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June 27, 2012


The Church in Singapore - the Good and the Bad

Singapore has a lively church with all the variety of expression that you see elsewhere except less liberalism than in the West. The charismatics have influence in a most of the denominations to some degree and there is also a sweep of prosperity gospel in a number of prominent “churches”.

Recently 2 pieces highlighted the diversity here.

First, the good. The Christian Post Singapore has a wonderful interview with former Anglican Bishop of Singapore and Archbishop of South-East Asia Moses Tay. Tay, some may know, was one of the original Anglican Mission in America consecrators.

 In many cases those who would go on to impact other lives have experienced adversity of some sort, which failing to break them have contributed toward their depth and maturity.

The world for the Right Reverend Dr. Moses Tay had for all practical purposes collapsed around him a mere two months before he was to be ordained Anglican Bishop of Singapore - his first wife had died after a difficult battle with congenial aneurism.

Along with the pain of bereavement came speculation over why it happened by those who had prayed and seen visions.

The event had come as a shock to the many who having witnessed miracles of healing expected one, and most held the view that it was opposition by the devil himself to the ordination.

Opinion was split over whether it all happened because the devil was determined to attack the then Bishop-Elect or because sin gave him an opportunity to do so.

It’s all well worth reading - here is a man who understood what ministry was.

Hearing and obeying God has played a key role in Bishop Tay’s life and is, in his perspective, what Christian ministry is all about.

God prompted him to enter fulltime ministry while he was still a medical doctor when He led him to pray for a patient who accepted Christ and died two days later. The Lord also gave him opportunities to speak and to conduct regular Bible studies with church youths. And then he became involved with Christian organisations.

Highlighting the grace of God as essential for effectiveness and longevity in ministry, he says: “I think it’s the sheer grace of God that you’re called to serve and when you hear and obey, even longevity is not a question.”

As a response to God’s call, ministry is not so much about “how long you survive” but “how do we walk with God,” emphasises Bishop Tay.

And his response to low income is fascinating.

Adding to Bishop Tay’s troubles was the fact that much preparation had already been made for his first wife, a leading officer in a maternal healthcare clinic, to be the main breadwinner for the family with children - remuneration for the Bishop was not sufficient in those days.

In his words: “We were willing to slog to support ministry with children growing. Suddenly she’s gone. I was left alone. No more financial support. No more home support.”

...

He had a 60-hour workweek involving receiving visitors, attending board and clergy meetings, office administration, preaching, visiting the 25 parishes at the time and five other countries.

Compare that attitude to the news reports just surfacing (BBC and Singapore Straits Times) about the “pastor” of City Harvest, a prominent prosperity gospel “church”

The founder of one of Singapore’s richest churches has been charged for misuse of church funds.

Pastor Kong Hee is accused of appropriating up to S$24m ($18.8, £12m) to fund the singing career of his wife, Ho Yeow Sun (also known as Sun Ho).

He faces a lengthy jail term if found guilty, local media reported.

Four other executives of the City Harvest Church have also been charged, following a two-year investigation.

The five, who were arrested on Tuesday, have been offered bail of S$500,000 each. Their passports have also been impounded and they have been suspended from their duties.

Mr Kong and church board member John Lam Leng Hung face three charges of criminal breach of trust.

The other three church executives face charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts. They are due back in court on 25 July.

Mr Kong and his wife have always maintained that her pop music career is a way of reaching out to non-Christians.

Misused funds

City Harvest Church, which is registered as a charity in Singapore, posted a statement on its website saying it was ‘‘not in a position to comment further’‘. It said church activities and services would carry on as usual.
The exterior of the City Harvest Church in Singapore on 26 June, 2012A statement released by the Commissioner of Charities said the funds were ‘‘used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career to connect with people’‘.

‘‘There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders,’’ the statement said.

The body has also suspended eight church officers from their duties - including the five who have been charged and Ms Ho.

The church said on its website that it had more than 23,000 members as of December 2010, although reports estimate its congregation at more than 30,000.

It also has affiliate churches in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Brunei and Australia.

More details in the ST article.

I know which side I’m glad to be on.


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8 comments

“I know which side I’m glad to be on.”
The sentiment of this last statement seems so “Protestant” in the worst sense of the word, and theologically so contrary to Jesus. “whoever is not against us is for us”.

Sadly, the errors of the prosperity Gospel are all too easy to shoot at, not to mention the moral failures of such a group, which by the way are not the same. To thank God I am not like them, however, seems just as egregious as the errors they promote. The heresy hunting on this blog is getting a bit toxic.

[1] Posted by Rob Holman+ on 6-27-2012 at 04:29 PM · [top]

Rob+, I’m not sure he picked a theological side, as his initial point is that all of the traditions have some charismatic influence.  So he’s writing more about the moral conduct of clergy in this particular piece. 

Or, contra your critique of his “Protestantism,” he’s appealing to church order, which is the Catholic foundational contribution to Anglicanism.  That is, he’s on the “side” with orders of ministry and disciplinary features that can prevent some of the excesses that take down more “free form” ministries.

I’m not sure what to make of your overall swipe at SF as “toxic heresy hunting.”  We have stuff complimentary of positions taken by Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants and Orthodox folks.  We favorably quote social commentary by non-Christians.

But there are “Christian” groups and individuals - and behaviors across the Christian traditions - that misrepresent Christ and bring sickness and shame to his body, the church.  And yes, we pound on those pretty hard.

[2] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-27-2012 at 04:56 PM · [top]

Regardless of which side one is glad to be on (Sorry David, but that’s a little too close to ‘I thank thee that I am not as other men’ for my liking), us Christians in Singapore are all tarred with the same brush thanks to Kong Hee and his pop-star wife.

Please pray for us.

[3] Posted by Derek Smith on 6-28-2012 at 01:01 AM · [top]

hi Derek,

No need to apologise, there may be some merit in what you say. I was just struck by the dissonance between the 2 pieces, having read them only a matter of days apart.

I’m saddened like you and feel a curious sense of affinity, not simply because I’m currently here in Singapore.

[4] Posted by David Ould on 6-28-2012 at 03:08 AM · [top]

“not simply because I’m currently here in Singapore” - no indeed, and good to be able to get first hand knowledge of things.

Singapore is nice, but can be a bit humid for my liking.  Glad to see you are taking the opportunity to make friends and influence people David.    I am sure Singaporeans such as Derek appreciate it.

The prosperity gospel is found in South Korea, Africa, Sydney and elsewhere so I am not sure it is a particularly Singaporean thing.  It often grows in thriving and aspirational places.  It will inevitably lead to disappointment because it is based upon what God can do for us, rather than how we can serve God and in doing so have the most wonderful relationship with our Father; but he is not always going to indulge our desire for a Mercedes Benz, as indeed any good father would not.

Let us give thanks that there is a wonderful Anglican church in Singapore who can lead Singaporeans and others towards the right path.

[5] Posted by Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] on 6-28-2012 at 04:28 AM · [top]

The prosperity gospel is found in South Korea, Africa, Sydney and elsewhere so I am not sure it is a particularly Singaporean thing.  It often grows in thriving and aspirational places.

I think that’s relevant here. It’s a very aspirational place. Itching ears and all that.

Let us give thanks that there is a wonderful Anglican church in Singapore who can lead Singaporeans and others towards the right path.

Indeed, and in continued good hands with their new bishop.

[6] Posted by David Ould on 6-28-2012 at 08:28 AM · [top]

I do appreciate that you were struck by the dissonance between the two. My apologies for being so critical.

[7] Posted by Rob Holman+ on 6-28-2012 at 09:14 PM · [top]

Singapore is nice, but can be a bit humid for my liking.  Glad to see you are taking the opportunity to make friends and influence people David.  I am sure Singaporeans such as Derek appreciate it.

I’m not Singaporean wink

Think of me as a ‘charismatic’ David: we’re both English expats around the same age who both married Singaporeans.

(Yes David - she turned out to be ‘the one’. We now have 2 boys..)

[8] Posted by Derek Smith on 6-28-2012 at 10:19 PM · [top]

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