A recent news report on citation issues in Kong Hee’s materials omitted some corrective actions that are currently underway. Here are the facts.
Contributed By The City News Team
The local newspapers ran an article on Kong Hee, founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church, reporting that “he allegedly used copied material in his books and website.” The article was published on Saturday, June 12.
Proof of plagiarism is found in the form of two books—Renewing Your Spiritual Life In 90 Days, Volumes One and Two, in which no citation was given. The same content was subsequently reproduced in a section on Kong’s website(www.konghee.com) entitled Daily Devotion. At the end of the section is a line that reads—“The Devotion on this website is non-commercial in nature and meant solely for the believer’s personal edification.”
Kong was quick to recognize and acknowledge that whether his works were commercial or not, citations were necessary. On May 27, Kong included a message (see side story for full message) in his website stating that he was recently made aware that the materials did not contain credit references to original sources, and since March this year, his editorial team has been in the process of crediting the original sources of the portions of text in question.
The devotions were originally meant for internal circulation among CHC members when it first came out in 2005, as stated in the message. While some of the content have been compiled from outside resources, a significantly large percentage of the materials originated from Kong himself, stemming from his personal prayer time and Bible study, as well as his extensive ministry experience.
Said Kong, “The devotions were put together to encourage the church members and help them along as they read the Bible daily throughout the year. When the oversight was first brought to my attention, I considered taking the Daily Devotion series out from the website. However, some members have written in to say that the devotions have blessed their walk with God. We’ve taken measures to do what is necessary to put things right.”
One such example is portions that were taken from “The Leadership Bible, New International Version.” In March 2010, Kong’s editorial team wrote to publisher Zondervan Publishing House to seek permission to reprint these portions in the Daily Devotion. The Leadership Bible is authored/edited by Sid Buzzell, Kenneth Boa and Bill Perkins. Permission was granted by the publishers the following month, stating that “since [the request to reprint] falls under our fair use guidelines (you are using less than 500 words), Zondervan is happy to grant permission at no charge.”
Another publisher, Harvest House also granted permission for Kong to use a paragraph in the Daily Devotion that was taken from American author Neil Anderson’s book, Daily In Christ.
A staff member in CHC’s editorial department stated that “every effort is being made to rectify this oversight, but the process may take a while. With regards to the printed books, we’ve contacted the local publisher to recall all copies of the books on sale at Christian bookstores and we’ve been advised that the book has run out of print. No plans are made for re-print, in which case, proper citation and referencing would definitely be in order.”
Daniel Mun, 37, an engineering program manager says, “I was shocked to read the headlines, but I have been in this church for 20 years and I know my pastor well—he is not someone who would deliberately fail to give credit. It is more likely to have been an administrative oversight.”
Long-time church member Shelia Ee, a regional brand executive affirms, “Pastor Kong has admitted to the oversight with regards to the lack of references in the materials. To me, it’s a non-issue. The daily devotions have helped me in my spiritual growth as a Christian.”
Says Goh Khong Wee, a business owner who started attending CHC since the early ‘90s “The Daily Devotion series have helped to strengthen my faith and my walk with God. I am thankful that it’s been made available for Christians all around the world to access. Till today, I still check the website, hoping that the devotionals will continue to be updated.”
Cherie Tan, a designer who joined the church in 2002, felt that plagiarism is a serious issue and it is wrong. However, she adds, since Kong had made a statement about the issue and given a public apology in his website, it’s time to move on from here.
This message was posted on Kong Hee’s website regarding the lack of citation in the Daily Devotion series.
A WORD FROM ME …
Recently, it was brought to my attention that in certain entries of the Daily Devotion series, my sources were not properly credited.
These devotions were written many years ago as an inspirational aid to encourage CHC members to read through the Bible at least once. They consist of notes that I have recorded through the years detailing reflections from my own spiritual journey, as well as select readings of other Christian authors who inspire me.
This series was originally meant only for internal circulation among the members of my church. As such, there was an oversight in not quoting the sources of some portions that borrow from the writings of other Christian authors. A section of the series was subsequently compiled by a local publisher into two books, Renewing Your Spiritual Life in 90 Days (Vol. 1) and (Vol. 2). I recognize that we could have been more careful to credit any source of inspiration used. Since we were informed about our oversight in March this year, we have been in the process of properly crediting, to the best of our efforts, the original sources of the entries in question on the website edition of Daily Devotion. The hardcopy editions of these publications are now out of print. The Daily Devotion series is only available free-of-charge on my website.
There was never any intention to give readers the impression that the entire contents were written by me. I do apologize for this oversight in the Daily Devotion and Renewing Your Spiritual Life in 90 Days (Vol. 1) and (Vol. 2) publications.
Thanks for your continuing love and support,
27 May 2010