Beleaguered City Harvest Church pastor Kong Hee insisted on his integrity as he spoke to a full house at Singapore Expo Hall 1 early Saturday evening.
In the first English-language service of the church since he and four key ministry members were charged with criminal breach of trust allegedly to support the music career of his wife Sun Ho, Kong said, "I maintain my integrity."
"You have no idea how broken I feel standing here tonight in front of you," a visibly strained Kong said, briefly losing his composure as he thanked his flock for their "love and support".
"The past few days have been very challenging for me, for my family, and my team," he said, explaining that he could not comment as investigations were ongoing.
"Many allegations were made in the media... please know there are always two sides to every story. I look forward to the day that I can tell you my side of the story in court," said Kong, to rousing applause and cheers from members, some of whom broke into emotional tears.
With his wife up on stage with him, he added, "There were times when Sun and I just didn't know what to do." He and Ho then hugged each other and other senior ministry members.
They went on to sing along with the enthusiastic congregation. A stoic but
exhausted looking Sun stood close by throughout the service, often reaching out
to hold his hand in support.
The expo hall was packed with members of the congregation and two rooms overflowed with supporters for about a total of 5,000 people. There were many banners saying "I love Pastor Kong" and "We Believe".
Earlier on, another member of the church's Crossover Project spoke out in defense of Sun, giving his testimony on how the Project had helped convert Thai teenagers to Christianity via "hip" and "popular" music and dances.
The controversial Project has been described as having been allegedly used
by Kong and other senior church members to transfer misappropriated funds to
fuel Ho's pop career.
Later, one of Ho's backup dancers talked about how the pastor's wife -- who's been forging a pop career in the US under the moniker "Geisha" -- brought Christ to her and the world through Ho's song "China Wine", a 2008 collaboration with hip-hop star Wyclef Jean.
"God used Sun's China Wine music video to... fulfill my dream and lead me to Christ," said dancer Gina Lum, before thanking Ho emotionally and saying that it had been her "honour and privilege" to "serve" Sun. "We love you and we will support you till the end."
Watch the video here.
In a statement released by executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain on Thursday evening, the church stated that it is standing by the five individuals.
"The people currently in the news are our pastors and trusted staff and
leaders who have always put God and CHC first," he said. "As a church
we stand with them and I believe fully in their integrity."
The statement also said that Kong, 47, and his deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng, 39, who both face charges of criminal breach of trust, will continue preaching at the megachurch.
Addressing the current charges that stand against the five accused leaders, Zulkarnain maintained that the church did not lose any money in the transactions detailed in the charges, which list two separate amounts of S$24 million and a further S$26.6 million.
"The S$24 million, which went into investment bonds, was returned to the church in full, with interest... The church did not lose any funds in the relevant transactions, and no personal profit was gained by the individuals concerned," he said.
In response to the church’s statement, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said, “We wish to reiterate that as criminal charges are now before the court and will be subject to adjudication by the court; and that as such, neither the prosecution nor any other party should comment on issues which will be subject to adjudication and on which evidence will be led in court.”