CGM Statement on News.com.au article dated 30 March 2022
On 30 March 2022, a reporter with News.com.au, published an article titled: “Mysterious secret hidden behind ordinary door in Sydney’s CBD”. The article reported misinformation and exaggerations based on unverified information regarding the operations of The Lord’s Hope Church, a CGM-affiliated church based in Sydney. This appears to be irresponsible and sensational journalism for the purpose of maximising profit.
The people of The Lord’s Hope Church have at all times operated with integrity, goodwill and social conscience in their lives of faith, unlike what was depicted in the article. CGM is disappointed by the unfair characterisation of CGM and The Lord’s Hope Church as cults. This is a form of religious discrimination, incites religious tension and hatred against CGM, and offends our right to religious freedom.
The article was discriminatory and unethical in singling out The Lord’s Hope Church on its financial practices, which are both lawful and common amongst other denominations. It is also peculiar that the article emphasised the purchase price of the Church building, which was by no means an unreasonable price for a property in that location.
The said article misrepresented that the Church mandates members to tithe one-tenth of their income. This is false. Tithing is purely voluntary. The article also insinuates that it is wrong for the Church to collect tithes. Such a perception is wholly uninformed as tithing is standard practice amongst Christian churches, and is a practice sanctioned by the Bible (e.g. Numbers 18:21). The reporter also alleged that the Church’s practice of using an Excel sheet to track tithing is a way of “ensuring that members pay their dues”. This, again, is wholly erroneous. The Church was merely exercising due diligence in maintaining proper financial records.
The allegations made against the Church in the journalist’s email correspondence also disclosed the unreliability and lack of credibility of their source. The source alleged that members are encouraged to pay with cash rather than electronically, which is false, and can be proven by bank statements that were provided. It is regrettable that an article was published based on questionable sources providing false and unreliable information.
In addition, a highly skewed view of the Church was painted with this publication of one-sided and select information, with little consideration given to the detailed information that the Church had provided. We have appended below the email exchange between CGM and the reporter, for the public to see for themselves how unfairly the article had portrayed CGM and The Lord’s Hope Church, despite timely provision of truthful and detailed information.
Further, the article referred to a recent press conference in South Korea where unfounded allegations of sexual abuse were raised. This is a matter that is taken seriously by the CGM and will be dealt with through proper measures. CGM has also issued a prior statement regarding this on 16 March 2022. (https://cgmpress.com/news/cgm-statement-2022-03-16/)
CGM, together with The Lord’s Hope Church and other churches around the world, always strive to operate with honesty, peace and love based on the teachings of the bible, and to serve the best interest of its members and society at large.
Email exchange between CGM and Alex Turner-Cohen
From: Turner-Cohen, Alex <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Mar 23, 2022 at 4:58 PM
Subject: Urgent news.com.au media inquiry: Serious allegations about CGM’s Australian churches
I’m a journalist from news.com.au. We are running a story about CGM/JMS/Providence because a number of allegations have come to light. We would appreciate you providing us with a comment and answering our questions by this afternoon, close of business at the latest.
We have obtained property records which show CGM has recently bought a property in Sydney. We’ve also been told that you encourage members to donate with cash rather than online transactions and that Covid rules were breached during the extended lockdown last year. On top of that, there are allegations that a society at Sydney University has been used as a “front group” to recruit members for CGM so would love to hear your response to that as well.
Questions are as follows:
- CGM has recently purchased 4/173-179 Broadway. What are your plans with this property? We understand renovations have finished – has this been turned into a place of worship for CGM members?
- Is this the first property CGM has purchased in NSW?
- This property purchase was apparently largely funded by member contributions – is it true CGM members give 10% of their pay as a tithe to the church?
- Members are apparently encouraged to pay with cash rather than online transfers – why is this the case? Do you deny this?
- Are donations to CGM considered as a donation to charity for tax purposes?
- Covid rules were allegedly not followed during Sydney’s lockdown, with reports that CGM members from different households would still go to each other’s places. Also, at the church temple, members would not necessarily wear masks or social distance. Were these members disciplined? Were Covid rules eventually enforced? Was your group ever fined?
- Sydney University’s Breakfast Club student society is actually a “front” group for CGM, according to some reports. We have screenshots of this club being included in CGM’s recruiting campaigns. Is this true? Is this society still active – it looks like they haven’t posted since 2020? Is it ethical to present this society as a lifestyle society to students when it is actually a religious group?
- Do you have any other university groups that are being run by CGM members?
- Any other final comments?
Looking forward to hearing from you today some time.
From: Andrew Choi <email@example.com>
To: Turner-Cohen, Alex <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for writing to me and I appreciate your efforts to hear both sides of the story. We are most happy to assist you with the information necessary for an informed and fact-based article.
As an introduction, CGM upholds values of honesty, peace and love, and encourages members to continually make positive contributions to their community. We also advise affiliated organisations in each country to abide by their local laws and practices, respect all religions and preserve religious harmony in their local communities, including any Covid-related regulations.
Globally, all churches were instructed to switch to conducting online services as early as Feb 2020, in response to the pandemic outbreak. From about 2021, as the pandemic evolved, instructions were given to each church of every nation to comply with government required COVID restrictions. I am aware that in South Korea, the church members continued to avoid gatherings and attend only online services.
CGM has been awarded recognition from the Korean government for our public service to society, such as our contributions to the disaster recovery efforts during the western coast oil spill. CGM has been making extensive efforts to serve the wider community, and we are proud of our members for efforts and service in these areas.
CGM is a global organization connected by our common love for God, but each of our affiliated churches around the world, operate independently in their church operations and financial management. With respect to the questions on donations to church, CGM does not stipulate the minimum amount of money that a church member must donate, and all donations are always done on a voluntary basis. To further clarify on ‘tithing’, the concept of a Tithe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe) is as old as the bible itself, as stated in Numbers 18:21 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers%2018%3A21-24&version=NIV) and many other places in the bible, and the word literally means ‘one-tenth’. This application of this principle of ‘tithing’ is widespread amongst Christian churches. Of course, tithing is always a voluntary offering from members. And the money is then used to help with the church operations to serve the common good of the community, which otherwise runs as a not-for-profit manner.
As for the more specific questions regarding the Sydney CGM Church, I will relay your questions to the local representatives of the church in Australia for more detailed answers. However, it is evening right now in Sydney and I expect they would not be able to attend to these questions by tonight.
We do ask that you allow them a reasonable time to respond. I believe they will endeavour to respond by tomorrow. Please do not hesitate to reach out again if you need any other clarifications and I look forward to hearing from you again.
With warmest regards,
From: Ixxxxxx <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2022 at 8:51 am
Subject: Re: CGM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Thank you for your email and interest in our CGM church. Your email was forwarded to me from another CGM representative who is not based in Australia.
I have been a CGM member and leader for about 10 years now and throughout that time I have personally experienced many hurtful, unfair and unjustified allegations made by various individuals via social media or the news media. I say this in the hopes that you will not be swayed towards a biased and presumptive view about my church and will report with truth and balance.
I answer your questions below to the best of my ability and knowledge.
Church property purchase
The CGM branch in Sydney is registered as a non-profit organisation. It purchased the property you identified on Broadway. We purchased this property because many members of our church wanted to have a permanent place that belongs to the church, to use as a home for their faith. It is a place for families, children, and members of all ages could gather and share their faith as a community. Also, subject to council approval, the place would be used as a place of worship. So the church congregation agreed to purchase a property for these reasons. Renovation of the church has been delayed and is currently ongoing.
Members’ donations are mostly by electronic transaction, which is the preferred method. Our bank statements show this. I don’t understand where the allegation that members are encouraged to donate cash comes from. That is absolutely not true. To the contrary, due to COVID, I and the leadership team encouraged members to electronically transfer their offerings or donations, so that the finance officer did not have to physically go to a bank to deposit cash.
As for ‘tithe’, it means ‘one-tenth of something paid to a religious organisation’ (see definition on Wikipedia). It is entirely voluntary and its roots stem from the Bible at Leviticus 27:30 ‘A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s and is holy’ and in Proverbs 3:9 where it says ‘Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops’. I understand that tithing is commonly practised in various religions that believe in the Bible..
In CGM church, tithing is not compulsory and it is rarely spoken of in our sermons or teachings. Members are free to give offerings as they please (again electronic transfer is the preferred method).
Any donations or offerings given are not tax deductible for the member offering the money because our church is not a deductible gift recipient.
Since February 2020, when COVID-19 was just beginning to spread internationally, all CGM churches began online services and prohibited members from attending church. Church venues were reserved for minimal staff to facilitate broadcasting of service. The Sydney Church followed suit and all members conducted church activities at home.
Additionally, I have advised members to comply and take precautions above and beyond to avoid the spread of COVID. Then as COVID restrictions eased at various stages of the pandemic, we allowed members to attend our venue for service. However, strict measures were in place in line with government restrictions. This meant marking out specific spaces so that chairs were 1.5m distanced apart. A COVID-Safe policy was also in place. We set up a QR code check-in for members to record their check in. Also, where masks were mandatory, members were required to wear masks when attending service. When limited number of people could attend, we organised the church into groups so that those attending would not exceed the maximum number.
What I can say is, as an organisation, we took every step we could to ensure COVID safety. Hence, none of our members has contracted COVID and COVID did not spread within the church.
I am familiar with the numerous news articles out there about how the CGM (and other Korean cults) have a reputation of having ‘front’ groups in Universities from other media articles.
However, the Breakfast Club was not a front group for any religious organisation. Before writing to you, I made some enquiries with the members who organised the Breakfast Club. Based on what they told me, no person who joined the Breakfast Club was ever connected to the CGM church, as that was never the intention.
The Breakfast Club group began because some of our members who were Sydney University students wanted to start a healthy lifestyle club on campus in order to build their leadership experience and their resume, as well as to motivate themselves and others to live a healthy lifestyle. As I understand, the members did not share their personal faith or their views about religion with any person who joined and, again, as I mentioned, no person was connected to church. Also, no religious activities were carried out.
My opinion is that people, whether or not they are affiliated with any religious group, should have the freedom to pursue their hobbies and engage in activities such as the Breakfast Club. And it is unfair that they are condemned for doing so on the basis that they are ‘cult members’.
The Breakfast Club has not been active since 2020 because of the COVID situation and the members’ studies becoming a priority.
The CGM does not have any ‘front’ groups that operate in universities or elsewhere.
Finally, I thank you for reading this. And if you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out.
From: Ixxxxxx <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2022 at 10:47 am
Subject: Re: CGM
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just further to my earlier email, it occurred to me that the address of the CGM property may be published. I ask that you keep the address private. If it is published, I am concerned about the risks of personal safety to our members who may attend the premise (such as to renovate, clean or attend to administrative tasks) and also risks of property damage.
End of email exchange