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It is of our opinion that one can probably parallel these scandals to some of the scandals in the C3 movement.

The blog ‘Not Under The Table’ writes,

UPDATED 23/2/14: Lessons From the Sentencing of 2 Cho’s – How Christian Leaders Justify Responsibilities

The news broke today in a shocking manner with the following headlines:

1) “David Yonggi Cho, Founder of World’s Largest Church, Found Guilty of Breach of Trust, Corruption” (The Gospel Herald) and

2) “Yoido Full Gospel church leaders found guilty of tax evasion” (The Hankyoreh)

3) “Pastor gets suspended prison term for massive embezzlement” (The Yonhap News Agency)

Dr Yonggi Cho, whom Pastor Kong Hee address to be his “Spiritual Father” and “Senior Pastor” is sentenced to 3-years in jail with 5-year suspension. This means that the jail term is deferred by 5-years and he will go to jail to serve sentence if is found to further misbehave during this 5-year term. It is still a jail sentence.

The court ruled that Dr Cho is guility of the following charges: (1) Tax evasion and (2) causing approximately 13 billion won (US$12 million) worth of losses to Yoido Full Gospel Church by instructing his church officials to buy stocks privately owned by his eldest son priced at 4x higher than market value in 2002.

Yonggi Cho Kong hee

The criminal activity would have been impossible without the approval of Pastor Cho, who had ultimate decision-making authority,” the court ruled. “By condoning the documents that were being written while he was the head of the church, he was largely responsible for these crimes.” – The Hankyoreh

Earlier, in a Straits Times coverage of the news when investigations first began into the Korean Mega-pastor, Dr Cho had denied any wrong-doing, and dismissed the allegations as “a smear campaign by a very small group of people in his church” and that “those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly” (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

When this article was first published, City Harvest Church also issued a statement regarding this matter (http://www.chc.org.sg/_eng/church/church_statementReYonggiCho.php):

CHC Statement

It is not the intention of this blog to judge a great man like Dr Yonggi Cho, who over the past decades had contributed greatly to the growth of Christianity and helped many people. We have our imperfections and do make mistakes, and do eventually pay the price for it.
However, the patterns of denial adopted up to the point of conviction finds close resemblances to what was seen in the “CHC Trial”:

1) Blame Shifting

While delivering the three-year prison term for the former newspaper chairman, the judge rebuked the younger Cho for attempting to shift the responsibility for his unethical business practices onto his father and other senior church members.” (source)

Church Growth International Korea, the ministry founded by Dr Cho (independent and separate entity from Yoido Full Gospel Church) issued a statement to their Board Members claiming that the Korean judge, Hon. Yongtun Cho said that:

The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes including tax evasion committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm.” (source)

“During the investigation, prosecutors also acquired evidence of tax evasion by David Cho. In 2004, when the Seoul regional tax office judged that this stock sale was a gift and ordered that 10.3 billion won (US$9.48 million) of taxes be paid, David Cho enlisted the aid of an accountant and submitted falsified documents to the tax office to disguise the transaction as a normal stock trade, not as a gift, prosecutors confirmed. He is suspected of using this means to only pay 4 billion won (US$3.68 million) in taxes, evading 6 billion won.” (source)

While he may not be the mastermind, he was unfortunately convicted because he allowed it to happen anyway – apparently rubber stamped whatever his son handed him. The key here is that as a leader, you cannot just claim ignorance and hope to get away. Tax evasion charges aside, he unfortunately gave instruction to siphon the money and ordered the stock purchase – resulting in the inevitable CBT charge which is even more damning and inexcusable – impossible to blame shift this.

Is it true that as long as the fault can be pushed away to another party, it would be “all clear” for the accused? Will it change the mindset of logical thinking adults? Or is it done in an attempt to continue to mislead the unknowing members? Throughout the CHC Trial, we have seen the blame pushed to the auditors, the CAD Investigating Officer and other parties including the media (accused to be bias) – me thinks it’s definitely not true, considering the coverage they gave Serina Wee. News is a business to sell more after all.

The CityNews Article (http://www.citynews.sg/2014/02/chc-trial-defense-establishes-that-evidence-cad-failed-to-seize-was-clearly-relevant-to-case/) was plastered on top of the City Harvest Church website (above the “Special Notices” tab). For the blame on the other parties, just refer to the CityNewsSG articles on their website, and my earlier blog articles. We need to be mindful that such articles coming from a church whose leaders are embroiled in a criminal charge do stir emotions and sentiments among the membership as well as members of the public, depending on where you look at it.

CHC School Of Theology

2) Threat and Warning

Such uses were probably aimed to threaten people who speak up with defamation lawsuits? Will this work? Considering the first line of defense against any form of defamation is the reporting of verifiable facts/truth, the threat would also fall on deaf grounds, no? 

those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly” (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

Didn’t work for you this time Dr Cho. Your 29 elders have the evidence and spoke boldly without fear of your threat.

CHC have used this to their full advantage over a decade ago in silencing businessman Roland Poon who asserted that church funds were used to fund Sun Ho’s Crossover Project. Roland Poon had to issue a public apology. Glad that he is now vindicated for the court has heard that church funds were indeed used to fund Sun Ho’s singing career from as early as 2001, and definitely in 2003.

Roland Poon Apology

Similarly, according to online media, Bobby Chaw, a pastor of CHC, also issued a warning about the media “pre-judging” in relation to the suspension of 9 key CHC staff. This was done through the official statement made by the church on 28 June 2012. It should be noted that as a leader, anything said in public has an influence on its followers. The result of such statements (personally, I view it as a threat, so do some other online media), made in a highly sensitive and emotional context resulted in a witch-hunt and name-calling for the COC by members of CHC. Not too nice to plaster more screenshots, but some are found in earlier posts. Me thinks that COC had been too nice; they should just make public it’s findings there and then – and once and for all put an end to all the name calling on the COC.

3) “Did not make any personal gain”

In an updated statement issued on 22 Feb 2014 regarding the sentencing of Dr Cho, the Management Board of CHC cited “very reliable sources that Dr Cho had no personal gain from any of the investments” (source)

One need not look far to find contradicting reports from the 29 elders who lodged the commission’s against Dr Cho. In fact, they have out forward some very serious allegations in their writing, besides those already charged:

Ha Sang-ok , who was part of the group for nearly two decades, admits to being involved in some fraud : ” In the last 14 years I have seen and done bad things. I tried to convince the pastor to stop, but he paid no attention. His behavior is not that of a Christian, but like that of a guru of a sect“. (source)

“First, they claim that Cho returned only 64.3 billion won (US$60.2 million) of the 163.3 billion won (US$152.9 million) he borrowed from the church while building the CCMM Building between 1992 and 1998, when he was chairman of the church‘s Mission Society. The remaining 99 billion won (US$92.7 million), they say, was never returned.

It is also being claimed that Cho’s third son Seung-jae’s International Club Management Group bought three floors of the building from the church for 29.5 billion won (US$27.6 million) and sold them back three years later for 37.2 billion won (US$34.8 million) – pocketing the difference of 7.7 billion won (US$7.2 million).

They also claimed that David Cho’s wife Kim Sung-hae, president of Hansei University, has yet to account for 10.5 billion won (US$9.8 million) paid by the church as support for Bethesda Christian University, an institution she runs in the US. The elders also view US real estate purchased by the university for around US$15 million as having been bought with church money.” (Source)

In the corporate statement dated 28 June 2012, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain also states that “no profit was gained by the individuals concerned” (source)

Just highlighting the similarities and at the same time wonder how this has got anything to do with the deeds already done. After all, how would these “reliable sources” know, and can we believe a statement based on unnamed “reliable sources”?

4) Complain is only made by the minority

According to the statement made by the CHC Management Board in 2011, the complain was made by 29 of over 800 elders, hence the implied treatment is that to ignore the minority’s view. If this is not a leading symptom of groupthink, I really don’t know what to call it.

Me thinks that when the minority’s alternate opinion is faced with the majority’s, in a highly charged environment with a charismatic leader, there’s no guessing whose opinion – no matter how truthful or factual will be dismissed. Just think Roland Poon.

Monkey See, Monkey Try to Outdo? Or Flocking Together Birds of Same Feather? 

If we examine the associations Pastor Kong Hee has with his group of  “spiritual fathers” and good friends (let’s not talk about the advisory pastor pair of Phil Pringle and AR Bernard now – will examine them in due time), it is surprising what we can find:

1) Steve Munsey: Regular weekend service and conference speaker in CHC from 2008 to 2011

- Over-indulgence in personal benefits, while failing to make mortgage repayments, resulting in foreclosure order

List of sources:

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/munster/local-megachurch-navigates-precarious-path/article_2f3b628a-0f42-5355-a8a0-230b1cb1aab8.html

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/05/indiana_mega_church_faces_foreclosure_partner/

http://www.christianpost.com/news/indianas-largest-megachurch-faces-new-foreclosure-proceedings-90769/

2) Abraham Alex Taneseputra: Considered to be another “Spiritual Father” to Pastor Kong
- accused of embezzling approximately USD500million (4.7T INR)
Sources (google-translated from Bahasa Indonesia, so the language syntax might be off – best read from original source language):

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=126527234050583&story_fbid=340150022763459 (contains separate articles)

Kong Hee – The Successor to Abraham Alex and Yonggi Cho

In the May 2010 Asia Conference, Dr Cho have laid hands on Pastor Kong and handed the baton to him. It seems that he is the designated successor to Dr Cho, who prophesied that he will outdo his accomplishments.

In another meeting in Indonesia, Alex Abraham also named Pastor Kong to be his successor and prophesied over him that he will have “full vindication” from the Lord. (video recording of service available upon request – link private after being removed)

What is the outcome of such laying on of hands is still to be seen in the coming months, but if there’s any potential of impartation, then whatever is on the hands of the imparter will certainly go to the impartee – might not be a good thing after all.

Bottom line in the Dr Cho case, is that, in the own words of the Management Board, he is “innocent until proven guilty” and all have waited until “due process of the law is complete”. And sorry to note, their “reliable sources” who claimed that this was a “civil suit” have failed them again – it’s a criminal proceeding.

If past history is a good gauge of future occurrences, then everything that was ever said by them just fell to the ground. This is certainly not a happy day for Christianity in Singapore and the world. They can always blame their sources for misleading them, anyway.

Source: UPDATED 23/2/14: Lessons From the Sentencing of 2 Cho’s – How Christian Leaders Justify Responsibilities, Not Under The Table, http://notunderthetable.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/lessons-from-sentencing-of-2-chos-how.html, Friday, 21 February 2014. (Accessed 24/02/2014.)