Oct 5, 2007

Learn, People, Learn.

The Straits Times has an article today about religious charities. It sounds like some churches have been busy trying to avoid being supervised by the Commissioner of Charities under the standard rules applicable to all charities.
ST Oct 5, 2007
No separate watchdog for religious charities
They'll come under office of Commissioner of Charities, but their 'special nature' will be taken into account
By Theresa Tan

SOME churches have urged the Charity Council to let them be governed separately from secular charities, but the council is standing firm.

It told The Straits Times there is 'no need' for a separate administrator to regulate religious charities.

Instead, churches and temples will still come under the Commissioner of Charities (COC) office, said the council, which advises the commissioner.

This is the strongest indication yet that all charities - secular and spiritual - will have to follow a new draft Code of Governance for charities to improve the way they are run.

While the code is not mandatory, charities which do not comply with its guidelines will have to explain why.

It is believed a number of churches expressed concern to the council when asked for feedback on the code. Some points raised were that:

* As spiritual leaders of the church, clergy cannot be excluded from the governing board. The code demands separation of the governing board and management staff, to ensure proper oversight of the charity.

* Rules on fund raising should not apply to churches. This is because church members give voluntarily as part of their religious beliefs and churches say they do not solicit from the public.
After the NKF scandal, I am suspicious of such arguments. The above article instantly reminded of past events such as this one:


Florida priests 'embezzled $8.6m from parishioners'
By Andrew Gumbel

Two Catholic priests in Florida stand accused of embezzling $8.6m (pounds 4.6m) from their parishioners over a 42-year period and spending the money on holiday houses, luxury travel, gambling in Las Vegas casinos and secret girlfriends.

The scandal, at St Vincent Ferrer Church, in Delray Beach, north of Miami, cast yet another embarrassing spotlight on a Catholic diocese that recently lost two bishops to child sex abuse scandals.

According to police who investigated the suspect finances at St Vincent Ferrer for more than a year, Fathers John Skehan and Francis Guinan acted as "professional money launderers" who took money from the collection plate and set up a network of slush-fund bank accounts to which only they had access.

Fr Skehan, 79, was a highly regarded priest whose congregation included many prominent politicians and public figures in southern Palm Beach County. According to the police, however, he also used laundered money to buy himself a condominium near Delray Beach, a cottage on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and a pub in Kilkenny, where he was born. The police complaint says Fr Skehan spent $134,075 in church money on a woman described as his girlfriend, another $11,688 on family members, and more than a $250,000 on himself - for car payments, dental work, property taxes and housing fees, and credit card payments.

Fr Guinan, 63, a longtime friend of Fr Skehan who took over the parish in 2003, owns a string of properties in the area. The complaint said he was a gambler who spent lavishly in casinos in Las Vegas and the Bahamas. He was also alleged to have made cash payments to his secret lover, who once worked as a bookkeeper at his old parish of St Patrick's in Palm Beach Gardens, and to have contributed more than $7,000 to the cost of the woman's son's education. He, too, racked up impressive dental bills. The complaint said he spent $15,000 of illicit funds on his teeth.
Suppose Father John Skehan now said: "As a spiritual leader of the church, I cannot be excluded from the governing board. I must be on the governing board and also part of management staff. Screw any potential conflict of interest." How would you feel?

Suppose Father Guinan now said, "Rules on fund raising should not apply to me. This is because church members give voluntarily to my church as part of their religious beliefs and I do not solicit from the public". What would you say?

Learn, people. Learn.

70 comments:

Desmond said...

has anyone else noticed this but it seems that the churches in Singapore are starting to want to become like the churches in USA?

it is scary and i'm glad that Singapore didn't just give in to them. Why should they be given special treatment? Are they any different from any other charities?

Singapore is currently a secular country where our laws (well most of them anyway) are not religiously based but i can actually see a future where the churches actually run the country (i.e. like USA now and Europe during the dark ages) given the fact that we don't have a religious representation in parliament. don't think that that day will never come people as the future is anybodies guess and i don't have too much faith in human integrity.

Terence said...

Churches are not religious charities. Yes, even though both perform similar functions, it is in fact much more than that. The Church performs the spiritual function of rejuvenation and renewal for believers.

Most Christian will tell you that going to change is a "life-changing" experience.

To equate the Church to a religous "charity" is an insult to its importance to the believer, and to the community.

In any case, Churches should still be governed, but perhaps not by the Charity Council. Accountability is important. It is comforting that their 'special nature' will be taken into account though.

I believe the quotes have been taken out of context. The religious leaders are probably saying that yes, they need to be governed, but NOT by the Charity Council.

Terence said...

Terence to Desmond:

You seem to be rather suspicious of the church?

Don't worry, not everyone in those huge megachurches are power hungry and fundamentalist, with some covert plans up their sleeves.

They're people like you and I. Nice people. Like me. Haha..

While I believe that the church's influence in this nation will probably increase in the future, religious affliation should be taken out of the picture. Candidates should be voted based on merit.

If a Christian politician should choose to run for office, and he is from a megachurch, he should never use the church to drum up support.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"To equate the Church to a religous "charity" is an insult to its importance to the believer, and to the community."

I can just hear Father John Skehan saying that too. "I am not a charity, you understand?" he would say. "I use the money to purchase priavte properties and spend on my girlfriend."

Anonymous said...

To Terence:

Well I suppose ALL religious bodies are built in the aim of a spiritual rejuvenation. Christianity isn't much exceptional from it.

Anyway, I felt that money is indeed a good test to a man's faith. And I always believe that religion is one of the highest revenue 'business' around. You see, religion gives you spiritual assurance and that is subjective. So to practice generousity, just throw in the money (or gold)!.

Take the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple for example, no one even bother to prove whether the relic (a bone remained from a Buddha that exist in history) is for real or not and the money and gold still pours in! The temple can even published an article saying science and religion are different.

You know it's like saying I have the moon dust and please, DON'T expect me to bring for test okay? Just believe!

Learn, People, Learn!!!

Blogter said...

In fact, the government needs to come down harder on these megachurches.

For example, it should require churches to announce before collection that children should only donate money that they themselves earned, and not their pocket-money, unless they have the express permission of their parents.

Blogter said...

Terence,

You said:
"I believe the quotes have been taken out of context. The religious leaders are probably saying that yes, they need to be governed, but NOT by the Charity Council."

Then who do you think they want to be governed by? Why? And what would the difference be?

Anonymous said...

terence: Churches are not religious charities. Yes, even though both perform similar functions, it is in fact much more than that. The Church performs the spiritual function of rejuvenation and renewal for believers. Most Christian will tell you that going to change is a "life-changing" experience.

Getting fleeced or conned or weaselled of funds is also a life changing experience.

Anonymous said...

Look, Mr Wang,
the religious church and many other religious organization has already start to follow the footstep of Singapore Inc. They are working like Church Inc. Why ? I ask some of the my friends who give money to their rich-wealthy churches.

They told me that the churches now are going for property investment, buying these and that for investment. However, the management stand to gain for salary, and does not relieve how much they will be getting as part-time salary. There are lot of politics involved in churches because of indirect money issues.

Conflict of interest ? You must be kidding, they say, because if Singapore gov can run Singapore Inc without conflict of interest, why can't they ? Of course, we know better as the gov has ripped millions from public, and only because public is chicken to do anything about it.

khirsah said...

"No separate watchdog for religious charities
They'll come under office of Commissioner of Charities, but their 'special nature' will be taken into account"

The Commissioner of Charities are focused on charities, not religion. Regardless of whether the charities are related to religion or not, Commissioner of Charities has to look into it...unless the Church/Mosque/Temples do not receive any charities at all.

"As spiritual leaders of the church, clergy cannot be excluded from the governing board. The code demands separation of the governing board and management staff, to ensure proper oversight of the charity."

I'm not sure exactly what the code demands but I make an assumption that the governing board and management staff has to be separate. If the clergy cannot be separated from the governing board, so be it, place the clergy in the governing board and someone else into the managing staff. Just don't put the clergy in the governing board AND the management staff.

"Rules on fund raising should not apply to churches. This is because church members give voluntarily as part of their religious beliefs and churches say they do not solicit from the public."

Church don't canvass funds from public? Erm...I'll make it a point not to donate to any churches on flag day... or any other days since I'm not a member.

Anonymous said...

Human beings run the religious chartities and human beings are, well, human beings you know. We are from a 'city of possibilities'. Donations to other charities are not by force and are also voluntary, so what's the difference.

Pkchukiss said...

@blogter:

While government oversight on charities is a good thing, I don't agree with taking it to the extent of dictating the way someone donates their money. Children are better taught by their parents than be babied by yet another policy.

Where things can easily get out of control, like corporate transparency, I definitely agree with policies that force charities to open their accounts to stop misuse of funds.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am not wrong, I always have the impression that the person(s) who started the Church is entitled to spend the Church funds the ways he deems fit, just like the chinese & hindu temples. If I am not mistaken, a lot of the activities organised by these religious entities are being runned commercially with the aim of achieving a profit, usually under the guise of charity.

We have always heard about these religious people helping themselves to the donations to the extent of legal cases being fought in court over ownership of these places of worship.

I just wonder how many 'Joachim Kangs' are out there lurking in public taking advantage of those innocent unsuspecting followers of their faith while masquerading as religious leaders.

Anonymous said...

Desmond, I think it's quite a stretch to say that churches "run the country" in the USA. They actually have separation of church and state enshrined in their constitution, which, unlike the Singapore constitution, means something. Courts routinely strike down things churches there want to do: prayer in public schools, teaching of creationism in schools, public monuments like crosses, etc. All this, in spite of the USA being predominately Christian country, they still manage to maintain secularism. Courts in the US have real teeth, so a few Christian politicians actually have pretty limited power.

Anonymous said...

"fact, the government needs to come down harder on these megachurches.

For example, it should require churches to announce before collection that children should only donate money that they themselves earned, and not their pocket-money, unless they have the express permission of their parents."

You obviously do not know that all churches gives everyone an opportunity to give offereings even at the nursery level. Fancy you coming up with such a sweeping statement.

Anonymous said...

to the loyalists of rich churches. show me where in the bible that jesus employed hypnotic music, song and dance, dramas, peddling books etc in the name of God or for that matter, headed a religious organization to accumulate members fees for evangelisation huh?
truth of the matter is, he risked his life by going AGAINST his kind( the temple run by A MAN - individually, they all seem to hold different beliefs(divided) and how is this reflective of the same spirit they purportedly serve?)
in fact, he helped the poor by opening blind eyes, deaf ears and the lame to walk - metaphorically speaking. not giving them monies per se( ' bread and fishes' yes) but by setting them free( knowing the truth) to live fruitful lives apart from oppressive rule(secular and religious through unjust 'taxes' or mammon)!

Anonymous said...

Charity gets tax-exemption; Churches do not.

Charity comprises both believers and non-believers; Churches mainly believers.

Charity canvass for funds publicly; Churches generally do not.

It is not fair to accuse churches of 'avoidance' when all they wanted is to have biblically legitimate parties to check them.

Mr Wang Says So said...

From what I gather from the ST article, they want the same members of the clergy to sit on the governing board as well as on the management board.

This is very much against principles of good governance.
If you would like an analogy, it is like:

(1) making TT Durai the sole authorised signatory to operate all the bank accounts of NKF;

AND at the same time

(2) giving him full authority to decide what to spend NKF money on.

As for the point about churches canvassing for funds privately and charities canvassing for funds publicly,

I do not consider it relevant except perhaps for very small churches, with say, no more than 50 parishioners.

If you are a megachurch with tens of thousands of followers,

then as far as the governance issue is concerned, you are very much like a charity that publicly canvasses funds from

tens of thousands of members of the public.

Blogter said...

pkchukiss,

You said:
"While government oversight on charities is a good thing, I don't agree with taking it to the extent of dictating the way someone donates their money. Children are better taught by their parents than be babied by yet another policy."

I'm not advocating that laws be enacted on donators, but on donatees. Donatees should have to advise their faithful followers of a susceptible age not to donate their parents' money unless given express permission by them to do otherwise. And it is a sad fact that a number of parents are not educating their own children enough in such issues. Perhaps they're too busy earning money to catch up with the ever-increasing cost of living?

Blogter said...

Anon 12:37am,

You said:
"You obviously do not know that all churches gives everyone an opportunity to give offereings even at the nursery level. Fancy you coming up with such a sweeping statement."

I am aware of that. Sadly so. But it's normally peanuts.

Why do you consider my statement sweeping? Not expecting my very words to be enacted into law the very next day, you know.

Blogter said...

"It is not fair to accuse churches of 'avoidance' when all they wanted is to have biblically legitimate parties to check them."

It's a little bit like a suspect saying at the airport, "I don't mind being searched, but only by members of my own family. It's against my principles and god-given convictions to be searched by people not of my blood."

It'll be a bit tricky to define 'biblically legitimate' wouldn't it? Only those who similarly believe in fleecing the flock are welcome to check?

Terence said...

terence to blogter:

"Then who do you think they want to be governed by? Why? And what would the difference be?"

A few ways to go about this. Either a Christian-affliated organization overseeing the body of Churches in Singapore, because they would best understand the needs the churches have. Or the Charity Council could govern the Churches (that's fine with me), but on seperate terms.

That said, I am in no position to say what difference it would make,because I have not read the "terms". I'm just looking at things from their perspective.

Anyway, there seems to be an issue with churches collecting funds from members? How else can the church collect revenue to run it's operations?

Can anyone offer a suggestion? Perhaps through advertising on newspaper? Or flag day? Or going door-to-door?

Offerings are given entirely out of freewill. With regards to children giving offerings, of course parent's consent is required! Churches don't want to cause trouble with parents you know!

Terence said...

Terence to Mr. Wang:

On governance and management:

This is explainable by the fact that religious organizations are not charitable organizations.

Churches serve both its congregation and the larger community. Charity orgs. serve only the community. Though it may have a religious affliation, it is not a place of worship.

Let's say if in a church, you have a non-Christian running the governing board, wouldn't this come into conflict with the church's interest? How can the church then serve it's congregations's needs?



Terence to anon:

"to the loyalists of rich churches. show me where in the bible that jesus employed hypnotic music, song and dance, dramas, peddling books etc in the name of God or for that matter, headed a religious organization to accumulate members fees for evangelisation huh?"

Hypnotic music: so what kind of music do you think churches should have? Music that no one wants to listen to? Music that puts people off? Why do you equate good music with hypnotic music? Are inspiring and uplifting songs hypnotic then?

You seem to be implying that churches should stay in the stone age. Let us all worship in caves then!

Mr Wang Says So said...

Terence:

You are mistaken. The Code does not say that you must have a non-Christians on the governing board. It says nothing of that sort at all.

The Code merely says that if a person sits on the governing board, he must not also sit on the management board.

Anyway, any organisation without proper controls and checks simply exposes itself to the likes of fraud & abuse. It does not matter whether you are a charity or a church or a temple or a government or a company or a bank or a community centre or an NGO or the the United Nations.

Merv said...

"Churches serve both its congregation and the larger community. Charity orgs. serve only the community. Though it may have a religious affliation, it is not a place of worship.

The Church performs the spiritual function of rejuvenation and renewal for believers"

Wahhh? Serve less people = no need to be jaga-ed by the government?

Spritual rejuvenation = no neeed to be governed, but kidney rejuvenation (nkf) need to be governed?


Great logic! Clap Clap Clap!

i said...

Who are the stakeholders of religious organisations? I think this sets such orgs apart from charities in general.

Unlike charities that solicit funds explicitly from the public with a clear mission to better the welfare of a underprivileged group of the community, religious orgs are primarily funded by their followers with a spiritual mission that is collectively determined by these same people. In this respect, the onus falls squarely on these followers to exert the proper oversight for their own benefit, and any rules/codes/best practices should serve to empower them to do so.

I find it however questionable that religious orgs need to be subject under the same code as charities. Given the above uniqueness of religious orgs, one way to empower devotees can simply be to increase awareness on the code for charities as best practice that religious orgs or other non-profit orgs should try to model after, and leave it to devotees to determine the rigor on how the code is applied for their orgs - to use a term from finance, "market discipline" where you empower the stakeholders through disclosure and transparency of key information. It should not be the government's business to directly intervene in all affairs with the same degree of zealousness!

On having a person sit on both the governing board and the managing board, I think it can still be appropriate insofar as there are enough independent members on the governing board that can veto that person if need be. If the concern is a conflict of individual interests, one arrangement can be to have leaders from different religious organisations sit on each others' boards.

Anonymous said...

In Singapore there is a great need to check, investigate, monitor every organisation except the most powerful one.

Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

As long as there is money, the "government" will sniff its way there, especially if you are a "religious" entity going into property development big time. What has religion got to do with real estate except a roof over the congregation?

These churches are saying, "God we don't need You. We can make big bucks for ourselves," but forgetting that they are using money that should rightfully be used only for God's work.

Much like the CPF is used to buy government bonds to fund government investments.

What's more? Property is hotter than ever now. So, why wouldn't the "government" do a double take?

Anonymous said...

I was told that Christians have to give something like 5%~10% of their monthly salaries to the Church and if they have forgotten, their names will be listed in the Church's notice board to remind them of their religious obligations.

I wonder whether this is true. Just curious.

Coffee-Lover said...

Interestingly, if the religious institution in this debate is not about Christian, but Muslim affairs, will that change the perspective?

Blogter said...

Terence:

"Or the Charity Council could govern the Churches (that's fine with me), but on seperate terms."

Why the insistence on separate terms? You must have something in mind, naturally?

"Anyway, there seems to be an issue with churches collecting funds from members? How else can the church collect revenue to run it's operations?"

Nobody seems to have that issue. Did you make that one up all by yourself? 8 )

"Offerings are given entirely out of freewill."

Well of course, otherwise it would be robbery, wouldn't it?

"With regards to children giving offerings, of course parent's consent is required!"

I've attended quite a few church services. None of them (as far as I can remember) has preached on children obtaining permission before donating. How often does your church do that? And so, your church, for one, would have no problems with implementing my suggestion.

"Churches don't want to cause trouble with parents you know!"

I seem to recall a letter in the ST forum page lamenting just that. That churches are causing trouble for parents!

Mr Wang Says So said...

Link:

Will People Ever Learn? - By Yamizi.

Anonymous said...

charities - giving for public purposes
church tithes - giving for religious obligations

i see a difference, i don't know why any of you don't. i don't know why it's nicer to bash religion. i don't know why it's nicer to be a total bigot. but i know, that there's a difference.

Mr Wang Says So said...

you may be suffering from some kind of persecution complex.

I think that sensible Christians, Buddhists, Hindus etc should be pleased by these developments. There will be a lesser chance in Singapore that their religious leaders will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Father Skehan, Father Guinan etc.

sadlife said...

terence u said

'If a Christian politician should choose to run for office, and he is from a megachurch, he should never use the church to drum up support.'

Tt already happened with Sun Ho at city harvest to drum up album sales aint it?

i feel so aggrieved that the megachurches today are run like corporate organisations with the aim of profit making. They are blatantly using God's name to make money and glorify themselves. totally blasphemous.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"i see a difference, i don't know why any of you don't".

I don't see a difference, I think that people will be equally disappointed and angry, to find out that the money they had contributed for a religious/charitable had been embezzled or used for other sorts of purposes like what a TT Durai or a Father Skehan might apply it to.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway, any organisation without proper controls and checks simply exposes itself to the likes of fraud & abuse. It does not matter whether you are a charity or a church or a temple or a government or a company or a bank or a community centre or an NGO or the the United Nations."

Mr Wang, what mr Terence has been stressing all along implicitly is that the clergy and religious men are somehow 'special' and 'exceptional humans' of utmost morals beyond mortals, it is ludicrous to even think that they will contemplate anything close to fraud or abuse! If our learned friend Terence can't get past the logical first base, then it is pointless to engage further as we will be led round and round logical circles. ;)

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, I'm sure that most of them are very good people. A few even work so hard that they don't realise that they have been mistakenly overpaid every month for about five long years. Or so they would claim.

Naturally if you don't realise you're being overpaid, it wouldn't be a sin for you not to return the church's money.

However since such incidents cn happen, I would think it best for an external body like the Commissioner of Charities to exercise some supervision. Just to prevent such honest mistakes from happening again.

http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Singapore_s_Methodist_bishop_overpa_08292006.html

Singapore's Methodist bishop overpaid for five years

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Tuesday August 29, 2006

Singapore- The bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore was mistakenly overpaid for five years, the church said Wednesday. An internal review found Bishop Robert Solomon's pay and allowances totaled 946,000 Singapore dollars (606,410 US dollars) since he took office in January 2001.

The church's highest office bearer received nearly 372,000 Singapore dollars (238,000 US) more than what he should have.

The overpayment was an "honest mistake," The Straits Times quoted a church spokesman as saying.

The church is satisfied that no one was lining his "own pockets," he added.

Some members are still upset. An anonymous letter was circulated expressing unhappiness that the full sum has not yet been retrieved and that those responsible for the mistake were not asked to resign.

The bishop, 50, is in the process of repaying the extra money, used to finance such items as home utility bills and car expenses, according to a report by the church's General Conference Executive Council.

The review by more than 100 church leaders concluded that the bishop had been wrongly given a much higher pay package than he was entitled to receive.

A doctor by training, Solomon was re-elected in January 2005 to head the 33,000-member Methodist Church. It runs 16 primary and secondary schools in Singapore and has more than 40 churches.

The church said it was studying internal procedures to prevent such a mistake from recurring.

Anonymous said...

there were no gimmicks then and certainly, no need of now to achieve only what the spirit can do. paul even confessed his lack of eloquence( he probably doesn't talk like your typical guru) which, despite, did not hinder the spirit efficasy. the point here is that the spiritual house can only be established by the spirit - not calculated methodology. though the working of the spirit maybe emoted from within, the working of the emotions from without can confuse the true source of influence. music of life comes from a solid foundation within, not through projected mimicry on screen. the church of the living god is built on demonstrative love, not demons-driven theatrics and downward pressured disciplines. godliness is not about concentrated wealth in the hands of a blessed few. it is about the dissolution of elected powers for the greater good through sharing and sacrifices.

the betrayal of one's faith is in a narcissistic appeal plastered in front of books for a fee.the money could have been used to publish and produce materials for FREE. the lesser the weight of gold found in one's treasury, the greater the display of alms. where the treasure is, you may just find who is sitting on top of the treasury. and it is not God.

sadlife said...

i believe that the biblical teachings of tithing should never be applied in the society we live in today. stick with offerings and all these accusations of corruptions will go away.
money is the root of all evil.

Anonymous said...

"charities - giving for public purposes

church tithes - giving for religious obligations

i see a difference"

Let me put it this way.

charities - giving for a purpose
church tithes - giving for a purpose

the law is guarding against people collecting $ for a purpose but using it for another purpose

get it?

it doesn't matter what the 'purpose' is, retards!

Anonymous said...

'Money is the root of all evil'

So, the poorer you are, the less evil you become and vice versa. Makes me wonder at the stark relevation of the happiness index and the recently conducted survey of which country's people are the most pessimistic. It seems people in poorer countries are happier and more optimistic after all. What irony!

christian said...

anon @ October 6, 2007 4:48 PM

That is not true in the case of my church. We are not forced to give and the church does not issue reminders or threats whatsoever. I know because I missed a few months of pledged offering but was never harassed in any way, verbal or written.

Anonymous said...

here's another thought - why should taxpayers' money be used to fund the regulation of religious orgs if such orgs cater exclusively to a select bunch of people?

If the main beneficiaries of such supervision are the devotees, how about letting the devotees pay for the cost of regulation themselves? And if they choose not to, who's stopping them from throwing their money where they want?

Anonymous said...

To Christian : October 7, 2007 3:21 PM

Thanks for killing my curiosity.

I just happened to hear it from a Christian colleague of mine whose church is based in JB.

sadlife said...

these megachurches practise the 'bible of prosperity' which can only be applicable to the well to do countries. people in the third world are no prosperous, so they must be lacking in so much faith.

this bible of prosperity is definitely a false gospel.

Anonymous said...

Money is not the root of evil. The love of money is.

Kelvin Tan said...

Mr Wang,

I think we are being too critical of the mega churches.

Basically, I believe that Christians from these churches do not start giving money blindly.

They start with small sums, say $10 every week, move on to medium sums, say 10% of the salary every month, and finally to large sums, pledging $10,000 or more for the whole year over and above the 10%.

Each time they give, they realized that money keeps flowing into their lives, they realized that the Lord is fufilling his promise of "give and it will be given unto you". Thus, that is how they can move up.

Its like playing poker in the sense that you start with small stakes, you realize that you are winning, and then you move up stakes.

I should know because I am still in the middle range, giving 10% of the salary and ignoring all those special events that ask you to give more.

My view towards church corruption is that God will punish these people. It is my responsibility to give because God commands it and does not want me to be too attached to my money.

Of course some people in the Church may steal my money, but really, that possibility does not detract from that command.

Blogter said...

"here's another thought - why should taxpayers' money be used to fund the regulation of religious orgs if such orgs cater exclusively to a select bunch of people?
If the main beneficiaries of such supervision are the devotees, how about letting the devotees pay for the cost of regulation themselves? And if they choose not to, who's stopping them from throwing their money where they want?"

In that case, we shouldn't have to regulate NKF and the likes either. People surely know better than to anyhow throw their money, right? Why should we spend taxpayers' money to safeguard interests of a select group of donators who are just not wise in the way they donate their money? It's their problem. They should do their own proper, thorough research before donating any money.

Con-men should be allowed to walk away scot-free. If people want to be stupid enough to fall prey to such, just let them be. Perhaps falling prey to con-men benefits their physcological or spiritual well-being?

What you're suggesting would be a paradise for jackals.

Anonymous said...

there is coporate governance in the church itself. Most churches I know are audited and there is annual reports for those who are interested.

The church is not a charity and the stake holders are not the public but the church goers who gives tithes.

When a elder/pastor/priest cross the line they will be subjected to the discipline of the church and law.

I have no idea why is it that non christians are so interested to meddle with the affairs of the church. The stake holders are ok with it. If there is any fraud the stake holders will question their leadership. There will be consequences for those who trepass.

How many christian here actually support regulation by the government? How many who wrote against the regulation are church leaders? Non. Basically it is the religious organisation business to care about the inner workings of the church.

Lastly I would just like to add if you anyone dares to take God's money then he would have to be prepared to take the consequences. This point I think only the Christians believe. However, I do ask for respect for our religion.

palmist

Anonymous said...

The love of money is the root of all unhappiness. Take the case of the salary increases for ministers or the CPF annuity proposals. How many people were happy compared to the number who were unhappy? It's the truth.

Anonymous said...

"If the main beneficiaries of such supervision are the devotees, how about letting the devotees pay for the cost of regulation themselves? And if they choose not to, who's stopping them from throwing their money where they want?"

Checks and balances are needed when a few select individuals or small groups are able to exert a disproportionate amount of influence over larger groups.

Anonymous said...

Hi , just want everyone who is interested enough to go to ZeitgeistMovie.com its a very very interesting documovie to watch. Hey if you want to have a serious discussion about this, its is a great place to start besides the humdrum.....

Anonymous said...

Blogter, Anon Oct 8 3:24pm

Is the regulation of religious organisations a public good? Or does it cater exclusively to a select group of individuals (bearing in mind that the size can range from small family churches of tens to megachurches of thousands)? The impact as I see it is self-contained within the group of devotees concerned, so heavy-handed intervention from the government really is quite out of place!

To illustrate, it would seem quite ludicrous for the government to intervene in my weekly recreational gatherings where contributions are made by personal friends to defray any expenses (eg. rental fees for sports venues/equipments, snacks etc), would it?

Terence said...

To Blogter and Anon.

On Seperate terms and special status:

I will categorically say that I don't believe clergy men are 'above mortals' and deserve special status. Why I keep emphasizing 'seperate terms' is not because I see clergy men as somehow having 'the mandate from God' to be above the law.

Clergy men are still human, and the need for transparency is crucial. Nevetheless, if the Church's use of funds is to be governed, it should not be governed on similar terms as charities. That's my point. 'Seperate' terms does not imply 'superior' terms.

On offering and freewill:

My mistake :-)

On children and offering:

Obtaining permission from parents is an administrative matter. It's just like a school requesting parent's signature for an excursion. Pastors on the platform just don't preach about the minute details of church operation.

Yes, churches do want to avoid trouble with parents. But Murphy's Law does happen. It's really up to the church leaders to minimise such incidents.

Terence said...

Issues have been raised on churches being run like corporations, with an emphasis on profit-making.

Is profit-making really a bad thing?

We have seen the rise of social enterprises in the world. Profits are channeled towards causes that benefit society. The evolution of megachurches could be seen as a reflection of that trend.

The issue is not whether churches are making money out of property investment etc etc., but what is done with the profit? Is it channeled towards the right causes?

Many equate businesses = evil. The impression is that just because churches are run like businesses, therefore their credibility is doubted.

But just like how not all businessmen are ruthless scoundrals, we cannot think that just because churches are run like profit-making enterprises, the pastor therefore is concerned about money rather than practicing religion.

This brings us back to the issue of accountability. Churches do run the risk of turning corrupt. The case for Churches to be monitered remains as strong as ever.

The megachurch is a unique organisation. It functions as a community service provider, a place of spiritual nourishment, a social enterprise, and even a media entity (most megachurches broadcast their services live).

In Singapore, the largest megachurches have more than 10,000 members. You can't run a megachurch like how you run a small church of 50. The offerings and tithes collected from megachurches are substantial. Therefore the need to run the church like a corporate organisation. For example, in CHC, you have various committees and sub committees, legal advisors and external auditors.

But the most unique aspect of the church is that it functions as a family. Believers are taken care of by cell group leaders. It is a community where needs are met, where self-esteem is built and confidence instilled. It's like a giant nursery if you will.

In light of all these challenges, you can see that the church's scope of operation is much larger than any charity organisation.

It takes many hands to clap to prevent corruption in the church. Externally, the media and a demand for checks and transparency play a crucial role. Internally, leaders and members need to be vigilant to ensure that their core values are kept intact, even as the church grows in size and influence.

And myself coming from such a church, i can say that integrity is an quality highly emphasized upon. Only people of proven character are allowed to rise up the leadership ranks. Fraud and deceit will be exposed in due time.

It cannot be hidden.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"It cannot be hidden."

You may be right. After all, Father Skehan and Father Guinan were discovered in the end, for embezzling the church's money.

It took about 42 years, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Wang,

I happen to notice that the picture that you have inserted for this blog happens to suggest that Jesus is gay.

Are you trying to be homourous ?

Blogter said...

"I have no idea why is it that non christians are so interested to meddle with the affairs of the church."

Maybe they just don't like to see their fellow men being conned. Perha[s it's hard for Christians to believe that non Christians have a sense of justice too.

"The stake holders are ok with it. If there is any fraud the stake holders will question their leadership."

There may be a problem with this assumption. Digused stakeholders often just pluck their stakes and vote with their feet, leaving behind the "blur". As years go by, the congregation as a whole becomes more and more "blur". LOL.

"There will be consequences for those who trepass."

This cannot come about when the above scenario comes into play.

"How many christian here actually support regulation by the government?"

Perhaps they belong to the "blur" group as described above.

"How many who wrote against the regulation are church leaders? Non."

Is that right? If so, it makes sense, as they don't want to be seen to be against it.

Blogter

Blogter said...

"...it should not be governed on similar terms as charities. That's my point. 'Seperate' terms does not imply 'superior' terms."

You still have not clarified what the separate terms could be, what the difference would be, and the reason for it.

"Pastors on the platform just don't preach about the minute details of church operation."

They can surely just mention it in passing, no? Advising children not to donate money meant for living expenses from parents is not just a 'minute detail of church operation'. It's actually more than that, it's an ethical issue.

"Yes, churches do want to avoid trouble with parents. But Murphy's Law does happen. It's really up to the church leaders to minimise such incidents."

One rather suspects that some church leaders are aware of the trouble they are causing. Just that their own intersts and agenda prevails over such concerns. After all, they are on the governing board.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Anon October 9, 2007 11:13 AM:

LOL, no. The picture actually depicts a rather well-known Biblical event:

one of the 12 apostles betraying Jesus for 30 silver coins.

If that could happen to Jesus, do you think it's possible that a pastor might also betray the trust of a big bunch of average churchgoers ...

.... for something a lot more than 30 silver coins?

Anonymous said...

"Homourous" indeed.

I feel your pain, Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

Pardon my ignorance.

Given that the picture speaks a thousand words, I would have thought that "seducing" would be more applicable than "betraying".

Anonymous said...

as has been prophesied. brothers shall take up sword against brothers. the rot has always been from within the family whether it's in the guise of religion or godless rule of laws. the infections, as always, are the same except it takes on different shades and forms. the transgression is as old as eden. it is in the elevation of a lower denominator to god like status or in the words of the old shadows, " I will ascend the corporate church of Egypt" " i will covet the seat of moses in the church of barrenness". and thereafter, " i shall rule in the OCCUPIED church of Canaan".

but every STONE shall be thrown down. omega has got NO TEMPLE, nay!

"And Jesus WENT OUT and DEPARTED from the temple. And His disciples came to Him to show Him the BUILDINGS of the temple.

And Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one STONE(?) on another that shall not be THROWN DOWN. "

and in the same passage following,

And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?

And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that NO MAN(singular. the elevated man in office) deceive you.
For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ( or i am the ANOINTED one - office holder), and will deceive many."


and again,

Your pride is brought down to the grave, and the noise of your harps. The maggot is spread UNDER you, and the worms(demons) COVER you.
How you are fallen from the HEAVENS( realm of the spirit), O shining STAR, SON of the morning( the day people)! How you are cut down to the ground( like a serpent in eden), you who WEAKENED THE NATIONS( what have they done so far except contribute to its degeneration)!
For you have said in your heart, I will GO UP to the HEAVENS( spiritual authority), I will exalt my THRONE above the STARS(mature people) of God; I will also sit ON THE MOUNT(high places) of the CONGREGATION(actually, a stupid congregation), in the sides of the north.
I will go up ABOVE the heights of the CLOUDS( the redeemed); I will be like the Most High.
Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the Pit.
Those who see you shall stare and closely watch you, saying, Is this the MAN who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms;
who made the WORLD as a WILDERNESS( spiritual barrenness), and destroyed its CITIES; who did not open the house for his PRISONERS?
All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in GLORY, every one in his OWN HOUSE( own little empires).
But you are cast out of your grave like a hateful BRANCH( the branch of the lord), and like the clothing of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the STONES of the pit; like a dead body trampled under foot( head of the serpent crushed).

Anonymous said...

Quote from terence:

Is profit-making really a bad thing?

No arguments with profit-making being 'bad', but don't you think that they should then be subjected to corporate income tax if they want to make a profit?

Could someone clarify whether, as it is, the property of religious organisations are exempt from property tax?

Anonymous said...

Something Humorous or very Serious depending on Your Perspective.....
from Zeitgeistmovie.com.......
... "That God put dinosaurs on earth to test our faith."

Anyways, no one is saying that megachurches & its leaders are suspect.
Checks and balances are always important and should be in place...always.
And who knows, the congregation may even collect more every weekend if followers feel that temptations are reduced when checks are put in place.
Afterall, religious leaders are mortals too and should not be constantly subjected to temptations.
So actually, no one should feel that Christians are being singled out here. Checks should be applied to the other faiths too.

Christian

Anonymous said...

some families are just so....'holy'. some of these family members are so enamored by their 'elder brother/s' that they dutifully contribute 10% of their income in trust that they will make good use of the money. this practice probably stem from an understanding that their biological father expect a form of 'administrative payment' for pastoral care or for bossing his other siblings around and keeping them 'immature'. granted, some of the advice given are priceless. but to set a aside a day or two each week and sing 'karaoke' with your elder brother in praise of your father etc??? does that constitute family life or just 'passive entertainment'?

maybe, maybe not. but as for me and my family, my elders lead by example and make their own living. everyone in the family knows their place and contribute to sustain community living. in this family, we don't center on a 'star'. in families where 'stars' sibling exist, the family usually collapse when the 'stars' fall from grace. when that happens, family members sometimes becomes orphan in another family or simply abandoned.

as for me and my family, we are held together by our 'word of honor' placed in our hearts. heroes don't need attention because, we showered most of our love and attention on zeros(1cor12:23).

that is the reason why there is no stage of glory for 'heroes'. neither do we need great treasury to do good because, well, it is a close knit family and we take good care of each other by having our priorities right, being contented and living simply.

Desmond said...

Anonymous said...

Desmond, I think it's quite a stretch to say that churches "run the country" in the USA. They actually have separation of church and state enshrined in their constitution, which, unlike the Singapore constitution, means something. Courts routinely strike down things churches there want to do: prayer in public schools, teaching of creationism in schools, public monuments like crosses, etc. All this, in spite of the USA being predominately Christian country, they still manage to maintain secularism. Courts in the US have real teeth, so a few Christian politicians actually have pretty limited power.

------

Are you sure? The Christians have limited power. I have read reports like "US teacher dismissed for urging pupils not to take Bible literally". How about the former Fred Phelps? He was so powerful that he asked the christians "conservatives" to vote against the "liberals". That is also rather well documented.

Christianity has power in USA and it is not because of the repel of christian laws and stuff but the fact that everything this is being done now is to pander to the christian majority.

Anonymous said...

"The megachurch is a unique organisation. It functions as a community service provider, a place of spiritual nourishment, a social enterprise, and even a media entity (most megachurches broadcast their services live)."

Where in the Bible does it say the church should be what you have described?

The physical building is a place of worship and fellowship, not a business organization. The church of God comprises all christians in the world (the super duper mega church) whose main focus in life should be the Great Commission, which, unfortunately, wasn't even mentioned in your list.

Who is the CEO of the church? Jesus or the business savvy pastor? Where in the Bible was there a church that is run like a commercial enterprise? Jesus himself cleared the temple of people carrying out commercial transactions because they were preventing genuine worshippers from coming to worship in the temple. This "megachurch" is doing just that.

Psychotic said...

Megachurches are MLMs in disguise. they should be regulated and their donations must be kept in check.