Head founder: Members not told to obey leaders

The Straits Times (Singapore)/July 3, 1997
By Tan Ool Boon

The head founder of the Central Christian Church yesterday denied the claim that their members were expected to follow all instructions of church leaders and to submit to them.

Mr. John Philip Louis, a 34-year-old Malaysian, said that while members were encouraged to be "unified," the suggestion that they were made to obey without question was "totally absurd." He was giving evidence against The New Paper and Lianhe Wanbao editors in the church's defamation suits against them, over news reports in Nov. 1991 labeling it as "a cult."

He is the church's former evangelist, now living in Australia. He is also suing The New Paper editor because he said the report headlined "Concern over two cult groups" inferred that he was a cult leader.

The source of the report was the Methodist Message, the official journal of the Methodist Church here, and Impact, a bi-monthly Christian magazine. While the Methodist Message is not involved, the magazine Impact and its editor, Mr. Andrew Goh, are being sued in a separate action. The court is hearing this separate suit during the present trail as the facts are related.

Mr. Louis affirmed his statement and related how he had started his church here. He said he was invited to join a Bible talk session while studying mechanical engineering in London's City University in 1982. He said he was impressed with the group's explanation of the verses of the Bible and later became more involved in such study classes. "I realized that leading a committed Christian life would involve being devoted to the Bible and to the church which I knew was called the London Church of Christ."

When he graduated in 1985, he became a full-time "zone leader" of this church. He was later asked by the lead evangelist to head a mission team to start new churches in Malaysia and Singapore. In 1988, the Central Christian Church was registered here and he became the leader responsible for its expansion and administration. The church, which is now based in Beach Centre in Beach Road, has 930 members.

Mr. Louis also rebutted various points highlighted by the defense. Among other things, he denied that members of his church were taught to confess their personal thoughts, weaknesses and sins to their leader. It was also untrue that his ;church encouraged members to leave their homes to live with other members, he said. Members were also free to date whoever they wished, he added.

And he said that despite what the defendants had stated, his church did not believe that those who left were going over to Satan.

About This Case:

The Central Christian Church is suing the editors of The New Paper (TNP) and Lianhe Wanbao for calling it a cult in a story headlined "Concern over two cult groups," which appeared in TNP on Nov. 23, 1991. The Chinese evening daily had published a translation that day.

Apart from New Paper editor P. N. Balji and Lianhe Wanbao editor Chen Cheng, the other defendants are the newspapers' publishers, The Straits Times Press (1975) Ltd. And Singapore Press Holdings.

The church's head founder John Philip Louis has joined his church in the suit.

The editors contended the reports were true in substance and fact, and they had a moral and social duty to publish such information for the benefit of the public. They said the plaintiffs had been planted here by missionaries from the London Church of Christ, already banned from some universities in the US and Britain.

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