There is a competition and obsession amongst pastors to build the mega churches. It may come from different denominations but the rhetoric is the same and it goes like this. “Half the urban population is under 30. They are swarmed by declining moral values, fast paced lifestyle and incredible demands of their time and priorities. To reach out to the next generation, we are building a 3000-seater church, equipped with media center, sports facilities, a training center. Let us sow into the next generation. Let’s give our best to honor God.”
Let us examine the obsession with building mega churches and lavish furnishing in the name of glorifying God. Let us put in biblical perspective. Where did this idea stem from?
It was King David who first thought of building a grand building for God, albeit in my opinion a conceited one despite his good intention. This is what David said:
2 Sam 7.1 Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.”
However, this is what the LORD said:
2Sam 7:5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.
It is clear The LORD has no desire or idea to have a “mega” building because it cannot add to His glory nor does it add to His enjoyment or satisfaction, for God is in Perfect existence. How can a building made by the created bring glory to the Creator? God eventually “ALLOWED” the building of the temple as a condescension to human needs and desire for a visible dwelling place for God. The proof is that God “ALLOWED” the temple to be destroyed by the Babylonians, and even the second temple built by Herod was destroyed by the Romans. The prophets and Jesus foretold the destruction. If these earthly monuments can in anywhere enhance or bring glory to God would He “ALLOWED” them to be destroyed? Just look at the incredibly beautiful and expensive churches in Europe and around the world, a large number of which have only a few worshipers, are they glorifying God or “mock” God because of the lack of worshipers? One very good example is the Methodist Central Hall in Birmingham, which was converted to a night club in 1991…I have been there, it saddens me to the core. It is a magnificent building, but does it glorify God or “mock” God?
Did the leaders and people who built those building not have zeal and passion? Were they not sold out for God and wanting only to glorify God? Did the people not give sacrificially and enthusiastically for the building? Were the people not absolutely sure that the building will serve the people and expand the Kingdom of God? Were they not thinking of the future generation when they built such a huge building? The answer all these questions is YES!But what a WASTE! How many lives could be touched, reached and helped with their sacrifice.
BAV and his like minded people is thinking exactly the same today! BAV argument goes like this: the buildings and facilities serve the people, I am passionate about loving and serving the people, so I must be passionate and committed to “serve” the building that serve the people. We must give sacrificially and invest sacrificially in building to serve the present and future generations, our children and youth. Sounds logical, sounds passionate and full of zeal, sounds like that is the only thing we should do, sounds charismatic and a man of faith and vision, sounds like a clarion call of God, sounds like trumpet and shofar. Is it? To me it sounds like the voice of SATAN all over again!
People of God, we need buildings not monuments, we need facilities not concert hall, we need transportation not luxury travel, we need office and communication equipments not the latest from Samsung or Apple, we need salary not profit sharing (bonus is profit sharing), we need pastors and friends not CEO (chief executive officer), COO (chief operating officer) or manager.
People who question the wisdom of building an expensive house of worship is often refuted with the story of Mary breaking the alabaster jar, pouring all the perfume on Jesus’ feet and washing it with her tears and hair. Judas pointed out the perfume, which is worth a year’s wages, could have been sold and given to the poor. “For God, nothing is too expensive,” the fundraising clergy would argue. Does God dwell in expensive buildings? The more lavish the building, the more it pleases God? If this were true, then God must detest house churches in China and church with mud floors in our Sabah interior!
The church and the people of God need to REFOCUS! Jesus said, (Luke 11:34) Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Our eyes need to focus on the Lord Jesus, the source of light, so that the body of Christ, the church, may have light!
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
God desires to dwell in men and women who are humble, contrite in spirit and trembles at his Word–not in marbles, bricks, stones and concrete. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are we fit for his dwelling?
Seventeen days had passed since the four emails were published in this blog. As expected, neither Bishop Albert Vun nor Dean Chak replied. If the emails were fabricated they would have come charging with a strong denial. So what are the repercussions of these emails?
1. The Church Lost Her Voice
All of us witnessed the fraud, manipulation, racism in the recent general election. Other religious bodies, churches and denominations can be a voice of conscience at this time. Our Diocese however cannot speak up against such darkness because she is mired in the same problems and lost trust of the people. So what is the use of salt when it losses it saltiness?Dean Chak had lost the ability to pray together with the choir before the service started–a cherished ASC tradition. The giving of ASC was around RM150,000 in April 2013, down from RM285,000 monthly average in 2011.
2. Blaming the Whistleblower
Dean Chak is playing the victim and blaming the whistleblower. His hypocrisy makes Chua Soi Lek looks like an angel. When a clandestine video proved his infidelity, the MCA politician resigned and took time to mend his marriage. Dean Chak on the other hand just ignore his immorality. What a sad day when a non-believing politician (a tax collector in New Testament context) has the conscience to do the right thing, while a senior priest donned in white robs does not. How long can Dean Chak continues to hide from church members? BAV’s priority, the tithing and offering of ASC, slides to RM150,000 in April, down from the RM285,000 average in 2011. ASC struggles to pay its assessment to the Diocese.Meanwhile, when confronted by church members Rev. Sim Ka Seng replied he did not follow Bishop Albert Vun’s instructions in the email.
3. Does HOB Still Have a Conscience?
It is a widely held view HOB will not act against another fellow Bishop. Bishop Moses Tay is not here to address the issues–which to many is clear cut–but to shore up support for BAV. It is unclear whether these emails will awake the conscience of HOB and open their eyes to see the real Bishop Albert Vun.The Management Letter was discredited and the PAC report deemed biased. Now we have heard from directly from the horse’s mouth. What HOB does next will tell us a lot about the Bishops in our province.
Another batch of emails will be revealed soon to show the masquerade at play at Wisma Anglican.
Last night we have seen Dean Chak Sen Fen’s emails to Bishop Albert Vun. The shocking revelation shows us there is another side to the neutral, honest, pious and humble facade Dean Chak works so hard to portray to members of All Saints Cathedral. He was away in the Holy Land while the AGM was set in motion. He appointed James Chhoa and PCC to revamp the voting system. For so long he appeared to be far away from the manipulation of the AGM many priests, pastors and ASC staff had been suspected of. Chak’s emails reveal hypocrisy, manipulation and dishonesty of the highest order. Who had thought the Dean of our Cathedral could stoop so low? Tonight, you will see someone went even lower.
Here are two emails from BAV.
The suspicion BAV runs the Diocese remotely during his sabbatical is proven by his own emails. Who is the real Dean of All Saints Cathedral? Who pulls the string at ASC? The answer is clear from the four emails published here.
This blog hereby:
- charges Bishop Albert Vun and Dean Chak Sen Fen for dividing the church, pitting the one congregation against another.
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for misleading BM, Chinese and 10:30am congregation that certain members are “troublemakers” when all BAV and Dean Chak wanted was total control of the PCC.
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for manipulating the election by campaigning for their favoured candidates, abusing their authority as leaders, their time and resources in church employment to subvert the unity of the church and slander the reputation certain church members
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for manipulation bordering WITCHCRAFT by advocating “pray and act forcefully”. Were you not forcing the hand of God and manipulating the will of the people to fit your agenda? Is God’s hand to short to help you BAV & Dean Chak that you have to resort to manipulation? Do you not trust the Holy Spirit to convict before people vote? Or do you think you know better than the Holy Spirit?
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for reducing church leadership to a totally political one, forgetting the church is a spiritual entity, the Bride of Christ
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for systematically removing church leaders who advocate transparency and accountability
- charges BAV for coverups when he told his employees to “delete this email after reading it”
- names Rev. Sim Ka Seng, Rev. Lin Khee Vun, Pastor Jemmie Pitah, Pastor Flora Chong as co-conspiritors in the plot to manipulate ASC’s AGM
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for abusing their spiritual office by “guiding” the BM congregation how to vote instead of teaching them to seek the Holy Spirit’s conviction before they vote.
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for demeaning the intellect of the BM congregation to suggest they need “guiding” on how to vote
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for treating the BM, Chinese & 10:30am congregations as pawns in their quest for total control
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for violating the sacredness and freewill of balloting, conducted in the house of God no less
- charges BAV and Dean Chak for being HYPOCRITES. You have put control up an appearance of piety and detachment over the affairs of ASC yet on the contrary you have engineered the AGM cynically and behind-the-scene to fit your agenda
- charges Dean Chak for being a puppet of BAV as it is proven that you are under the control of Bishop Albert Vun. We may have a different Dean but the SAME person is in charge of All Saints Cathedral
- challenges BAV and Dean Chak to PROVE how some of the candidates have plans to control the finances of ASC, failing which BAV and Dean Chak should publish a public apology, nullify the election, and recall a fresh election of PCC
To the House of Bishop and Bishop Moses Tay, this is what your solution has brought us. May the blood be upon your heads. BAV has shown no desire for reconciliation and reform, only determination to systematically remove from leadership people who advocate transparency, accountability and reform.
Bishop Moses Tay, you have been suggesting to many people the PAC report and Management Letter were biased. Now read for yourself the very words of your beloved protege. They are not written by the PAC, honorary auditor or anyone else, but Bishop Albert Vun himself. Now tell us how this man is still fit to be a spiritual leader, let alone the Bishop of Sabah.
[Speaking to the Pharisees and scribes Jesus said,] You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15: 7-11, ESV)
What has come out of the mouths of Bishop Albert Vun and Dean Chak Sen Fen?
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1-3)
(UPDATED: All videos are available now)
Here the COMPLETE set of 5-part videos recorded from the Dialogue with Bishop Albert Vun on 15 October 2012, at All Saints Cathedral. All the videos are UNCUT. Follow these viewing instructions:
1. Click PLAY
2. When the movie started playing, click PAUSE.
3. Wait for the movie to load completely before you click PLAY again.
4. It may take up to 60 mins to load & stream the video. Or you can download them for offline viewing.
Uncut PART 1 (approx. 40 mins),
click PLAY to stream immediately or right click to DOWNLOAD to your computer
Uncut PART 2 (approx. 40 mins)
click PLAY to stream immediately or right click to DOWNLOAD to your computer
Uncut PART 3 (approx. 50 mins),
click PLAY to stream immediately or right click to DOWNLOAD to your computer
Uncut PART 4 (approx. 30 mins),
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Uncut PART 5 (approx. 30 mins),
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Last night, 130 Anglican members from All Saints Cathedral, Christ Church Likas, Good Samaritan Church & Christ The King, gathered at the Pavilion of All Saints Cathedral. People started to trickled in at 7:30pm. It started with 10-20 people and swelled to 130 after 8pm. A few asked if the meeting with the Bishop was on. Some looked hesitant and afraid to gather, as if they were taking part in an illegal activity. An elderly lady spoke out in a firm voice, “Do not fear for God has not given you a spirit of fear.”
I thought that was an interesting observation. Why were people afraid to sit around in the Cathedral, the house of God? Why should people be afraid when they only wanted to dialogue and listen to the Bishop? In a healthy home, or relationship, there should not be such deep fear to engage and dialogue with one another.
All Saints Cathedral’s People’s Warden, James Chhoa, told everyone the Bishop called off the meeting at 3pm, citing the meeting had been hijacked (referring to the advertisement in Daily Express). With the short notice, not everyone could be informed of the sudden cancellation. Several people voiced their concerns of the crisis as they see no end to it. Some asked questions about the ordination and the process of approving a candidate. One person suggested to call Bishop Albert Vun and invite him to the meeting, a second chance to the Bishop to change his mind to engage his members rather than to avoid them. James Chhoa called but the Bishop did not answer his phone.
Several young church staff sat at the fringe of the Pavilion, likely to be compiling a dossier for their seniors. Why would the Bishop need a dossier? We were there longing to bare our hearts to him, and hear his explanation. If he had come, he would have heard the message from our hearts, not a from a dossier compiled by his young scouts.
At the end, James Chhoa, urged the group to pray for the Provincial Advisory Committee and the House of Bishop. He said he submitted his will to the decision of the House of Bishop that whatever they decide, he would abide. The meeting ended with prayers from James Chhoa and Rev. Clarence Fu. I was moved to hear cries for reconciliation and healing in the prayers. You would expect them to call down judgement against the Bishop, yet it was an intercession for mercy, grace, healing and divine guidance, and acknowledgement that Christ is the head of the church. The gathering ended at about 9:30pm.
While we could not see or dialogue with the Bishop, we have come and met each other. Clearly it wasn’t 5 people who were complaining.
p/s Special thanks to Just Liew for the photos. Keep them coming!
Following the investigation of the Advisory Committee into Bishop Albert Vun and the criminal charges against Pastor Kong Hee, I am seeing a lot of these statements of support for both men. I’ve compiled the most common ones to determine its truthfulness.
“Do not judge, less you be judged. God is the final judge.”
Why do people insist that only God can judge them? Are they superior to the rest of the human population that normal rules do not apply to them? If we cannot obey/respect laws of the land, can we be expected to obey/respect laws of our God whom we cannot see?
This statement is often used to shutdown debates and imply only God can judge the “anointed”. This argument is faulty.
In the first sentence, “judge” refers to being self righteous and judgmental in condemning another. It DOES NOT mean we can’t make a judgement call. We make dozens of judgement call everyday. Where should I go for lunch? Is this set lunch overpriced? Is this car park safer than the other? Which candidate should I hire? Can we make these judgements or do we wait till Christ come again to be the final judge of these matters? Judgements calls are made by comparing facts, information and our experience. Thus we can discern based on the facts presented by all parties.
God is the final judge because he is the only judge that is ALL KNOWING. Does it mean nobody else can judge apart from God? If judges are expected to be ALL KNOWING, then the world will not have any legal system at all! Judges, whilst limited in their knowledge (as compared to God almighty), can still mete out judgements based on knowledge and facts on the specific cases presented to them.
“Anyone can say anything but they cannot take away the fact the countless whose lives were transformed as a result of the ministry!”
Two issues here. One, changed lives & salvation as a result of the minister’s work. Two, whether the minister is guilty of wrongdoing or not.
What bring sinners to salvation and repentance? The conviction of the Holy Spirit. Ministers are only vessels through which the Holy Spirit flows and does his work. No matter how life changing their sermons, ministries and prayers are, the ministers are not GOD. To blindly insist a leader is infallible & innocent despite incriminating facts is to do the Christian community a great disservice. This is no longer a family crisis. The whole world is watching how the Anglican church of Sabah resolve this mess. What will they see? People who are naive, gullible, with shallow understanding of God’s word? People who are bitter & vengeful? Or people who are determined to be righteous, wise and godly during a very painful time?
Now are we arguing a minister used by the Holy Spirit to save thousands of lives cannot be guilty of criminal breach of trust? Check the annals of church history and we will find a long list of fallen leaders.
Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“I’m praying God to protect you from the attacks of the evil one who is trying to stop you from doing God’s work.”
Our Bishop is in trouble not because of persecution over the Gospel.
Our Bishop is in trouble not because of doing the work of God.
Our Bishop is in trouble not because attacks by Satan.
Our Bishop is in trouble for allegedly circumventing good governance and accountability.
“Five troublemakers made wild allegations against the Bishop. That’s why there is an investigation.”
Read the Archbishop’s letter CAREFULLY and SLOWLY. You will find the accusers and accused had 2 opportunities to submit their written case and argument to the Archbishop. After studying and deliberating over these written statements from both parties, the House of Bishops initiated the investigation.
Do you think the House of Bishops would investigate a fellow bishop based on hearsay? Wake up people. This is serious. Pray earnestly the Advisory Committee will do their investigation with fear of the Lord, righteousness, integrity. Pray for the church to focus on Jesus when all else seems to crumble. Pray for truth to come forth from this investigation.
There are a lot of angry Anglicans in Sabah. Yet what are we angry about? What are the real issues? Here is a list of issues that questions the integrity of Bishop Albert Vun, who is also the Dean of All Saints Cathedral:
Conflict of Interests
1. Did the Bishop rent his house in Sunway to the rector of FCC for the last 10-12 years? Why is FCC renting only from the Bishop?
2. Did the Bishop rent his house in Taman King Fisher to Rev. Yong Thiam Choy during Yong’s tenure as the priest in-charge of Christ The King?
3. Did the Bishop sell his family land to the Diocese? Did he recluse himself from the meeting that decided the selling price? Is he not both the buyer and seller in this transaction? Is it not conflict of interests?
4. Did the Bishop shut down a profitable All Saints kindergarten and his wife Mary later started the All Saints Academy?
5. Did All Saints Academy (ASA) receive RM160,000 from All Saints Cathedral? Was ASA subsequently moved under the Diocesan Mission Fund, a fund governed directly by the Bishop’s office? Is the Bishop’s wife is running a school, directly funded by her husband’s office and without the oversight of a board? Does ASA has an audited account to show for the period it is under the Mission Fund?
6. The Bishop purchased an expensive vehicle, Alphard. Did he purchase it with PRIOR approval from the Standing Committee?
7. All Saints Cathedral ran into a deficit of nearly RM1.2 million between 2010 & 2011. This is equivalent to 40 years of salary for the average wage earner. Can the Bishop, who is also the Dean of All Saints Cathedral, explain how this deficit came about? Can the Bishop tell us when the last time any Anglican church in Sabah accumulated a deficit of RM1.2 million?
8. In light of the RM1.2 million deficit, why did the Bishop who is also the Dean, chose not to attend All Saints Cathedral’s AGM on April 2012? His absence left a lot of questions unanswered and many members seeking accountability confused and angered.
9. Why did the Diocese buy a piece of land in Sipitang at an inflated price? Did the Bishop obtain any valuation report prior to sanctioning the purchase?
10. Did the Bishop at any point willfully under declare the selling price of a property and did so by engaging the service of a non-Christian lawyer?
11. Why was Philip Lo–without a theological degree–ordained a priest despite written protestation from the members? When was the other time the Diocese of Sabah ordained a priest without a recognized theological degree?
12. Is it true All Saints Cathedral PCC comprises of 10 elected members, and 16 clergy and staff who are co-opted? Is it prudent governance to have employees outnumbering elected members? Is there another Anglican church that has such composition of PCC?
13. All properties of the Diocese within Sabah are registered to the office of the Bishop of Sabah, NOT under the personal name of the Bishop. When the Diocese bought a property in Thailand for the mission work there, it was purchased under the name of Albert Vun Cheong Fui. Is this the standard procedure when the Diocese purchase properties overseas? Is it prudent to buy properties with church funds and register them under the personal name of the Bishop? How can the Diocese ensure the property is transferred from Albert Vun Cheong Fui back to the Diocese at the event of retirement, resignation or death?
14. The Bishop renovated the Bishop’s lodge 6 years ago. How much did the renovation cost? Is there an account for this? Has the Bishop presented the account of the renovation to Standing Committee?
Breach of Trust
15. When the congregation donate into the Diocesan Mission Fund it is with explicit intend of supporting missionary work of the Diocese of Sabah. Today, All Saints Academy & Faith Academy are financed by the Diocesan Mission Fund. Did the Bishop break the trust of the people by using the Mission Fund for purpose other than mission work?
16. During the tenure of Bishop Albert Vun, had he ever used funds (ie Mission Fund, Building Fund, Vocation Sunday offering, Welfare Fund) for purposes other than the original intent for which the funds was raised?
17. Did the Bishop declare from the pulpit that anyone who had not attended the church for the last six months would not be buried in Anglican cemeteries? Has this become policy for all burials in the Diocese of Sabah?
18. Why did the Bishop tell the whole Diocese, “This is not an investigation team but an Advisory Committee” in his Pastoral Letter, when Archbishop’s letter stated the Advisory Committee is tasked to investigate the allegations, including re-auditing the Diocese and All Saints Cathedral’s accounts from 2006?
19. The letter from Archbishop was addressed to also to the PCC of All Saints Cathedral. Most of them & most of the clergy hadn’t seen it until it was published on this blog. Why?
“If members are not clear about anything happening in the Diocese, they can speak to their Priest or Pastor who will be able to clear things up for them,” the Bishop wrote on May 27. The Bishop has labelled his critics “slanderous” and “traitors”. You shouldn’t come to a conclusion by reading this blog only. Verify the facts. Remain respectful while we seek transparency and accountability. PRINT this page and seek your priest or the Bishop to answer all the questions here.
Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church was arrested and charged for criminal breach of trust, allegedly misappropriating S$50 million. It is a very sad day for Christians. While he remains innocent until proven guilty, there is no joy to see a high profile Christian leader hauled into the court. See this statement from the Commissioner of Charities that outlined their case against Kong Hee.
As I follow the news of Kong Hee, I find some discomforting similarities between allegations against Kong Hee & those against Bishop Albert Vun. See these 4 charges by the Commissioner of Charities against Kong Hee:
1. Misrepresentation on the Use of the Church’s Funds
Kong Hee: Got into trouble for allegedly transferring money from the building fund to support Crossover Project a.k.a. his wife’s singing career. Between 2007-2010, S$23 of church funds were used for this purpose but the Executive Members were not told of this.
Bishop Albert Vun: Transferred nearly RM160,000 from All Saint Cathedral to the All Saints Academy, run by his wife, Mary. After receiving the money, ASA now comes under the Diocesan Mission Fund. The school operates without a board. Since being “parked” under the Diocesan Mission Fund, the school has not produced an account to show its revenue and expenditure. Does any All Saints Cathedral PCC members know how this sum of money is spent?
What about the losses in the failed mission in Beijing? How was money spent? How much was lost? Is there an account to show the in flow and outflow of money? Will the Diocese recover any of the losses?
2. Moving of money
Kong Hee: Moved money from church’s building fund and offering to a private fund called the Multi-Purpose Account (MPA) to support the Crossover Project. Amongst other things the Multi-Purpose Account funded a U$20,000 monthly rental Sun Ho’s accommodation in LA and regular business/first class travelling for Kong Hee to visit the wife. Expenditure for the husband and wife amounted to S$3.6 million between 2007-2010.
Also S$600,000 given to the building fund was diverted to the MPA by funneling the money as love gifts to specific pastors who then put the money into the MPA.
Bishop Albert Vun: The transfer of RM160,000 from ASC to All Saints Academy and subsequently moving the All Saints Academy under the Diocesan Mission Fund. Is this legit? Did All Saints PCC support this transfer of fund and moving the ASA under the Diocese? Who were the PCC members that supported this? Was the transfer made before or after obtaining approval? Is the RM160,000 a loan or a grant? These are questions everyone is asking.
The Bishop renovated the Bishop’s lodge 6 years ago. Until today, he had yet to present the accounts to the Standing Committee on the renovation of the Bishop lodge. It was a project handled directly by him and his trusted employees. This led to speculation it had cost over RM1 million, a figure that cannot be ascertained unless there is an audit.
3. Related Party Transactions
Kong Hee: Between 2006-2008 his company sold over S$3 million of merchandise to City Harvest Church (CHC) without disclosing his interests in these transactions.
Bishop Albert Vun: Rent his house in Sunway to the priest-in-charge of Faith Christian Center (FCC) for at least 10 years. Why was FCC renting this house from the Bishop for such a long time? Did Bishop disclose he was the owner of the house? Did he instruct FCC or the priest-in-charge to rent from him? FCC, started in 18 years ago, now has a congregation of 580 people. Why are they incurring expenses without equity?
The Bishop sold his family land to the Diocese. Was he present at the Standing Committee when the decision was made? Or did he recluse himself? Did he put any pressure or indication to any member of the Standing Committee the deal should go ahead? Why did the Bishop sold his own land to the church when he challenged everyone to donate land and properties to the church?
4. Governance and Control Issues
Kong Hee: The Commissioner of Charities found CHC board less than prudent in discharging their duties. The board “refunded” S$338,000 to CHC’s investment manager Chew Eng Han when Chew had financial difficulties. The board approved the refund 9 months after the actual refund was made.
Bishop Albert Vun: ”The Alphard driven by the Bishop, was that purchased with prior approval from Standing Committee? According to reliable sources, the Standing Committee approved the purchase of a Honda CRV which costs around RM150,000. The vehicle was purchased. Within two months, the Bishop bought another vehicle, an Alphard, which could cost over RM200,000 without prior approval from Standing Committee.”
All properties of the Diocese within Sabah are registered to the office of the Bishop of Sabah, NOT under the personal name of the Bishop. When the Diocese bought a property in Thailand for the mission work there, it was purchased under the name of Albert Vun Cheong Fui. What is the proper process when the Diocese purchase properties overseas? Is it prudent to register that under the personal name of the Bishop? How can the Diocese ensure the property is transferred back to the Diocese at the event of retirement, resignation or death?
5. Convolution of a Board/Committee
Kong Hee: Three members of the Board were charged today for criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounting records. Just because a decision is approved by the board/committee, the transactions may not be 100% above board. A board can be misled too.
Mak Yuen Teen, associate professor from the National University of Singapore Business School commented, “If you look at this organization, you can see that the board was dominated by people who were essentially employees of the church. So, the question therefore is where is the check and balances in place. The board was not really independent of the management of the organization.”
Bishop Albert Vun: All Saints Cathedral PCC comprises of 10 elected members, and 16 clergy and staff who are co-opted. The Bishop argued that major decisions were made with almost unanimous support of PCC. Unsurprising when you look at the composition of the Council. In the name of working with people of “same spirit”, convenience and expedience take precedence over good governance and accountability.
6. Clamps Down Dissent
Kong Hee: 10 years ago, ex-City Harvest Church member Roland Poon questioned how church funds were used after he donated large sums of his money towards the construction of the new building at Jurong West. His questions went unanswered so he contacted the media. The church responded with a threat to sue if Poon could not prove his allegation of mismanagement. Distressed, Poon retracted his statements and issued apologies in 5 publications.
Bishop Albert Vun: Notable church members like James Chhoa, William Thien had sought clarification in person and writing to no avail. Disgruntled member or members set up the popular blog, which to this author’s knowledge was not the doing of Chhoa or Thien. He repeated his favorite sentence in his preaching many times, “I am the Bishop. I am answerable to God.” People who raised questions in PCC or Standing Committee were sidelined and verbally abused. After setting the date for All Saints Cathedral’s AGM, he decided not to attend it. All the questions listed on this blog and more, remained unanswered as the Bishop (also the Dean of All Saints Cathedral) chose to minister in Thailand instead of facing his congregation.
Take time to read and understand the crisis engulfing CHC and Kong Hee. We must not sit idle while Diocese of Sabah and All Saints Cathedral are being mismanaged. It took almost 10 years after Ronald Poon questioned CHC’s integrity before the authorities intervened. We must pray it will not take that long before we see daylight. Pray the Advisory Committee will discharge their duties with the fear of God, prudence and wisdom when they begin the interviews in KK next week.
I have been searching for a Christian response in such a painful and confusing time. The church is divided. Families are torned. People take sides and people from both sides are adamant they are right. How do we live as a Christian in such a time like this? In agony, I turn to the Scripture for guidance on these issues.
Fractions in Church
The Anglican church of Sabah is divided. Please do not pretend it is not. There are the “anti-Bishop devils” and “pro-Bishop cronies”. People are praying to God to bind the “devils” and destroy the “cronies”. How does God feel with such prayers?
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
We follow Christ. End of story.
Philippians 4:8 tells us to pursue what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable. My brothers & sisters, let’s repent as many of us–both clergy and laity–have fallen short of God’s standards.
Yet what about grievances & issues that divide us? Do we sweep them under the carpet in the name of unity?
Correcting our Elders
1 Timothy 5:1 “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” “Older man” is likely to refer to not just someone more advance in age, but also someone in leadership. Apostle Paul teaches us two things here. First, Paul did not prohibit rebuking an elder. It says do not rebuke harshly. So there is a right time and way to rebuke/correct a leader. Why did Paul give this instruction? Perhaps he knew disagreements in ministry & mistakes by our leaders are inevitable.
Secondly, the biblical response is correcting a leader gently, giving him the respect that is due a parent.
Henceforth, public disparaging of the Bishop, priests, pastors and church leaders is wrong. For this reason, I have not allowed any comments on this blog. This blog is not a place for name callings. I have seen people coining hurtful and condescending nicknames for our pastors and priests. We MUST repent. I was told the five complainants were labelled “the greatest threat to the Diocese.” We MUST repent. Stop demonizing one another! Jesus died for ALL OF US. We are his children, heirs and co-heirs of God’s kingdom. Let’s behave like princes and princesses, because we are children of the King of kings!
Handling Allegations Against Leaders
1 Timothy 5:17, 19-20 ”The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching…Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”
Church leaders hold a sacred office therefore they are treated differently in 3 ways:
1. They deserved to be honored (especially those who teach and preach). The Bible did not say to honor the good preachers/teachers only, or those we can agree with. It tells us to honor our teachers and preachers.
2. Accusations against them will not be entertained unless there are solid witnesses and evidence. We cannot punish a leader based on hearsay. “Two or three” means you need collaborating witnesses and solid evidence, not just on the basis of one person’s testimony. So writing comments on blogs, wildly accusing our Bishop, priests and pastors are on the take is WRONG. Can you prove your allegations? “Two or three witnesses” is always the the biblical model of justice. The House of Bishop is applying this model by collecting written statements and later conducting face-to-face interviews with the complainants, the Bishop and all who are involved. They will also audit and re-audit the accounts if necessary.
Deuteronomy 17:6 “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.”
Matthew 18:15-16 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…but if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
3. Erring leaders are to be corrected publicly. Due to how public, high profile and sacred the office of our leaders, their reprove will be also extra severe.
There is an impasse in the crisis. Both the complainants and Bishop Albert Vun have testimonies of “two or three witnesses” and both parties are convinced they are right. It is now up to the Advisory Committee to unearth the truth, report to the Archbishop, and have the House of Bishop to provide judgement and solution.
However we must be reminded of the biblical standard in dealing with sinning leaders. If the five complainants’ allegations are found to be false, they are guilty of slandering and false accusation. If Bishop Albert Vun is found to be guilty of the allegations, he would have abused his authority. The biblical standard is to subject the sinning leaders to public & severe reprove. It is up to the House of Bishop to decide the punishment. I can’t see how both parties can both be right as there are very severe and specific alleged wrongdoings to be investigated. When the punishment comes, it will be a dark and painful day for the Diocese of Sabah.
Sober up my brothers and sisters. Don’t gloat your leaders or run down those who disagree with you. Don’t you know the night is going to get darker before we see daylight? Pray for God’s mercy. Seek repentance.
This author received this comment from a young Anglican priest.
“I am not sure what is your intention. And I do not know how could this letter end up in your hand when you are not any of the addressees.
I am one of the many who will stand by my bishop in this period of time. I believe Bishop Vun is by sovereign choice of God, elected and anointed as the Leader of our Diocese at this period of time. Knowing this, I must trust God and the truth of all these will prevails. I can’t confess that I know my bishop thoroughly but my serving years with him show that this man, Bishop Vun has a great heart and love for the Lord, probably more than anyone that I know of. Do you really know his heart for the Lord? Do you really know his passion for the Lord? Have you really put yourself into his position and feel how he feels? Have you ever in conflict with others in your work? Imagine every of your action is scrutinized… How would you feel?!
Since this matter is now under “investigation” as you want it this way… Then leave it to those who are responsible for this. Let them search for the truth. If you believe, the truth will always prevails.”
This is my reply. My dear brother, I admire Bishop Albert Vun’s zeal, passion and drive. He is charismatic and full of energy. He gets things done. It is exciting to be around him. There is always the next frontier to conquer, next peak to scale, next mission impossible to tackle. You can feel that things are moving with him at helm.
Yet this crisis is not about his zeal, passion and drive. Nor is it about his charisma or ability to get things done. It is about Bishop Albert Vun’s integrity, accountability and respect for due process. It is a crisis that could have been settled within the Diocese. Letters, phone calls and appeals had been made to him. Over 500 people showed up at All Saints Cathedral AGM 2012, pressing for answers only to find him in Thailand. My brother, was there anything else more urgent and important than sorting out this crisis? Was there a better time or place to clarify things than the AGM? So why did the Bishop choose to be absent if he was keen to clarify things as he claimed to be in his Pastoral Letter?
1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
This verse teaches Christians not to be gullible, naive and accept everything without testing it. How do we know the Law of Gravity is real? Drop an egg and you’ll see its reality.
In the same way, how do we know who is telling the truth? Is it the Bishop or the complainants? The Advisory Committee’s job is to test all the written documents, accounting records, meeting minutes, interviews. It will be scrutinized by an impartial team who has professional background in legal and accounting matters.
My brother, you can also put the “truths” to the test with the following questions:
1. Why did the Bishop tell the whole Diocese, “This is not an investigation team but an Advisory Committee” when Archbishop’s letter stated the Advisory Committee is tasked to investigate the allegations, including re-auditing the Diocese and All Saints Cathedral’s accounts from 2006?
2. The letter from Archbishop was addressed to also to the PCC of All Saints Cathedral. Most of them hadn’t seen it until it was published on this blog. Why?
3. The Bishop told us to speak to our priest and pastors who would clarify things for us. How can you as a priest explain the role and purpose of the Advisory Committee when you have not read the Archbishop’s letter? Did you know know their roles and responsibilities before you see the letter here?
4. Did the Bishop rent a house in Sunway to the rector of FCC for the last 10-12 years? Why is FCC renting only from the Bishop? Are there no other options? Is that the cheapest house in Sunway?
5. Did the Bishop sell his family land to the Diocese at market price? He was both the buyer and seller in this transaction. Is it not conflict of interests?
6. Did the Bishop purchase an expensive vehicle, Alphard, with PRIOR approval from the Standing Committee?
7. When was the last time any Anglican churches in Sabah run into a deficit of RM1.2 million? What has been done to rectify this deficit in All Saints Cathedral?
8. Does being the Lord’s anointed and sovereignly chosen leader means Bishop Albert Vun is infallible?
9. Does loving God means we do not need to open the accounts for public scrutiny? Or adhere to good governance? Or having the proper approvals BEFORE purchases are made? Or remove ourselves from making decisions where there is clear conflict of interests?
Out of the respect for the Bishop, I have disallowed any commenting on this blog. Some have written angry words and called him names. This blog is not here to incite hatred or rebellion against the Bishop but to SEEK THE TRUTH. Does loving and respecting the Bishop means we do not ask question, seek to verify the accounts, counter check his claims versus the Archbishop’s letter?
My brother, it is our duty to test everything. I am doing mine by putting up Bishop Albert Vun’s pastoral letter side by side with the letter from Archbishop. What’s yours?
This is the full letter from the Archbishop. The name of the recipient is removed to protect the identity of the complainant. This is the only alteration to the letter. Read this and compare it to the Pastoral Letter released last Sunday. Can you see and discern discrepancies?
It is the hope and prayers of this author with full access to information regarding the crisis engulfing All Saints Cathedral and the Anglican Diocese of Sabah, members can discern and pray more effectively. The truth will set us free.