for Whitney Houston) and appeared in a 2007 music video with him, but international success eluded her.
Kong and five others were found guilty of diverting Sg$24m (£11m) to finance Ho's career and move to Hollywood and misappropriating another Sg$26m to cover their tracks. Ho, 43, was not charged. Dozens of church members packed into the courtroom, many having queued overnight to get a seat, and sat in stunned silence as the guilty verdict was read out.
So, what will happen to Kong? The punishment for criminal breach of trust by a public servant, banker, merchant or agent set out under Section 409 of the Penal Code - the section under which the six have been convicted - is a life sentence or up to 20 years' jail.
What will happen to City Harvest Church? Apparently the reigns have been transfered to Ho. She will now lead the church and its new generation of leaders into a new future irregardless of what happens to Kong.
Writing to the church, this is what Ho says:
Dear Church Family,
The judge has rendered his decision and, naturally, we are disappointed by the outcome. Nonetheless, I know that Pastor Kong and the rest are studying the judgment intently and will take legal advice from their respective lawyers in the days to come.
As was the case throughout these past three years of court trial, and the earlier two years of investigation, we have placed our faith in God and trust that whatever the outcome, He will use it for our good (Romans 8:28). This protracted season has been extremely difficult, not just for the six, but also for all their families and friends, as well as for our congregation.
In spite of these challenges, City Harvest Church has an unshakeable calling from God. Recently, Pastor Kong has exhorted us to focus on our core values, and serve the purpose of God with greater effectiveness and sustainability. Since 2012, we have had a new management and a new Church Board running the operations of the church. Therefore, let's stay the course with CHC 2.0. God is making us stronger, purer and more mature as a congregation.
Thank you for your unwavering faithfulness in loving God and loving one another. More than ever before, let's have a unity that is unbreakable. We are not alone as many of our friends and churches around the world are also interceding fervently for us. God knows the way that we take; when He has tested us, we shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
Pastor Kong and I are humbled by the tremendous outpouring of love and support shown to us during this time. We thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Pastor Kong, Pastor Tan, John Lam, Sharon, Serina and Eng Han.
In Christ's love, for His glory,
On behalf of CHC Management Board