The annual general meeting that happened yesterday afternoon saw the introduction of new Board members and a lively session of sharing from the floor.
By The City News Team
Executive members of City Harvest Church voted in new members of its Board at its annual general meeting held on the afternoon of Sunday, July 29 at 2.30 p.m. at its Jurong West premises.
The new members to the Board are Aries Zulkarnain, executive pastor of City Harvest Church; Rick Chan, a partner at Mazars LLP with more than 18 years of experience in international public accounting firms; Lee Tat Haur, a senior associate at DDA Resources Architects in Singapore and an adjunct lecturer at various local tertiaryinstitutions,, and Dr Victor Lim, who works in the Ministry of Education.
All the new Board members have been long serving members of the church who have served in various capacities throughout their membership. (Please see box story below for profiles of the new Board members.)
The atmosphere in the basement auditorium of City Harvest Church’s Jurong West was upbeat as over 560 executive members gathered for the AGM.
Due to restrictions imposed by the COC, Kong was unable to attend the AGM.
Nanz Chong-Komo, author and entrepreneur and a 12-year member of CHC said, “Honestly, I am uncomfortable not having Pastor Kong on the Board. His absence is deeply felt, because church is not a corporation, it is a family.”
Such feelings notwithstanding, the executive members were warmly supportive of executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain as he presented the key points for the meeting after a session of praise and worship.
Members each received a copy of the 2010-2011 progress report of the church.
“2010-2011 has been a pretty challenging year for the church,” said Zulkarnain. “However, we thank God for His faithfulness. Even in the midst of this crisis, you guys—the EMs, the leaders, the staff—have worked tirelessly to roll out new initiatives and services to be a blessing to our community.”
CHC’s attendance, the formulation for which has been changed as of 2010 was 22,049 in 2010. In 2011, it dipped to 20,619 but as of June 2012, the congregation size stands at 21,084.
“By the grace of God… we are slightly back on the upswing,” said Zulkarnain.
The different services within CHC worked hard last year and bore good fruit. Chinese Church ended 2011 with an average attendance of 971, and it saw a record 1,667 attendees on its Big Day, Wu Da Huan Xi, in May last year. The Filipino service ended 2011 on a high, with an average service attendance of 176, while the Indonesian service did well, ending the year with 121 attendees.
The Children’s Church ended 2011 with an average attendance of 2,066 children. Last year’s Children Day celebrations drew a total of 7,050 children, a seven percent increase over 2010.
The Dialect church leaders and volunteers ended 2011 with 527 attendees. They held a concert, and 1,081 elderly people turned up. The JAMs church for the intellectually-challenged ended 2011 with 563 attendees.
2011 also saw a total of 12,786 salvations, with 3,989 decisions made during the adult services and 8,797 came from the children’s services. Of these, 63.2 percent are first-time Christians. A total of 713 people were baptized in 2011.
A “Connect Base structure” was introduced to the cell group system of the church last year, to adapt to the changing demographic of the congregation, an increasing number of whom are now young married couples with infants and young children. Given the church’s emphasis on “building relationships” during this season, this change worked to strengthen connections among members.
“In June 2012, based on the Connect Base, 12,582 people were connected to us regularly on a monthly basis,” Zulkarnain announced. “Of these, 10,925 attended cell group meetings at least once a month.”
Keeping Up The Good Work
Despite the current circumstances, CHC continued its missions work without skipping a beat. The CHC movement, which includes CHC and all its related churches, now has a total attendance of 48,447.
“We had a total of 47 affiliate churches in 2011,” said Zulkarnain. “In 2012, we welcomed another two more Japanese churches to our movement, making it a total of 49 affiliate churches. Our affiliate churches are also growing, and they ended 2011 with a total of 27,828 attendees.”
In 2011, senior pastor Kong Hee ministered in 203 services in 11 countries, reaching 368,565 people. CHC’s pastors and pastoral staff traveled to conduct a total of 627 sessions to 63,864 attendees. Members were highly involved in mission trips last year, with 705 of them partnering church workers on 297 mission trips in 2011.
The School of Theology had an enrolment of 517 students in 2011, making the cumulative student intake since 1994 a total of 5,480.
On home ground, student from CHC fared above Singapore’s national average at the GCE ‘N’,‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels in 2011.
The average age of the City Harvester is now 30, with 42.6 percent of the church aged between 25 and 45. “We are an aging church,” quipped the executive pastor.
CHC has worked harder in its online social media efforts in the past year, with effective results.
It was revealed that “our webcast viewership has seen an increase in 2011, and 449,572 viewers watched our webcast service over the Internet.”
CHC currently has 10,265 followers on its Twitter account (@chcsg), 26,887 Likes on Facebook, and 544 followers on Instagram. Since it launched its iPhone app in April this year, the app has had 23,642 installations, and an Android version is in the pipelines. City Radio, the church’s online radio station, gets an average of 70,591 hits a month.
On Investments And Financial Statements
Last weekend (July 21 and 22), the church had been presented with the news of its increased stake in Suntec Singapore.
Yesterday, Board member and investment committee chairman Dr Francis Tay answered some questions about the Suntec investment, including how the return on investment is projected to increase, so “that the returns from investment will be able to largely cover the rental costs in time.”
On the question of the S$180 million that will be spent on the asset enhancement initiative Suntec Singapore has embarked on, Tay explained that “the AEI of $180 million budget will be fully financed with bank borrowings. (Suntec REIT announces remaking of Suntec City, 31 Oct 2011). Thus, this will not increase our total project cost of S$310 million.”
On other financial matters, the EMs were told that due to the surrounding circumstances, the Finance Department and the auditors have to prepare their accounts and carry out their audit in the Commercial Affairs Department which was a more time consuming process.
The Board met with the auditors on June 29, 2012 to expedite the process and the auditors estimate it should be completed within three months. “Once the financial statements are finalized, we will hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to present the accounts,” said Tay. He added that the Board had resolved to continue with Baker Tilly TFW LLP as the church’s auditors.
The Executive Members Speak Up
The liveliest session of the afternoon proved to be the last item on the agenda, which was to discuss and vote on motions tabled by the EMs. There were a total of five motions proposed by the EMs.
Three of them proposed that the COC’s approval be sought for the church to fund the legal fees, court fees and other related fees incurred by the accused persons, and in the event such financial support was not approved, that a private fund or account be set up for members to give into.
Another EM proposed that an appeal be made to the COC for the reinstatement of the suspended members to the exercise of their office or employment; and if this could not be approved, that the said members could at least be on paid leave so that their families would not be “unreasonably affected by a loss of income over a potentially long period.”
One proposed a vote of confidence for the six leaders and three suspended members, while another proposed that the Crossover Project be fully supported by the church financially, and that the Board be authorized to expend money annually as required and retrospectively.
Zulkarnain was visibly touched by the strong support by these executive members, and thanked them for their love and concern and for writing in.
However, he explained that “as a church, we are not allowed to endorse any mass demonstrations by the members, nor would we flout the rules laid down by the COC or the law. Doing so will only have the opposite effect on the church, and reflect negatively on Pastor Kong and the leaders.”
He assured the EMs that “we have been in constant dialogue with the COC in trying to resolve some of these issues and hopefully gain a common understanding and reach an acceptable position on some of these matters.”
“As such,” he continued, “although we are obliged to notify the EMs that these motions have been proposed, the Board has deliberated on each of these motions and regret to inform the EMs (who sent in the motions) that we would not be able to put them to a vote.”
He went on to explain the various reasons for this.
On the reinstatement of the nine individuals, he said, “As it is, we have confirmation from the COC that both Pastor Kong Hee and Pastor Tan Ye Peng can continue to offer their religious services in CHC. The COC has also consented to Sun continuing to serve as a volunteer counselor and conduct her counseling sessions in the office of CHC.” Any appeals for reinstatement have to be put forth by the individuals themselves.
On the issue of paid leave, Zulkarnain explained that “we are in consultation with our advisors and engaging the COC on the possibility that they be placed either on paid leave, or receive compensation even though they are on suspension. If (this is) not possible, we will seek approval for some financial assistance to be provided to them by the Church, similar to how we provide assistance to all our members in financial difficulty.”
On the setting up of a fund to cover the legal costs of the accused persons and/or support their families, the executive pastor explained, “The COC has expressly prohibited the Church from using any funds of the Church to assist in the defense of the individuals. So, as a church, we cannot and should not use church funds or raise funds on their behalf.”
He added that, “However, we did raise this query to the COC. They told us that while CHC should not be involved or set up a specific fund for this purpose, individuals can do so, so long as they comply with the legal requirements on fundraising.” In other words, members of the church may provide financial assistance to these six individuals on a personal basis, but CHC cannot be involved at all.
On the vote of confidence, Zulkarnain explained that “the Board feels that it would not be advisable for the Church to take a formal vote of confidence for these individuals, as this may be seen as an attempt by the Church to interfere with the ongoing Court proceedings.”
Finally, on the motion to fund the Crossover Project from the general fund of the church, he responded: “The Crossover Project is a core mission of the church and we will continue our charitable work to spread the hope of the Gospel to non-believers, as well as provide help and assistance to the less fortunate in our society. It is again not appropriate to vote on an issue which is being considered by the court. However, we will look into it again in the future, depending on the outcome of the proceedings, and at that time, we will then deliberate on this motion.”
What ensued was an outpouring of verbal support and testimony from more than a dozen EMs, with loud applause and cheers and raised hands as each speaker shared from his or her heart.
Many wanted a message to be sent to Kong Hee and the five, to emphasize their support and their belief in them. “We believe these six have sought the best for the Kingdom of God; we believe no funds were taken,” said Asher Lum. “As EMs, we want to send a statement internally to the church that the EMs trust and support Pastor Kong and all of them,” added Stanley Quek.
Shane Chiang, who has been a member of the church since its early days, said, “The Crossover started with a vision and with that vision there was a strategy. We sent Sun and some of our pastors far and wide to fulfill that vision. It’s not her career, this is our Crossover.” His statement drew loud applause.
Wong Kon How drew laughter when he said, “Well, since we can’t vote, then we shall express.” A member of the church for 15 years, he said, “The Crossover is a mission work, and it has met its objectives. I propose to officially state that the Crossover Project is a missions project, for church funds to be used for the Crossover mission.”
It was perhaps Lynn Tan’s words that struck the deepest chords. “The reason we could have Emerge Conference (the church’s youth conference) today is because Pastor Kong was a youth—he was 25—when we started. What we do today will determine the future of CHC, to further the work of God through this church. We’re told this case is against the individuals, but as Scripture says, we may be different members, but we are one body.”
The unity of the EMs was palpable. “I sensed love and loyalty, unity and peace,” said Celine Lavigne, a member of the church for 14 years. “My three children are so blessed to grow up in this church. My husband and I are always lamenting that if only we had a church like this when we were growing up, our lives would be so different. We are super privileged to be part of CHC.”
Vincent Ong, who has been with the church for 10 years, said, “Throughout the meeting, I could feel a strong atmosphere of faith and unity among the members. It’s uplifting to see that our EMs are all in one heart and one accord, even in the midst of current trials. Many of our lives have been positively impacted by Pastor Kong and the leaders. Our trust in them is born out of years of relationship that has gone through the test of time.”
CHC’S NEW BOARD MEMBERS
Rev. Aries Zulkarnain is one of the founding member of City Harvest Church. He hails from Jakarta, Indonesia, where he was born and raised in a Christian family.
From 1990 to 1995, Zulkarnain was the director of a successful family-owned business before answering the call to serve God full-time in Singapore.
Today, he is the Executive Pastor in City Harvest Church, overseeing eight zones and personally leading a zone of more than 1,500 people. Other than pastoring the English congregation, he is also the pastor of CHC Indonesian Service. To date, he has trained more than 150 cell group leaders and is still actively involved in leadership training and discipleship. He also heads the TV and Internet Media department in the church.
He is married to Sandy, and they have two sons.
Rick Chan Hock Leong has worshiped in CHC since 1998. He is a graduate of the School Of Theology. He served as a CGL from 2002-2007. He is currently serving on the Board of City College and CHCSA. He has also served on the CHC Audit Committee since 2010.
He is now a partner at Mazars LLP with more than 18 years of experience in International Public Accounting firms, including the Big 4 in Singapore and Malaysia for SMEs, MNCs and public listed companies.
Chan has extensive audit and assurance experience spanning a range of industries including public companies, multinational, not-for-profit organizations and the private sector. He is a Fellow member of The Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (FCCA) and a practising member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore.
He is married to Jasmine, and they have two children.
Lee Tat Haur has been a Christian since 1991, and attended CHC since 1995. He is a cell group leader, and also heads the CHC Japanese fellowship group. He has served in the CHC Building Committee since 2010.
Tat Haur has a Bachelor of Architecture (Honours) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University and a Master of Architecture and Building Engineering degree from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
He previously served on the CHC Board from Dec. 2, 2006 till 2010. Tat Haur is a senior associate at DDA Resources Architects in Singapore and an adjunct lecturer at various local tertiary institutions.
He is married to Naomi.
Dr Victor Lim has worshipped in CHC since 1998. He served as a cell group leader for 10 years (from 2000 to 2010). Victor is a founding member of CityCare and has sat on its board since 2007. He has also served on CHC’s Human Resource Committee since 2010.
Lim was awarded the Singapore Public Service Commission Scholarship (Teaching) for his Bachelors of Arts with Honours and the National University of Singapore Research Scholarship under the accelerated masters program for his Master of Arts. He was also awarded the Singapore Ministry of Education Postgraduate Scholarship and the National University of Singapore Research Scholarship for his Doctor of Philosophy. He is currently a civil servant.
He is married to Yvonne, and they have three children.