This week saw the sentencing of the founding pastor of what for many years has been the world’s largest church, with up to one million members. David (formerly Paul) Yonggi Cho of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, was convicted of embezzlement and received a three-year suspended jail term and a $4.7 million fine. He apparently caused the loss of $12 million by influencing the church’s purchase of shares in his son’s business for more than three times their worth and then claiming a tax deduction. Cho’s contribution to social welfare was a mitigating factor in his sentencing.
A family friend has reported, however, that the trial conceded that Cho trusted his elders and son who presented the share documentation for him to sign. Nevertheless, Cho seems to have admitted some degree of culpability. Some would argue that this is from the perspective of humble responsibility whereas others point to a string of financial offences from which he was unwilling to repent previously. At any rate, we must be careful not to surmise from innuendo, to denigrate a tall poppy or to jump to confusions (!), yet must also acknowledge that many aspects of this matter have been through the courts and therefore stand as a sobering reminder to us about the need for integrity in our financial dealings.
Another interesting (but smaller) news item also surfaced this week in which some were predisposed to rather quickly judge a minister. He refused to perform a wedding in Adelaide last weekend because the groom turned up drunk. Police became involved, the man was arrested and, needless to say, the bride was not impressed. Initial outrage over alleged religious extremism and overreactions obscured the fact that anyone making legally binding vows must be in their right mind for these to be valid and a celebrant is not lawfully able to perform a wedding if this cannot be guaranteed.
Churches are also coming under some criticism, too, for reacting to the anti-Christian bias in the new national curriculum. At the very least, Christianity is being virtually ignored for its many positive contributions to society. A legitimate petition is being organised by the Australian Christian Lobby to register concern over this disturbing trend.
Here’s hoping that the Christian church can hit the headlines soon for some more positive reasons which exalt Jesus and affirm His power and prominence as Saviour, Healer and Soon Coming King!