“The issue is not in the giving; it is in the management of the funds received that deserves accountability and transparency,” she said.
City Harvest, which has 20,000 followers in Singapore and 49 affiliates in eight Asian territories, acquired a stake in one of the city-state’s biggest convention centers in 2010 for S$310 million and holds its weekly services there.
Terence Chong, a sociologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said some independent churches like City Harvest preach the “prosperity gospels,” which seek to convince followers that offerings made to God through donations and voluntaryism will be rewarded with spiritual and material blessings.
“In essence, the prosperity gospels appeal to the culture of self-improvement and upward social mobility in capitalist societies,” Chong said, adding that the followers tend to come mostly from the “emergent middle class.”
The church’s Web site exhorts members to donate money as a “form of worship” and lists acceptable credit cards.
“As we give, we have faith that He will never shortchange us,” the Web site says. “He will certainly bless our lives abundantly in return, because we can never out-give God!”