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 [sic.] 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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3 comments on “The Church in Singapore – the Good and the Bad

  1. Hi David,
    thanks for posting this. I did read about Kong Hee’s controversy. He has been for years, even since the days when he was in Australia studying here. It is sad to read the church’s leaders entanglement with financial issues. I read the full article regarding Bishop Moses Tay, most interesting read. It is humbling to read what he went through in his ministry. Just today a friend posted this, 10 real reasons why pastors quit too soon,
    http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/161343-tim_peters_10_common_reasons_pastors_quit_too_soon.html?p=2

    This coincide with Tay’s testimony how he survived through the storm of difficulty when he lost his wife and how he was doing crazy hours while managing his family.

    What are your thoughts regarding his experience, with so called Christians who are possessed by demons. I know that’s not the focus of his testimony, but it’s not the first time I came across this. House cleansing and all. 🙂

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Hi David,
    thanks for posting this. I did read about Kong Hee’s controversy. He has been for years, even since the days when he was in Australia studying here. It is sad to read the church’s leaders entanglement with financial issues. I read the full article regarding Bishop Moses Tay, most interesting read. It is humbling to read what he went through in his ministry. Just today a friend posted this, 10 real reasons why pastors quit too soon,
    http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/161343-tim_peters_10_common_reasons_pastors_quit_too_soon.html?p=2

    This coincide with Tay’s testimony how he survived through the storm of difficulty when he lost his wife and how he was doing crazy hours while managing his family.

    What are your thoughts regarding his experience, with so called Christians who are possessed by demons. I know that’s not the focus of his testimony, but it’s not the first time I came across this. House cleansing and all. 🙂

    Thanks for posting.

  3. hi Robin,
    I want to affirm almost everything he said. The possession thing I waver away from, but I understand the concern that underlies it.

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