Festival of Praise 2012 cancelled

Deu 16: 13 Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. 16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lordyour God has blessed you.

The Festival of Praise 2012 planned near Singapore's National Day, is a festival of sorts of Christian praise and worship celebration where over 140 churches come together in unity, fellowship, and prayer for the nation as the National Day approaches.

Just like the Festival of Tabernacles, the FOP was to give praise to God for the blessings and prosperity of Singapore as a nation. It is difficult to praise God in the midst of difficult times! But as Don Moen said "God is good all the time, and all the time God is good"!

On 13 July 12, Canon James Wong announced with the "heaviest of hearts" that the FOP planned for 03 and 04 Aug was to be cancelled, the first victim of the CHC saga. Canon Wong of the Anglican church was a mentor, a spiritual father, and strong supporter of Kong Kee who came from the Anglican church background.

I remembered the FOP being held at City Harvest at Katong and later at the Harbour Front Expo. It was more catered for the Charismatic Evangelicals and was first held in a charismatic worship context with tambourines, dancing, and loud praises at the Anglican churches' Chapel of the Resurrection.

The FOP has now grown to over 33,000 in three nights dutifully attended by City Harvesters. There appears not as great an interest from New Creation Church.

In 2010, the key note speaker was Che Ahn, a good friend of Pastor Kong. Pastor Che Ann is closely associated with Lou Engle who is a key driver in the anti-gay movement in the US. In the FOP 2010, in light of the then recent allegations against Pastor Kong, Che Ahn strongly stood by Kong Hee from the pulpit to the praises and shouts of support from thousands.

Canon James Wong, the President of the Festival which started in 1986 explained the cancellation in terms of venue issues and the challenges currently being faced by CHC which hitherto had been its main sponser in terms of logistics, hospitality, and management. In particular, Pastor Kong Hee gave his passion and heart to drive the FOP to increasing heights.

The cancellation of the FOP is inevitable:-

  • Pastor Kong Hee's attention would be his trial rather than planning and preparing for FOP as the Executive Director.

  • The FOP if it had gone ahead would be awkward and sensitive with the leaders of the Singaporean churches being on the same platform as Pastor Kong Hee having to declare a public support which may prejudice the case.

  • The high cost of SGD 400 to 600K is recouped by free will offering as the attendance is free. With the CHC issues, attendance is not guaranteed and the support from 30 churches only seems very low.

  • The FOP scheduled on 03 and 04 Aug 12 would likely be hounded by photo clicking journalist eager to get a photo of its Executive Director Pastor Kong Hee on the platform with the other church leaders.

  • It would be held during court trial of the key leaders of City Harvest and so if it were to go ahead without any drama, there would need to be a new Pastor at the helm of FOP which is too short of time to replace.

As Christians, it may also be inappropriate to rejoice and celebrate whilsts the body of Christ is going through the dark night of soul searching and reflection.

The charges against Kong Hee is unfolding to bring a deep work of humility in the Christian church in Singapore and beyond who has been rather loud over the last two decades, in particular, against gays.

For example, Pastor Mark Conner of City Life Church, a good friend of Kong Hee who was to speak at FOP 2012 condemns gays and same sex marriage strongly from his blog in July 12 as gay relationships was hotly debated in Australia.

Pastor Mark calls for "sanctification" and I do pray that the church in Singapore and Asia will be thoroughly cleansed of their self as the charges against Kong Hee unfolds. What the churches is sowing is what they will reap, the same measure of the law they have judged and committed false witness against the weak.

The period of joy and singing in the festival environment for the blessings of God following the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles does not reflect the prevailing mood of sadness and despair. 

Rather, there is a call for prayer and fasting. Perhaps, the FOP should go ahead in each of our daily walk as the Festival of Prayer. The churches have been loud not only in praises but in its persecution of the gay minority. It's time for a quiet self reflection.

Sometimes, a seed is needed to die in the ground that out of it comes new life and revival. Christianity is not one person alone and for Singapore to go into revival it may be something that Pastor Kong must walk alone through the valley of the shadow of death.

For us Gay Christians, we have walked many times through the valley of the shadow of death. The law condemns us, the church condemns us, and the National Council of Churches calls us sinners. In the eyes of the law and the church, we are guilty even before the charges are called out.

It is a lonely journey to be gay and be a Christian for even our gay friends wonder why we stay faithful to Christ. For we alone have known and felt His love, grace and mercy which can never be taken away from us.

We have died a thousand times, and many friends have left us, some never to return for they have gone on to heaven for their pain and sadness was too hard to bear.

It is in dying, that we may find ourselves, and finding Christ in that point of Grace that we may rise up again on eagle's wings, for Christ has risen and He has risen indeed.

One day, we shall all return home to praise Jesus in heaven.  There at heaven's festival of praise, there shall be no walls to divide us for we are one in Christ whether straight or gay. Then FOP shall have no ending and shall last for eternity.


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