ICC in Singapore: “Counsel: Leader used materials from churches ‘banned’ abroad”

Counsel: Leader used materials from churches ‘banned’ abroad

The Straits Times (Singapore), 5 July 1997.
By Tan Ool Boon

The Central Christian Church’s head founder John Philip Louis used publications from its overseas affiliated churches as part of his teachings, when these churches had been ‘banned’ elsewhere, counsel for The New Paper editor said yesterday. Mr. Tan Chee Meng argued that such publications were circulated worldwide by the affiliated churches and their umbrella body, the International Churches of Christ. These churches, he said, had been banned in a number of universities in the United States and Britain.

The London Church of Christ, which had trained Mr. Louis, had also been labeled as a “brain-wash cult,” he noted. To prove his point, Mr. Tan referred to a publication of the Australian Christian Church and compared it to the one from the Central Christian Church, which Mr. Louis had said was written by him.

Counsel noted that both the documents not only shared the same title — Guard the Gospel — they also had numerous pages that were “similar, word for word.” This prompted Justice Warren Khoo to ask Mr. Louis whether it was “too much of a coincidence” that his writing was the same as the Australian publication’s. Mr. Louis, 34, maintained that he had not relied on any external documents when he wrote down his own teachings. He said: “I know those verses by heart.”

Earlier, he said his church’s practices were different from those of the one in London. Mr. Tan also questioned Mr. Louis on his church’s practices which made it compulsory to confess one’s sins, weaknesses and private thoughts, in “sin lists,” and submit them to the church leaders.

If they failed to do so, the lawyer said, these members would be made to feel guilty as they would be deemed to have committed the “sin of pride.”

Mr. Tan referred to the statement of an ex-church member, Ms. Christina Ong: “I have to write down the lists of sins for my entire life.” Mr. Louis disputed this, maintaining that his members were “encouraged to have an open relationship” with each other, but no one was commanded or compelled to confess anything. The former evangelist also denied that his members were told to recruit at least three new members a day. While he had often told his congregation that they had to “be a light” to others, he had never used the word “recruit” before in his preaching, he said. It was up to church members to set their own goals in sharing their faith, he added.

He did not deny the defense lawyer’s suggestion that he had held the Central Christian Church as “the only true church” in Singapore. He said: “In my opinion, this is the best church that someone could come for God’s will.”

Hearing continues on Monday.

Lawyer cites case of doomed love affair

The thwarted love affair of an ex-member of the Central Christian Church was cited yesterday to show that church leaders exerted control over the personal lives of its members. Lawyer Tan Chee Meng maintained that the church discouraged its members from dating someone who was not a member of the church. And even among church members, he said that dating was allowed only after leaders had given their approval.

The lawyer then related how a former church member had become interested in a fellow member after going out with her once. This man had gone to the woman’s leader to ask for permission to continue to date her, but his request was turned down. The leader found that the two were unsuitable to become a couple — because the woman was “spiritually higher” than her suitor. In the end, the suitor was frustrated and threw himself into church activities to improve himself.

Mr. John Philip Louis yesterday admitted that some members had felt bitter in some cases because “over-zealous” leaders had been too strong in giving their advice. But he maintained that the church’s role was only advisory, and members were free to date whomever they wished.

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