Sunday, 28 May 2017

Will Sun Ho say sorry?

This week's announcement by COC that the six convicted leaders of City Harvest are "permanently barred from having general control and management of any charity" kept me thinking about the leadership of the church, especially the mega-City Harvest Church.

Here, I recall what one CHC member said: "If there is a Crossover launched tomorrow, 15,000 of our congregation will still support it." Wow, that's what I call devotion.

Now, I know one swallow does not a summer make, and that lone member's voice does not necessarily represent the church it its entirety.

More pertinently, his gung-ho statement may not represent the intent and object of the CHC 2.0 leadership under the newly minted Sun Ho.

Yet, I believe the zealousness of that member can be found quite readily amongst the congregation. You throw a pebble in a weekend service crowd of tens of thousands and you are sure to hit one of them most of the time. I guess that is how congregational mechanics work. The issue here is not with the faith or belief, but with mass allegiance, and that is something you underestimate at your own peril.

History has shown that the mob instinct is quite prevalent, and even universal. And history has also taught us that most times, we learn nothing or little from it. As such, the gripe that "history often repeats itself" is not a cliché, but a darned reality.

So, when it comes to mass adulation, which is made worse by religious intemperance, the default position is to gravitate towards zeal on fire and brain on ice.

And although that member's Jericho-like chant is not representative of the 15,000 that he so cavalierly boast about, the legal saga of CHC over 7 years and the members' unquestioned support of their leaders' innocence even after the verdict and sentence clearly go to show that the fire-and-ice fanaticism is what makes a megachurch a formidable force to reckon with in society - whether for good or for bad.

Needless to say, the leaders play a crucial part too. It always takes two to tango. You can't have a leaderless mob because someone up there has to start the fire before the mob fans it out of proportion. Here, the leader's fire is what makes the people's unruly desires.

This brings me to what COC has to say about leadership of charities. "Good governance, accountability and transparency are fundamental principles for the proper administration of charities...Leaders, especially, have an even greater responsibility to uphold these principles as they are appointed and entrusted by their members." 
Apparently, the permanent bar on the former CHC leaders shows how serious and strict COC is when it comes to preserving and protecting the integrity and accountability of leadership for charities.

And now that Sun Ho (who has so seamlessly made the wardrobe  switch from pastor to Asian pop star and then back to being the lead pastor again) is taking the helm of CHC 2.0, one has to wonder whether she has an "even greater responsibility to uphold these principles as they are appointed and entrusted by their members." (note that that applies to a charity, what's more the church and the spiritual head).

As her husband and the others are serving time, I too wonder whether Sun Ho has anything (or anybody) she is held accountable to and desirous to be transparent with in respect of the now defunct Crossover project. 

Although she was not criminally charged, I trust she can't in good conscience say that she has not in any way or at any time started the fire, or at least the first flint, that formed the premise for the charge, trial, conviction, sentence, appeal and incarceration of the six  accused, right? The Crossover is practically and spiritually her brainchild after all.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about legal guilt or some form of proving it beyond reasonable doubt. There's nothing technical here.

I am however talking about searching one's redeemed conscience to see what needs to be done or said to the church since her husband had done the same, and it has taken him 7 long years and two penultimate staged apologies to finally come to terms with the ultimate apology that intimately admitted to his failings as a leader to the church and the public at large.

So, as a leader, a spiritual one at that, the question is this: Does Sun Ho owe any responsibility to her members, donors, supporters, fans and followers for what the six accused, the church and the faith as a whole have gone through? 

And if the Crossover is synonymous with Sun Ho and Sun Ho is synonymous with the Crossover, so says Justice Chan, is Sun Ho really innocent of, and absolve of all blame for, the flaws and failures of the church leadership that her husband had particularly apologized for?

Mind you, Kong Hee had on many occasions attributed his leadership successes to Sun Ho, and openly admitted that he has taken advice from her. As such, his deeds or misdeeds could have very well been a byproduct of taking her advice into consideration.

If so, is it fair for Sun Ho as the leader of CHC 2.0 to conveniently distance herself from Kong Hee's leadership failures, while quietly taking credit for his successes in the past?

Apart from the fact that they are husband and wife, they are also co-founders joined at the hip. As such, shouldn't one presume safely that most, if not all, important decisions concerning the Crossover and its financial arrangements were made jointly, and therefore the responsibility and accountability have to be shared jointly too?

Putting aside her excesses and extravagant lifestyle, it is a fact that Sun Ho has (or would have) benefitted financially from the Crossover.

And whether for evangelism or otherwise, she will not only profit from the royalties, but also become a huge international pop star if it all works out surreptitiously for her. This alone would have made her the raison d etre for the Crossover, and therefore share part, if not most, of the blame for its downfall.

Yet, after all's said and done, and after the conviction, sentence and apologies, Sun Ho is blissfully elevated to the highest leadership position without so much as a hint of remorse or apology. Everything seems to be swept under the charismatic rug for her.

And the irony here is not lost on the discerning reader in that Sun Ho is the appointed head of CHC, where she will have a say over church funds, and she is also synonymous with the Crossover project, where church funds were misappropriated to finance her music career.

If you put the two together, you would not be blamed if you too wonder whether the COC's permanent ban on the six accused had gone to the root of the issue. And based on the audacious proclamation of the member that "if there is a Crossover launched tomorrow, 15,000 of our congregation will still support it," will we then ever learn from history?

While I do not expect Sun Ho to be "permanently barred from controlling and managing a charity" since she is not the subject of a charge, conviction and sentence like the six accused, I would at least expect a public expression of contrition and admission for the indispensable role she had played in the Crossover project.

On this, I would like to clarify that it is not a matter of her members pardoning her. I am sure they would do it in a heartbeat. The member above is even willing to speak on behalf of 15,000.

But it is a matter of what is expected of a leader, especially one who professes to stand in the gap between the people and God. Curiously, I am reminded of what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker. But I shan't repeat it here as it would be too trite.

So, will Sun Ho apologize to the people? Will she admit to the pivotal role she had played in the Crossover project? And will she learn from it since the debacle has caused so much grief, tears, hurt, time and money thus far?

I guess for now the ball is in Sun Ho's court, and whatever she does with it, I hope she will give the matter much more thought and make a decision benefiting of a leader she already is by virtue of what I can only guess has more to do with marital default and the preservation of power than a claim to special anointing. Her dream is after all to be an international pop star, right? Cheerz

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