Sunday, 4 September 2016

A Letter of Appeal to Kong Hee before his Appeal

My earnest plea to Pastor Kong Hee is one made before the outcome of his court appeal, which is in about 12 days’ time. It is unrelated to his court appeal. It has nothing to do with whether his court appeal is dismissed, allowed or the sentence is enhanced, reduced or, god forbid, the case is ordered back for a re-trial on some evidential issues. It also has nothing to do with theological legitimacy, kingdom expansion, the will of God, or the apology God once allegedly extended to him. Neither does it have anything to do with misrepresentation, fraud and dishonesty as he was so charged.

The prosecution may have found him to be a liar and the Court may have deemed him guilty beyond all reasonable doubts of all charges after examining the evidence in a trial that had lasted for 142 days (over more than 2 years), but this has nothing to do with why I am appealing to Pastor Kong Hee in this post.

Likewise, the church of about 17,000 may find him to be blameless, faultless, betrayed by the people he trusted, scapegoated for whatever reasons, or suffering for the sake of the gospel. They may therefore still believe in him with all their heart that he is innocent. Or they may dismiss, downplay, and trivialize his stage antics and misguided ambition in the Crossover project as part and parcel of leadership imperfections, acceptable deviation or expected prosecution for obeying God and not men.

But no, all that is not why I am making this appeal to him before the Court appeal in about two weeks’ time.

On the contrary, I’m making this appeal from one human being to another stripped of all the trappings and layers of leadership attention, celebrity attraction and congregational adoration. It is an appeal for the members who have left his church because I have read some testimonies of people who felt betrayed and lost. It is also an appeal for the ex-members who have given much of their time, money and effort to his firebrand leadership, but have nevertheless felt that they have been misled, misinformed and misguided.

And more importantly, it is for the members who have left the faith in disappointment and disillusionment because of the embarrassing revelations in the prolonged trial concerning cover-ups, backdating, cowardice, finger-pointing, blame-shifting, leadership's wilful ignorance, fake album sales announcements, false impressions given on stage, extravagant lifestyle, personal splurging and bingeing, and the crossover project that has been quietly buried, side-lined and forgotten without any accountability, explanation and apology. One has to wonder, where has all the money gone to?

Even for some who are still in his church, this appeal is for them too (and I believe they exist in quiet protest). I make this appeal for the silent minority in his church, for those who do not wish to rock the boat, but still feel something's amiss in the leadership. I make it for them who thinks Pastor Kong Hee has exceeded his authority and overreached his divine mandate. I guess I have covered enough ground, and I have to say that this is of course unsolicited representation, that is, no one has personally asked me to write this appeal on their behalf. I did it on my own accord. I did it because I feel it is the right thing to do.

Now, I have to be clear here that even if his court appeal is successful this September, and the conviction below is reversed for whatever reason, I do not think he is absolved for his leadership lapses. He may be eloquent, efficient, diligent and charismatic on stage, in evangelistic circles, and with his church members, but if the 5-year legal saga is anything to go by, he has yet to accept any responsibility for what he had done. His three bows on stage before a crowd of witnesses were not about accepting responsibility, but deflecting it.

Pastor Kong Hee believed he was just acting out the will of the Father as his sovereign Lord in the same way that the other co-accused believed that they were just acting out his instructions as the spiritual leader of the Church. This is at the very least a case of the blind leading the blind with unintended consequences, and at its very worst, a case of what DJ See had described as "the accused persons (choosing) to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups" with "cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct" in a "conspiracy to misuse CHC's funds, which included siphoning off large amounts from the Building Funds for Sun Ho's music career."

But my appeal to Pastor Kong Hee doesn't even ask of him to admit to all that. I am not asking that he come clean and plead guilty to the charges against him, thereby dropping his appeal -  for I earnestly believe that every man is entitled to his own defence and the pursuit of justice as he deems fit.

However, my appeal is for him to drop all pretences and spiritual high-wiring act of evangelistic and leadership performances and admit to how he had failed the church – and mind you, not what the church have to go through these past few years because he is bearing the cross for Christ.

If his failures - which is only human - is not apparent by now, then let me spell them out here in brief. It is a failure of leading the church into disrepute by pursuing a project of highly questionable worldly means to achieve a highly unsustainable evangelistic end in spite of one disapprobation after another, starting with Poon (who had paid dearly for being an honest, God-fearing whistle-blower) and ending with the shameless 142-day trial.

It is a failure of deliberately engineering an oppressive culture within the church that places more emphasis on securing funds from all and sundry at all costs and regardless of financial status quo and means just so that he can pour most of the funds into his wife's music career and lavish lifestyle in a pretentious and disingenuous bid to win souls for God.

It is a failure of the highest integrity of a shepherd leadership who instead of readily shielding, protecting, guiding and nurturing his sheep at his own costs, inconvenience and personal sacrifices, he cowardly disassociates, disregards and disowns his very own like his ex-confidante Chew Eng Han just so that he could hide his wrongdoings, deny his improper financial association with the crossover project as his and his wife’s brainchild, and wash his hands over the whole prosecutorial affair as Pontius Pilate did with Jesus.

It is also a failure for somehow allowing the church under his watch to be embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit in the high court against his ex-fund manager, Chew, for the return of $21 million of church funds allegedly being used as an investment in Chew's company, which also included $4.6 million in interest, the same of which is wholly denied by Chew who "insists that the church had used his firm as a vehicle to lend out money. He also claims that a personal guarantee he had signed for the investments was just to "comfort" the CHC board, and he was promised that it would not be enforced."

Here, one has to wonder, how on earth did so much of church money get into the hands of the sole director of a financial firm, and for what purpose? Alas, no Christian within the church wants to question about this because his leadership is deemed by them to be beyond reproach and indispensable. More like a law unto oneself.

Now, all these are clearly failures of his leadership that brings the name of Christ into disrepute and shame, and yet he adds more shame to it by claiming no wrong, denying any oversight, carrying on his pastoral leadership as if he was and has always been right, and worse, seeking spiritual impunity and legitimacy by asserting that he is doing all these by the seal, power and authority of God Himself.

Alas, even if you love the guy for his dedication and commitment to the ministry as professed by him, you ought to at the very least be discerning enough to sense that something is seriously amiss in his leadership right? I mean, I am not even appealing to Pastor Kong Hee to admit to the charges pending appeal, but I am simply appealing to him to come clean with his failings as a leader as listed above (though not exhaustive).

And to come clean with all that, and especially to apologise to those who had either left the church or the faith as a whole because of the legal grind he had put the church through, is at the very least the most Christian thing to do for a layman - what's more a leader.

So, let me end with this: I appeal to Pastor Kong Hee - before and regardless of the outcome of his court appeal - to do the right thing and the right thing, if he doesn't know it by now, is not always the most popular thing to do. And in this case, the right thing to do is also known as bearing the Cross where it truly counts. Cheerz.

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