Central Christian Church suit. Lawyers raise church practices.They want to prove these are unique

The Straits Times (Singapore)/July 8, 1997
By Tan Ool Boon

Members of the Central Christian Church would have to obey their leaders because they would be going against God if they do not do so. They would also have to get the church's approval when dating a person and believe unswervingly in full immersion for baptism. Such practices of the church were raised in court yesterday by lawyers whose defense in the defamation suit lay in proving that the church had unique and exclusive practices.

According to the Longman dictionary, the word "cult" refers to "a group of people believing in a particular system of religious worship, with its special customs and ceremonies." Their members' obedience to church elders was raised by Mr. Tan Chee Meng, counsel for The New Paper editor. He was cross-examining Mr. Mg Wee Keong, 27, a full-time leader of the church, who was giving evidence for the first time yesterday in his church's suit against the two publications.

Mr. Ng, who is a National University of Singapore Arts graduate, explained that as church leaders were seen to be more "spiritually matured," members were told to seek their advice on all aspects of their lives, including marriage, work and family. He however denied that it was compulsory for them to obey the leaders, though he agreed that such advice should be taken seriously, "if not, it will be asking for the sake of asking," he added.

Mr. Daniel John, the lawyer for Impact Christian magazine, the other defendant, also questioned Mr. Ng on his members' dating practices. According to the lawyers, members must first get permission from the leaders before they date. And if the leaders object, the couples are discouraged from being together.

Mr. Ng disagreed with this and repeated that church leaders were only there to advise. He said, "All we want is for two persons to be compatible spiritually. For example, would a graduate be happy marrying a road sweeper?"

For the same reason, he said that his members were discouraged from dating or marrying people outside the church as they might not share the same commitment to God. Instead, they were encouraged to date their fellow "brothers" and "sisters" within the church.

As for the practice of seeking advice before approaching another member for a relationship, he said that this was for the benefit of the members. He said, "This prevents the brother from losing face if the feeling is not mutual."

To prove that there were no restrictions on dating, Mr. Ng said he had once dated a "sister" but they broke up later due to differences. Last year, he started dating another church leader, Miss Joyce Cheah, and they will marry later this month. Miss Cheah herself also had previous boyfriends whom she knew through the church, he said.

According to him, he had joined the Central Christian Church in 1991, not long after his father, who was then dying of lung cancer, was baptized into another church, by the sprinkling of water.

When asked by Mr. Tan, he said his father would not be considered a Christian. This was because his church believed that one should be immersed fully in water in order to be baptized. Referring to the way his father was baptized, Mr. Ng said: "He would not receive the Holy Spirit and therefore he was not saved."

The hearing before Justice Warren Khoo continues.

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