Blogging about City Harvest Church is kind of like a walk on the wild side. Because one knows it is a topic that, for lack of a better word, polarizes people. It doesn’t help matters when there’s so much negative about the church out there on the mainstream media, forums and other blogs.
But I am not someone that would shy away from talking about something so near and dear to my heart.
Yes, I’m living in Sydney, and have been for the last 15 months. And yes, I still identify myself as a “City Harvest Church member” – a badge that many, unfortunately, have chosen to take off. But this post isn’t for the naysayers. It isn’t even for the yay-sayers (if there’s even such a word) or the in-betweeners. It is for me to get things off my chest. Things I have read and heard on Facebook, the newspapers, forums and blogs and everything else.
I’ve always been a pretty private person, which is ironic, I know – seeing how I blog about my life and my kids and all. But in real life, if you know me, I won’t necessarily or voluntarily voice my opinion (unless we are good buddies, or unless I am asked to) or feel the need to stand out in a group setting. When catching up with old school pals or attending a corporate event where I meet new faces, and I am put in a position of introducing myself and what I do, I usually give a smile and say I “work in a church”. Or when the other party politely asks which church, I would say it. And this is before this entire saga begun, before my Pastors and my friends’ faces got plastered all over the front page of the newspaper. I just felt there wasn’t a need to “advertise” which church I worked in, especially to people I barely knew and wouldn’t make contact with thereafter. But often, the more awkward question would be asking me what I did in the church. Oh man. “Office Administration” – and I can almost see the “Huh?” in their eyes as they wonder why a church needed to hire someone like me, and probably wondering what I did all day. I would explain – but really, my job scope varies so much, and I find myself juggling a whole lot of balls in the air on a daily basis, I can’t find the easy one-sentence explanation most people are looking for.
I’ve blogged about many times how and why I came to City Harvest Church – but the beginning is one thing, the fact that I have continued to see myself as a CHC member is probably the point of greater interest. And with the trial being in the limelight, a few people have asked me: If the court rules such-and-such, how will I feel or what will I do?
I can’t speak for all church members, of course, but this very question isn’t something that is “new” or unexpected to the regular church member. After all, we have been stuck in the limbo of this case hanging over us for the past four years. Four very long years.
If the court rules that the six have done no wrong, and clears them of all charges: I would be over the moon. Finally, vindication. Something we’ve prayed both at church and in our own homes.
But what if the worst happens? What if the court finds any of the six guilty (or all of them)? Well, I don’t deny I would be pretty sad. Devastated might be closer to the word. Bystanders might feel that they have done the church or the members “wrong” by withholding certain information or claiming there was some cover-up. I’ve been a church staff. I’ve been an Executive Member. I’ve been to the Annual General Meetings and other Meetings. I’ve seen first-hand how much importance we place on ensuring the attendance and other statistic we put out to the members and the public on making it is as correct as we humanly can. I’ve seen for myself how my Pastors and fellow colleagues are like, and how they have sacrificed so much for the kingdom of God and for the church. So what if they are found guilty in court? Well, then I would concede that they made mistakes. Disclosure might have been better. Things could have been better handled. But one thing I know to be true – they had no intention to defraud the members. They are not in this to benefit themselves.
Rather, the question I would pose to the naysayers would be the same. What if the court rules that the 6 are innocent? Would you be able to accept that, or would you feel there was still “more” to meet the eye?
I’ve had a fellow Christian gently remind me that using social media to convince people might not be the best, “Christian-y” thing to do. I understand her standpoint, but I beg to differ. As Christians, I personally feel we do need to have a voice out there, offering our point of view in the sea of negativity. Honestly, I feel a lot for my friends, ex-colleagues, cell group members who still attend CHC. We’ve been in Sydney for 15 months, and in a sense, have “escaped” the intense media glare and don’t have to face up to quizzical looks on our family members or outside friends or colleagues on why we still choose to remain loyal to the church. Four years is plenty when you are under the pump and stressed.
It is easy to, with the benefit for perfect hindsight, say that the church and leaders and board should have done this or should not have done that. But that is precisely the benefit of hindsight. Sure, we could all do things better. As a parent I also have had many times where I didn’t handle a situation as well as I should. One question posed to Pastor Kong as he stood at the stand was this (Article source here, quote in italics):
“Would you say, Pastor, that, looking back, what the Crossover achieved was worth the price?” This question was posed by senior counsel Andre Maniam.
Pastor Kong’s reply? “On a big level, I have no doubt it was worth the price because of the impact and the achievement for the Kingdom of God. The thousands of souls that got saved, the number of churches that were impacted and started. But the price of putting through my church through this trial, through putting all my co-accused, my friends, through all these painful times, there are moments where I do a lot of soul-searching, your Honour, but I knew that we were not disobedient to the heavenly vision given by God to us.”
So could we have done things better? Yeah, maybe.
But would we do it all over again? You betcha.
“Accountability doesn’t require full transparency.” Source: My learned hubby. (Haha!)
And that holds true for any organization – governmental, public or charity. I am not a donor to the now-famous MPA but my two cents is this: if I was a donor, I wouldn’t expect a dollar-by-dollar account of how this money was used. Take my parents for instance, they would very often tell us to bring the kids out for a good meal or get them toys – all on their account. In a sense, they are the main “sponsors” for our welfare here in Sydney – the “added” perks we enjoy every few weeks.
The fact an account was given to the donors of the drawdowns of the account, in my opinion, is doing above and beyond what is required. If there was something more sinister behind the scenes, wouldn’t it be easier to just deposit the money in Pastor’s account instead of having someone else manage and drawdown that account? To me, this ‘additional step’ was meant as a measure to give donors a bigger measure of accountability. And totally in line with what I know to be true of Pastor Kong’s character – someone who is mindful of money matters and always seeks to aboveboard in such matters.