Not Under The Table does a very good job sifting through the statement of Bob Rodgers. They help clarify the issues around the Yonggi Cho scandal:
Setting The Record Straight on Deluded Christianity
Earlier today, Pastor Bob Rodgers, the pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville wrote an article titled “Setting The Record Straight on David Yonggi Cho” in Charisma News’ Opinion section. Pastor Bob is the current president of Church Growth International Americas, the ministry founded by Pastor Yonggi Cho, who was recently convicted of criminal charges of tax evasion and breach of trust by the Korean court and sentenced to 3-years in jail, but jail term was changed to 5-year suspension due to age and mitigating factors.
In his article, he tried to imply that the news that shook the world is nothing more than a “slant of some of the media reports“, and wanted “certain details of the situation to be made known“. While I believe his personal experience of knowing him the past 40 years, and being in the court proceedings, I do think that the accusation of the “media slant” is trying a tad too hard to justify the failure of the highly respected church leader. Besides, as the president of CGI Americas, his position is also conflicted to give such endorsement.
What’s more interesting to note was that the article was shared and re-shared all over social media as some valid explanation to water down the impact of the court sentence that the elder Cho was not entirely at fault – “he trusted his elders and son and didn’t check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign. Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the papers“.
Is that really the case? I’ll share my opinion of why I feel so wrong about the slant contained in this article:
Blaming The Prodigal Son
“Cho has three sons. The second and third sons are very productive and work in church-related ministries. His eldest son has been the prodigal. He has been married four times and has been involved in sexual scandals with national personalities. In addition, he has served prison time for investment scams and embezzlement. His scandalized life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church.
Twelve years ago, this son purposely defrauded the church in excess of $12 million in a stock-related scheme. Cho testified that he trusted his elders and son and didn’t check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign. Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the papers. He never received any monies from the transaction.”
Pastor Bob, you can say that the eldest son hoodwinked the elder Cho to sign certain documents, but you cannot deny the intention of the elder Cho to cover up the deed deliberately. In fact, when confronted, he denied it and instead, claimed that it was a “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)
“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)
Not to mention, being man-handled by an elder with a choke-hold and threatened for speaking up:
He never took the lead in any of the crimes
“Third, the presiding judge said, “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.””
It was quite obvious for a man of his stature and power, that surely he must have given some instructions in order to make certain things happen:
“David Cho received a report from a general manager at Yoido Full Gospel Church surnamed Kim that said, “If the elders and believers find out that the church is purchasing I-Service stock at the high price of 86,984 won per share, stock which the church has absolutely no need for, there could be a huge uproar.” Nevertheless, the pastor said, “We have no choice, since Hee-jun is in a difficult situation right now,” directing that the matter be dealt with as quietly as possible to avoid causing any trouble in the church. In other words, David Cho was receiving reports about and giving orders concerning the purchase of the stock that resulted in a loss for the church.” (source)
The Prodigal Son Instigated the Crime
“The court also considered Cho’s life journey as a religious leader and his long-term contribution to social welfare as mitigating circumstances on his behalf. The court ruled that his son, Cho Hee-Jun, was the instigator of the crime related to the purchase of the shares of 1-Service stock.“
“Although the judge believes that Cho should be severely punished for committing breach of trust, especially for a person of his status in society, he gave a light sentence on Cho’s tax evasion in consideration of Cho’s long-term contributions to the society, the Yonghap News reported.” (source)
Fact is, he gave the green light. Period.
For all the justifications that we can give to the religious leader, let’s not forget that he had a choice - which is to silently use church funds to buy his son’s shares at a high price in order to save his son, or let the judicial system and God work its course – to pay the price, and give his son the chance of a brand new life. Unfortunately, he chose the former.
To all pastors out there, instead of justifying why his deeds are “acceptable” and/or “circumstantial”, why not reflect on what the bible says about the requirements to be a good Christian elder/leader? Forgotten Paul’s instruction to Timothy?
Do we need a court conviction to wake up and expose a wayward Christian leader? Are we incapable of proper self-governance and to live a life above and beyond reproach, as a religious leader? Is it time we ought to be conducting an internal audit of our leadership and testimony, before we even mercilessly judge the outside world of their sins, while slamming Christians who speak up against abuse of authority and wrong-doings in Church with the “do not judge” tagline? Let’s not forget the bible tells us not to judge the world, but to judge ourselves, those inside the church – so that they will not be a disgrace to the world and bring shame to the name of God – that the church cannot even manage it’s own affairs.
The Reflection of Pastor Cho – After the Sentence
Pastor Cho on Sunday addresed his congregation that “through “this suffering” he had learned that “an individual shouldn’t possess anything.”
“Besides health, status, fame, authority, money… these are all matters that are outside the body and unworthy of any pursuit,” Pastor David Yonggi Cho told Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul, South Korea. Cho added that he hopes that God forgives him for his actions. (source)
Timely reflection, or a face-saving moment? Not forgetting what happens 3 years before the sentence:
when confronted, he denied it and instead, claimed that it was a “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)
Is this another media slant, Pastor Bob?
We are seeing pastors today scooting around in private jet, luxurious homes, extravagant lifestyle – while members are struggling hand-to-mouth, the money collected while many parts of the world people go hungry, lack education, clean water, etc. What would Jesus Do? What would you do?
While I acknowledge that nobody is perfect and all make mistakes, there are some mistakes the everyday Christian who makes a honest living and simply love their pastors by trusting and giving them their best will never commit – unlike what the mega-pastor attempts – threaten the minority, bully the weak, manipulate the generous, etc. They may lie about how they spent their last Christmas because they feel bad about not giving their family the best, having giving much of their finances to the church, but they will not lie like many of the pastors do.
Jesus cursed the fig tree. What would you do, Pastor Bob?
Accept the sentence. A mistake is made. Deal with it. Don’t justify. It’s sick.
Source: Setting The Record Straight on Deluded Christianity, Not Under The Table, http://notunderthetable.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/setting-record-straight-on-deluded.html, Published 26/02/2014. (Accessed 02/03/2014.)