(Photo: Twitter/Kong Hee)
News surrounding the fraud case against City Harvest Church founding pastor Kong Hee and other leaders continues to develop rapidly, including a cyber attack against CHC co-founder Sun Ho and a growing swarm of allegations of mistreatment and dishonesty from Facebook users claiming to be former members of the Singaporean megachurch.
Hacker Threatens to Expose 'Hidden Agenda'
A hacker going by the name of "The Messiah aka Ub3r Pr3ach3r," who claims to belong to the Anonymous hacktivist network, is reported to be responsible for the removal of Sun Ho's website, www.heyaosun.com. Sun, Pastor Kong's wife, was blasted by the hacker in a message posted to the website before its removal as one who has "failed as a wife, as a singer and most importantly… as a human being."
The cyber assailant also made reference to an alleged "hidden agenda," purportedly a reference to the criminal case in which prosecutors have alleged that more than 50 million Singaporean dollars meant for a building fund were instead used by City Harvest Church leaders to boost Sun's pop music career, which was the center of the megachurch's evangelical Crossover Project.
The hacker appears to have given further details for the motivation behind his actions in an online forum, where the person describes Pastor Kong and City Harvest Church as "malicious criminals."
Pastor Kong has since filed a police report regarding the hacking of Sun's website, which the Christian minister called "particularly malicious" and "hateful."
"I am also very concerned that the hacker's statements appear to have been intended to cause readers to influence and pre-judge the issues in the criminal proceedings that are presently on-going in the Singapore Court," said Kong in the statement published on his ministry website.
"Whilst Sun and I have been the subject of criticism and comment over the years, this episode is particularly malicious. As always, God has been our refuge and strength. We have also been blessed with the loving support of our family and friends in City Harvest Church, which has helped us immensely in getting through these difficult times. I hope that you will all continue to keep Sun and our church in your thoughts and prayers."
CHC Confessions Facebook Page
A Facebook page named CHC Confessions was launched in February of this year and has been soliciting testimonials, good or bad, from members of the public on their experiences with City Harvest Church, one of Singapore's largest megachurches.
The CHC Confessions page, in no way affiliated with City Harvest Church, has attracted nearly 1,700 "likes" and hundreds of interactions with its posted comments, questions and responses from some also claiming to be current members and former executive members who had administrative voting privileges.
One "confession" addressed Pastor Kong directly, asking him to "please repent now rather than dragging this case longer," if he is actually guilty of the charges of criminal breach and falsifying accounts.
"Please, pastor, do not drag this anymore! Even if you decide to continue with the Arise and Build, I will not give. I will not tithe not knowing where my money is really going to, please repent now and spare those members who are seeing through your smokescreen the agony of having to leave much cherished relationships and ties that we have built up in this church. Please repent, or you will ruin many lives and souls," wrote the person identified as a "concerned member."
"Please tell the truth! We know that something is wrong already," the person pleads in his or her statement, which was one of the more-engaged posts on the CHC Confessions Facebook page.
Many of the so-called confessions claimed to have never heard of City Harvest's Crossover Project, which has been the main focus of the criminal case.
A "confession" shared on Aug. 31 reads: "I have never heard of Crossover (Project) until after the investigations began. I have never explicitly supported Sun. What I support was the idea of Cultural Mandate, shining in the marketplace for Christ, and Sun was supposed to be the so-called model of what Cultural Mandate was. But I did not support nor do I endorse or condone crap like 'Geisha' or 'China Wine' [one of Sun Ho's stage names and the title of a song and music video]."
A Facebook group in support of the megachurch has attracted over 2,820 members, who say they "gave willingly to City Harvest Church and The Crossover Project."
Court Case Developments
The criminal case, which recently reconvened last week, has heard from witnesses testifying under questions from prosecutors regarding the activities of City Harvest Church administrators in relation to Xtron Productions, which managed Sun Ho's career, and another company named Firna.
The heads of both companies are reportedly members of City Harvest Church and, according to prosecutors, helped facilitate the mismanagement of church funds. Pastor Kong and five other senior church leaders have been accused of taking more than 50 million Singaporean dollars from a church building fund to promote Sun Ho's music ventures in the U.S.
Prosecutors have argued with the aid of email exchanges, meeting minutes and other documents that City Harvest Church was intimately involved in many transactions related to Xtron and used Firma as a cover for "sham bond investments."
The Singaporean megachurch has denied the allegations. Representatives insist that whatever funds were used for Sun Ho's music ventures were legitimately done so as a part of the congregation's Crossover Project, a project that positioned Sun Ho to reach secular audiences to promote the Gospel.
Other financial details that have emerged in the case, which originally started back in May, include:
"City Harvest co-founder Ho Yeow Sun was to receive a $2.2 million apartment in New York while she was recording her album there. Her United States manager Justin Herz was also to receive millions of dollars in church funds to boost her U.S. career." (StraitsTimes)
"Over the course of two years, Kong Hee and American entertainment executive Jason Herz discussed possible plans to launch Ho Yeow Sun into the American music market. ...
"The entire Sun Project in the U.S. was going to cost more than US$150 million (S$192.4 million) over seven years and Ms. Ho and Xtron's net profit was projected at about US$27 million." (AsiaOne)
The album that was to come out of the "Sun Project" never happened, and its projected June 2010 release date overlapped with the launch of investigations into City Harvest Church's financial dealings.
The Crossover Project
City Harvest Church started a program several years ago dubbed The Crossover Project that positioned Sun Ho, 41, as a type of pop singing evangelist while her husband, Kong Hee, 49, sometimes worked with her in tandem doing more traditional Christian evangelism — or at least that is what a Crossover documentary video from the church suggests.
Several church plants and partnerships reportedly occurred as a result of the Crossover Project. Numerous humanitarian efforts were also carried out through the platform created by the project.
"Twenty-five months after she launched The Crossover Project, she had performed live to over half a million people," according to the video. "Close to 140,000 have given their hearts to Jesus Christ."
The documentary adds near the end, "The Crossover Project is not about Sun and her singing career. The Crossover Project is the church's collective goal to reach the unreached and serve a broken-down world. We have become more relevant to our generation. Our members are inspired to engage the world as salt and light.
"The Crossover Project is not about bringing Christian songs into a secular world. It is about bringing Christ, hope and love out of the church and into culture, to make a difference in countless lives."
Sun's career expansion saw her move to the United States, first to New York City and then Los Angeles, for a period of time where she worked with popular artists like Wyclef Jean and dancehall artist Lady Saw.
Two noted songs that came out of Sun's efforts were 2007's "China Wine" and 2009's "Mr. Bill," which can be viewed below, along with the City Harvest Church documentary on The Crossover Project.
Statements From City Harvest Church
Aries Zulkarnain, an executive pastor speaking on behalf of City Harvest Church, denied last summer that the megachurch had lost or misused church funds.
"It has been suggested that the church has been cheated of $50 million. This is not accurate. The $24 million, which went to investment bonds, was returned to the church in full, with interest. We didn't lose the $24 million, nor did we lose 'another $26.6M' as alleged. The church did not lose any funds in the relevant transactions, and no personal profit was gained by the individuals concerned," read the statement from Zulkarnain.
Pastor Kong eventually followed up with is own statement, his first public statement to the press since the two years the investigations into allegations of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts became public.
"I do maintain my integrity, and will rigorously defend that integrity against these charges. I have and will continue to place my faith and trust in our judicial system. I will explain the facts and circumstances to the Court, and am confident that I will be vindicated," read Kong's statement.
"Sun and I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for all the people who have blessed us with their love, kindness and prayers during this challenging period of time. We have been tremendously humbled by the support and encouragement from the public, family and friends. We especially thank all those from City Harvest Church and the Christian community at large. They have been a constant source of strength."
A more recent statement from one of Kong's representatives, sent to The Christian Post in July, requested prayer for the megachurch and its leader amid the trial.
"Please pray for Pastor Kong and City Harvest Church during this very trying period of their spiritual journey. Pray that ... God's heavenly purpose will be done through it all," the statement read.
Correction: Sept. 6, 2013
An article on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, reported that Christian evangelist Nick Vujicic in August visited and spoke at City Harvest Church in Singapore. Vujicic visited and spoke at City Harvest Church in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.