Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pastor is target of watchdog group

Left: CHC executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain. Right: Sydney-based Reverend Phil Pringle has always felt a great affinity with City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and his wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun.

NEW people have come on board City Harvest Church (CHC) after several of its leaders were suspended from their posts by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) on Tuesday.

On the same day that founder Kong Hee and four others were charged with misusing over $50 million of church funds, CHC appointed Reverend Phil Pringle and Rev A.R. Bernard as advisory senior pastors to continue providing spiritual leadership.

"Pastor Kong is still our senior pastor," executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain said on Thursday in a statement.

Rev Pringle is the founder and senior minister of Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia.

Now in Singapore to support CHC, Rev Pringle is himself the target of a self-appointed Christian watchdog group, C3 Church Watch.

The blog said it was "designed to watch and monitor C3 Church and its pastors, specifically Phil Pringle."

It has raised questions about the New Zealand-born pastor's religious credentials and teachings.

Rev Pringle moved to Australia in 1980 with his wife, Chris, to start Christian City Church in Sydney.

The movement has over 300 congregations globally, a far cry from the 13 people in the first service.

His Facebook biography said: "Our 2020 Vision is to plant and grow 1,000 churches and we're ontarget to meet this."

Local news reports first mentioned Rev Pringle in 2010, when Kong, 47, was called to help the police who were investigating the alleged misuse of church funds then. He had met the Kongs during their honeymoon.

"From the start, I always felt a great affinity with Kong and Sun (Ms Ho Yeow Sun)," he told CHC's online portal, City News last year.

"There are some relationships that God joins together, and you've got to recognise, respect and nurture those relationships, no matter what."

Meanwhile, Panama-born Rev Bernard, 58, enjoys a high profile in the US. He's the founder and CEO of Christian Cultural Centre in New York, which has over 36,000 members.

The New York Times profiled him in a May report on the power players in the city, calling him "an adept political force... a preacher who would rather guide public policy behind the scenes than shout about it in front of the cameras".

In 2006, while in Singapore, Rev Bernard told CHC's Harvest Times newsletter how he had worked with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to draw up a list of potential candidates to lead the council for human rights, the ageing and immigration.


On Thursday, CHC issued a statement to say that it was inaccurate to say that "the church has been cheated of $50 million".

When asked yesterday how the church leadership intended to correct the "inaccurate" allegations, CHC declined to comment.

A spokesman told The New Paper: "As the matter is now before the court, we are unable to provide any comment for your questions about the case."

The prosecution's case is that $24 million was used to fund the Crossover Project.

The Business Times yesterday reported that, under the Crossover Project, more than 80 concerts were held between 2002and 2009 and drew a million people. The church estimated that 390,000 of these people responded at these concerts.

Rev Pringle called the project the missions part, something that is "a core tenet of faith for CHC".

By 2010, the church had launched 96 humanitarian projects globally as a result of the Crossover Project, though these are separate from the project itself, he said.

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