Until the investigations are completed, I will not say anything about the allegations of money mismanagement in City Harvest. We will know the conclusions soon. Neither am I a member of the church.
I’m writing about the criticism of the church’s extravagances, such as the purchase of expensive audio/visual systems.
When an organization is classified as a charity, and is reported to receive donations, it is natural that people have certain expectations of the way it spends its money, even if all transactions are legitimate and above board. They examine the accounts of the church, and then ask, ‘why is this charity organization splurging?’ There are those who criticize pastors’ lifestyles because they collect ‘donations’ from their members, who might be even poorer than them. This is based on wrong understanding of what it means to give to the church.
I don’t see the tithe as donation, and hence to me, the Church isn’t an organization receiving my charity. It receives money from believers because we obey the injunction in the Bible to do so. Except for community services, I have never seen a church solicit donations from the public. While classified as a public organization, it is really also private group, with its own member list. We are free to worship where we choose, and give our tithes where we please. I dare say that those who stay in the church accept the way the church conducts its financial affairs, and if they do not, there are avenues within the church to raise their concerns.
Hence, the state-of-the-art sound system of City Harvest cannot be spoken of in the same way as the fabled gold tap in Durai’s office. It is a decision made by people who have agreed to move together as a group. They give money out of their free will, to maintain the functions of this group. If reflection is required on whether this is the best use of money, it could be done at the church’s AGM, which all members have the responsibility to attend. Basically, as long as there isn’t criminal breach of trust, no one else needs interfere.