Just in case people thought dominionism was a problem restricted to the US or Australia or Canada:
Dominionism is unfortunately a global problem.
And a favourite tactic of dominionists--steeplejacking of churches and nonprofit orgs--has now come to one of the last places we'd expect:
A necropsy of a steeplejack--right down to the planning stages
Firstly, some backgrounder. Presently, the law in Singapore technically criminalises same-sex relationships (the law is a holdover from the British colonial period); there is an ongoing political debate in the country about revoking that law. In general, there's good public support for decriminalisation, but one major group is fighting it--dominionist groups in Singapore, which are typically linked to NAR/Joel's Army groups like Hillsong. This has included a particular church called Church Of Our Saviour, which has been especially politically active in trying to keep same-sex relationships illegal.
So perhaps what occured, starting in December, was inevitable.
The women's group AWARE (which is roughly the equivalent of the National Organisation for Women in Singapore--they do lots of activism on women's issues in general) has been essentially steeplejacked and a major purge done of the former leadership by a group connected largely to an NAR-linked "Anglican" church (in truth, it's neopentecostal and NAR-linked; we'll be going into MUCH more detail on this)
Of note, this "Joel's Army in Anglican clothing" church is very anti-LGBT; not only do they extensively promote anti-LGBT info but have official policy statements condemning LGBT people and promoting de-gaying and promote bogosities about LGBT people being inherently mentally ill.
And in March of 2009, the NAR-linked Church Of Our Saviour effectively steeplejacked the major women's rights NGO in Singapore--a country that effectively is under one-party rule as is and has precious few groups able to lobby successfully.
The speed and level of the steeplejack is actually rather horrifying--from all indications, literally 80 members of the 102-member org joined between January and March of this year. In what may be a rare glimpse at the planning documents for the steeplejack, apparently the pastor himself was exhorting members and leaders of cell-church groups linked to the church to join and there is evidence from email archives that the steeplejack was planned as early as December 2008.
Even worse--this may be, quite literally, an attempt at a hostile takeover--by groups that are hostile to both LGBT people and women in general. This isn't just on the subject of LGBT rights, either.
An in-depth look at the church behind the steeplejack
The Church Of Our Saviour stands out in that--visiting their website one gets the impression one is not visiting an Anglican church's website (they claim Anglican affiliation)--but rather one of the "hip" websites run by many an Assemblies of God or "nondenominational" NAR-linked neopentecostal congregation.
There is actually a very good reason for this.
For starters, most CoE churches don't have long talks with Hillsong A/G operatives about "prophetic dance" or have extensive NAR/neopente buzzwording and discussions of "Brownsville Revival"-esque "gold dusting" in their church newsletters.
In fact, there's only one place I have EVER heard of that phenomenon--and that is within NAR-linked neopentecostal churches, and even a specific subset of the NAR (namely, Assemblies, Foursquare, and Vineyard-linked NAR churches).
In general, COE churches also do not have indoctrinations lists for the quarter for cell-church leaders or use Hillsong A/G recordings and other "Christian contemporary" artists in their hymnal or specific promotion of "health and wealth" gospel including sections on "maintaining your healing". (The latter is, shall we say, unique--apparently failures of faith-healing can literally be blamed on "thinking negative thoughts" and thus "opening doorways to Satan".)
In other words--we are dealing with something not unlike what happened with Holy Temple Bradenton in the UK--the church that is the originator of the "bait and switch evangelism" Alpha Course. Namely, the church seems itself to have been steeplejacked by NAR promoters from a completely different denomination--in HTB's case, by a Vineyard-linked "cuckoo church".
And in tracing the possible influences on Church Of Our Saviour, all roads lead--disturbingly--to Hillsong and to the Denomination Formerly Known As The Australian Assemblies of God.
In fact, this church is literally in the "Hillsong network" of NAR churches--the sole church listed in the "Churches to attend when you're away" section is a Hillsong satellite church in Perth that is one of the most extensively and openly Joel's Army churches I've seen--including the literal condemnation of non-dominionists and critics as "Jezebels" and invoking a party typically only referred to by Christian Identity promoters:
We are a Church that will build ourselves strong in the spirit man. We will not yield to the giants of the land but like Joshua, we will dare move out and possess. Like a David, we will dare take on the Goliaths of our time. Like an Elijah, we will dare confront the Ahabs and the Jezebels of our day. Like the zeal of Phinehas, we will stand for righteousness.
This...quite bluntly...is a LOT of Joel's Army Buzzword Bingo:
a) "David" and "Joshua" and "Elijah" have often been invoked in modern-day rebrandings of "Joel's Army" (particularly in the terms "Joshua Generation"--denoting the NAR concept of an "end-time generation" who will "Take the world back for the godly"--and "Elijah's Army").
b) "Ahab" and "Jezebel" are epithets for non-dominionist men and women respectively.
c) The Phinehas invocation is especially disturbing--as pretty much only NAR groups and Christian Identity "race warriors" use it, and both in a remarkably similar context--stating that it is ideologically acceptable to kill, if necessary, to establish purity. (I've written much more on this particular phrase's use in Joel's Army circles here. Cliff's Notes version: Phinehas was so much of a zealot he not only is infamous for shish-kebabbing a man and his fiance for the act of inflagrante delicto in the temple, but nearly caused the extermination of almost a third of the tribes of of Israel due to a misunderstanding over a temple being constructed outside of the one in Jerusalem.)
Not only does FCC promote cells openly, but they promote within "women's cells" a particularly horrific religiously motivated child abuse program (namely the Ezzo's "Growing Kids God's Way", linked starvation deaths and hospitalisations of children and which is essentially a program of religiously motivated child abuse and neglect). In addition, they are quite explicitly NAR in promoting the "fivefold ministry" concept as well as cells and the very Alpha Course invented by the steeplejacked Holy Temple Bradenton.
I expect that FCC is used as the "parent church" because of a large number of Chinese immigrants--COOS seems to target mostly the Chinese-Singaporean community, and FCC seems to be composed almost entirely of people of Chinese descent as well.
And--by their own blatant admission--they are targeting the East Indies as a whole, including not only Singapore but Timor Leste.
Back to COOS itself, among some of the other oddities that further confirm that it's an "NAR Assemblies church in all but name" include the promotion of essentially a diploma mill calling itself the School of Supernatural Ministry; literally all of the speakers at the conference where these bogus diplomas are to be handed out are linked to Bethel Church of Redding, CA; Bethel is a Joel's Army congregation which links to a veritable New Apostolic Reformation who's who--including, notably, Todd Bentley and many others associated with various neopente "Third Wave" "revivals".
There are other aspects that resemble the American NAR churches strongly (as well as the Aussie ones). Among other things, "Christian" alternatives to Scouting are promoted (unlike in the US, Boy Scouting in the rest of the world is not heavily religiously influenced)
Among other things, COOS targets (just like NAR groups in the US) military members, including cell churches targeted towards persons serving mandatory military service (like many other countries, Singapore has mandatory national guard/civil service periods).
Another of the "seminars" held is actually particularly revealing--a seminar on steeplejacking businesses and using them for "bait and switch" evangelism...something that becomes particularly relevant with AWARE's new head.
American dominionists helping things along too
As it turns out, it's not just the Assemblies that are actively helping out here. One of the partners in crime in regards to the Steeplejacking of AWARE is none other than the largest political group in the US promoting "Christian nationalism"--none other than Focus on the Family itself.
It may surprise people to know that a big part of FotF's activities have involved--as of late--international export of dominionism. But export they do, and it's big business--including schemes similar to the "funnel aid to the Contras under the claims of 'helping missions'" scams in the 80s (only now targeting insurgent groups in Colombia).
These include, notably, affiliates where you would not expect to find FotF affiliates--including Singapore as well as Malaysian, Indonesian, and Chinese affiliates. (Of note, I honestly don't see how the Malaysian or Indonesian affiliates are operating legally; Christian worship is tolerated but prosyletisation is prohibited as both of these countries officially have Islam as the state religion. Moderate Islam, yes--but it's not open season for prosyletisation.)
The fact that FotF has a Singaporean affiliate is bizarre enough, but this grows ever more interesting is the fact that Church Of Our Saviour is apparently the de facto headquarters of FotF in Singapore--and the new leadership has links to both groups.
Firstly, the person now acting as the head of AWARE (Josie Lau) was responsible for quite a controversy--namely, Mrs. Law was behind a campaign conducted at behest of COOS to set up donations to FotF via a "Christmas Credit Card" program by her bank DBS. (DBS is one of the larger bank and trust companies in Singapore.) Yes--pretty much the general "charity affinity" fraud scheme that dominionist groups here in the US are fond of--signing up for charity donation programs (meant more for Little League and Scouting programs) and encouraging their members to buy and use the "discount" numbers to funnel a good amount of money to their group.
Needless to say, DBS was shortly the subject of a boycott, and eventually DBS dropped mention of FotF in their "Christmas Credit Card" programme. Lau, interestingly, seems to have gone on--eventually ending up as COOS's point-woman in AWARE.
And the necessary backgrounder
For folks coming in new to the discussion of NAR churches, the best I can suggest on a backgrounder of what I mean regarding the NAR groups being Bad News is an ongoing series of articles by Talk to Action regulars Bruce Wilson and Ruth (full disclosure; I have a professional working relationship with both of these folks as a part of a research team based on essentially "Joel's Army-busting") as well as my own writing on the subject (as an ex-member and researcher) at Talk to Action, NewsVine, and a certain "orange site". (I do plan on mirroring most of the content here on Newsvine as well.)
Even shorter for readers who are in countries where it's been released: The NAR/Joel's Army folks are the subject of the movie "Jesus Camp" (specifically, an NAR group that promotes "child ministry"--in their theology, kids born after the legalisation of abortion are literally promoted as a "chosen generation" to "take the world back for God"). Yes, I pretty much grew up "Jesus Camped" (I got better, fortunately, in part because (thankfully) dominionist "homeschooling" was not yet in vogue and I did have *some* exposure to the outside world--I still live with the scars and probably always will, though).
One thing that hasn't been covered much in the media (well, outside of Australia) is the fact that the NAR does have characteristics of a coercive religious group in pretty much the same way Scientology does. In fact, NAR groups and Scientology have a disturbing number of parallels, up to and including paramilitary equivalents of the Scientologist "Sea Orgs" in the US.
NAR groups, especially those in completely-NAR-dominated neopentecostal groups, have been linked recently to some horrific hate crimes against LGBT people--up to and including assaults--as well as the promotion of literal calls to war against LGBT people and the documented use of literal Holocaust revisionism in justifying targeting LGBT people for harassment and desired extermination.
The use of cell churches (which is known to be in practice at Church Of Our Saviour) is particularly worrisome--not only are these used to infiltrate churches and political groups (and, as we've seen with AWARE, also NGOs), but are a major factor in how dominionist churches grow explosively and organise politically (as we have seen, interestingly, with AWARE's steeplejacking--in fact, this may be some of the best documentation of this tactic ever recorded) and in and of themselves are horribly coercive--to the point that Matt Taibbi (who infiltrated the NAR-linked Cornerstone Church in Texas for a segment of his book "The Great Derangement") literally documented personality changes occuring even though he knew what these groups did to rile people up.
In fact, cell-churches (as used in these groups) are well known among researchers to be one of the most documentedly abusive tactics in use in coercive religious groups in general; short-term and long-term personality changes are documented in members of cells and similar groups that are not documented in mainstream churches and religions that do not use coercive tactics. In combination with several other tactics, in fact, NAR groups can be considered as bad as the Moonies or Scientologists just on levels of sheer mind control and a good argument can be made that the really hardcore NAR groups--and COOS does appear to be one of these--are actually worse than Scientology and rank as among the most coercive groups ever documented outside of a North Korean gulag.
Another thing especially worrisome about COOS in particular is their association with the Australian Community Churches (and in particular Faith Community Church). For those unaware, the Australian Community Churches are what used to be called the Australian Assemblies of God; they had to change their name because of repeated revelations in the Australian press of highly abusive practices at their churches, particularly the "home church" of the denomination in Australia (Hillsong A/G in Sydney). In fact, the antics of the Australian A/G and Hillsong in particular became so infamous that most exit counselors in Australia consider the denomination as a whole as coercive (as well as at least one American exit-counselor who has dealt extensively with ex-NAR walkaways).
Hillsong has been particularly active in exporting NAR theology to countries in the Asian and Oceanic spheres, including Fiji and Singapore; they also have their own political party in Australia known as Family First, and have taken tactics very similar to those used by Scientology to shut up their critics--including trying to sue a walkaway for libel and intimidate their publisher into not printing a book that was particularly damning towards the group.
Hillsong has been noted for graft against its members, a sexual-abuse scandal involving multiple pastors (in fact, the founder of Hillsong is noted for having molested kids in New Zealand), and institutionalised abuse of women through a "faith-based rehab" chain funded through Gloria Jean Coffee. (Yes, Gloria Jean is--unfortunately--a major funder of this stuff.) In addition, just like Scientology and the Moonies, Hillsong runs a *lot* of "front groups"--including quite a number targeting kids.
A hostile takeover bid
This is all bad enough--but a disturbing prospect comes up, even as the AWARE Steeplejackers have admitted their major purpose was to purge people tolerant of helping out lesbians...there is a non-negligible possibility that the purpose may be even deeper than this.
Namely, there is a very real possibility this is, quite literally, a hostile takeover--meant to destroy the org.
Two major data points play up how this could be meant as a targeted attack against women's rights in general (and LGBT people in particular). The first is a letter from an Angela Thiang--now on the board of directors for AWARE post-purge--who sent a letter to the Singapore Times calling for abortion to be banned (and bringing up the "post-abortion syndrome" canard).
The second is potentially even more damning. At Church Of Our Saviour, membership in cell-church groups is mandatory, and their seminar notes for essentially an adult "Jesus Camp" have some very revealing information regarding their concept of a woman's place in the home and in society:
a) The husband is the head, and as such has to act as God's vice-regent, to govern not
according to his, but according to the divine will.
The authority put into his hands is from the Lord, and it is his to exert for Him, and it
cannot therefore be delegated to another.
First, don't allow your family (especially mom) to meddle in your marriage...it's
none of their (her) business.
. . .
b) The wife is in subjection to her husband, even as the Church is subject to Christ,
the husband on his part having to love his wife even as Christ loved the Church, and
gave Himself for it.
. . .
Divine order is an order of authority and responsibility that is spelled out in the Bible
1. Head of every man is Christ
2. Head of every woman is the man
3. Head of the children are the parents
. . .
But God has given her a role that is different than that of the husband and one that requires
submission to the husband for its proper fulfillment.
. . .
One lady stood up and said, "I'm so thankful for these lessons and what they've done for me! I'm so thankful that
God loves me! I'm so thankful for this relationship that I have with God in Jesus Christ!"
She started to sit down and Dr. Parker said, "Just a moment. Tell me, with this new relationship in Jesus Christ, how does that affect you in the home?
• Does this make you a better mother?
• Does it make you a better housewife?
• Are you sweeter to your husband because of your relationship with Christ?
• Has this really made you a better wife and housekeeper?..."
He felt a tug on his coat and the minister behind him said, "Press those points, brother! That's my wife!"
. . .
It's unfortunate that so many mothers are not at home with their children. Many women
have run off with another man at work (was it worth that extra income?). It's often a great
stress on the marriage when the wife is independent of her husband. Regardless of what we
think, God has declared to us that His will for a young woman is to do four things:
2. bear children
3. guide the house.
4. not be a reproach to her husband
This scripture alone makes it clear that the Christian couple should plan to have children.
There will have to be a family in order for the young women to "love their children." Titus
(Emphasis in original bolded; my emphasis italicised.)
There's much more where this came from--in essence, the entire workshop states that--quite literally--a woman's place is in the home, barefoot, and popping out litters of God Warriors. Not just this, but it also states that women who are outside of these roles are literally invoking the wrath of God Himself.
One section even quite blatantly promotes women as the weaker sex both physically and spiritually:
E. Submission a means of protection
1. Women are subject to being attacked physically and emotionally, therefore they need
2. Women are also vulnerable emotionally, psychologically and spiritually
3. Women are subject to emotional attacks of her own children -She should not have to
ask for their respect. Husbands protect her from that
a. Protects her from discourtesies and abuses of children
b. Instills in them a sense of respect for womanhood
4. Subject to spiritual attack- husbands should shield her, women are easily deceived
(As an aside, the use of this material by COOS in and of itself presents further evidence of it being an NAR church; the seminar is originally from SOS Ministries, a Joel's Army church affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (this is the branding the Assemblies of God uses in the Great White North, just like they use "Australian Community Churches" in the Land Down Under) in Edmonton, Alberta. In fact, it's looking more and more and more like Church Of Our Saviour is just an Assemblies of God church in all but name.)
Do forgive me if I fear the "New AWARE" is NOT exactly going to be friendly towards women's concerns in Singapore.