Manila Episcopal Area

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Coordinating Council Report

Ating Tahanan Conference Center
South Drive, Baguio
September 23-24, 2005

Bishop Solito K. Toquero
Manila Episcopal Area

Praise and thanksgiving be to our God who gives us new life in Jesus Christ, and strengthens and empowers us through His Holy Spirit! This is my second report to the Coordinating Council this first year of the new quadrennium.

1. Apportionment by Tithing

Giving of apportionment based on tithing has continued in BulPAC and in the districts of Laguna-Quezon and South Nueva Ecija. I believe that if this method of giving is pursued in all annual conferences, the needed financial support to sustain the work of expanding our mission to establish churches in every town/barangay will soon be realized. The experience of those who have adopted this method of apportionment has resulted in having more than enough to support various church programs in all levels.

2. Establishment of Prayer Rooms and Prayer Groups

Many of our local churches have begun adopting the program of establishing prayer rooms and prayers groups after I have shared the importance of these in my past reports to the coordinating council and annual conferences. We want to recover early Methodists’ emphasis on prayer and follow Jesus’ life of prayer. The power and blessings derived from prayer have sustained individual members and congregations in worship, witness and service. We see it in the growth of local churches both in quality and quantity. The Palawan North District has prioritized the establishment of prayer rooms and prayer groups in every local congregation. The same is true with the district of Cavite and other local churches under the Manila Episcopal Area.

3. Mission to OFWs

Attended by district superintendents, clergy and lay, including the deaconesses, a total of 36 participants coming from all annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area, a Basic Migrant Orientation Seminar-Workshop was held at Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation, Sampaloc, Manila on August 30 to September 1, 2005. This group studied and reflected together the migrants’ situation, the root causes and effects of their migration and its impact to their families. The lectures shared by Fr. Nilo Tanalega, SJ, of Ugat Foundation of the Ateneo de Manila University and Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante were very inspiring and enlightening. OFWs were also invited; they shared their experiences.
Maritime Ministry which was commenced by PACE through Rev. Saldy Bolus has become a MEA program. Central UMC is very much involved in gathering seafarers every Friday. Pastor Rey Lopez has taken the initiative in partnership with NCCP and other ecumenical bodies here and abroad. Center for Filipino Seafarers (CENTERPHILS) has been established last year as an ecumenical agency to serve seafarers, majority of which are from the UMC. KKFI has also expressed its willingness to open its doors for Maritime Ministry. In response to the needs of our overseas Filipino workers and their families, both land-based and sea-based, the MEA Cabinet is developing a systematic program and ministry for OFWs.

4. School of Mission and Evangelism

Some districts and annual conferences have established schools of mission and evangelism such as TIME at PAC, SCYD at Aurora, etc., for church growth and development. Other conferences and districts plan to systematize their mission and evangelistic work. In support, the MEA cabinet has organized a task force that will conduct an in-depth study of selected churches. Why some UMC churches have grown so fast while others have lagged behind will be the focus of this study. This task force will submit its report and recommendations as soon as possible. We need to recapture the evangelistic zeal of the early Methodist movement.

5. Leadership Development and Continuing Education

The Manila Episcopal Area will hold a church workers’ convocation at the Wesleyan University-Philippines on October 24-26, 2005. All clergy and deaconesses are urged to attend as part of their continuing education and leadership development. Seminar and workshop will be offered on relevant topics such us, conflict management, counseling, campus ministry, multiple intelligence, church growth, social principles, healing ministry, community organizing, church administration, and lectionary preaching, to be handled by experts and academicians. We have invited the Rev. Dr. Isaac Lim and Dr. Shirley Lim of Singapore to handle four study sessions on leadership.
In line with the National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program on Leadership Development and Continuing Education of both Clergy and Lay, two seminars have been held for all annual conferences under MEA in partnership with KKFI, specifically on capability building, on June 27-July 1 and July 4-8, 2005 at KKFI, respectively. The theme is “Living the Gospel in Today’s World.” This has been followed by other seminar-workshop in annual conferences, like the Bulacan Philippines Annual Conference, on community organizing and project management, held on August 24-27 in Malolos, Bulacan. Seventy-Nine (79) church workers, clergy and lay were in attendance.
Many of our leaders, both clergy and lay, have also attended seminars and workshops here and abroad (twice in Singapore and twice in USA) to be refreshed and upgraded on their knowledge and skills on leadership.

6. Cabinet Consultation and Studies.

The regular consultation and studies being conducted with the members of MEA cabinet has provided us with the opportunities to assess and analyze the needs of various church organizations and groups and the different program areas of the church. As an example, the work for mission and evangelism still receives a small allocation from the total annual budget of many local churches. Lack of materials for mission and evangelism and the insufficiency of financial support for mission workers are problems that were partly attributed to this situation. Other problems that have to be addressed are the lack of vision for mission, the need of systematic program on evangelism, standardization of workers salary, campaign for systematic tithing and giving, innovative liturgy and rituals, revitalization of Sunday school and extension classes, employment and livelihood opportunities, upgrading of church facilities. These are only some of the concerns raised by our churches. Let us formulate ministries and programs that will meet the needs of our churches in the grassroots level.

7. Ministry to Indigenous People

Consultations with church workers and leaders involved in the ministry to Indigenous People (IP) from Zambales, Bataan, Oriental Mindoro and Rizal provinces have helped us to identify their needs and possible program support. One of these is a continuing education for IP leaders that is relevant to their culture and faith practice. Urgent issues, such as, their right to ancestral land coupled with exploitation and abuses of foreign mining corporations, militarization and human rights violation, and government neglect of educational facilities and services, health and nutrition, food production and the lack of roads marketing their products. The Manila Episcopal Area through the Area coordinator for National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program will work with the indigenous communities through their pastors and leaders and in partnerships with other NGO’s in order to uplift their lives. We will see to it that their human rights are protected through lobbying and advocacy work, and that their indigenous culture be preserved and expressed in their worship and in their participation as equals in the mainstream of society.

8. Partnership with United Methodist Churches/Conferences
and other Methodist Autonomous Churches

UMC local churches, district and annual conferences in the USA have been working in partnership with us through their Volunteers in Mission program. They have helped us in many ways in putting new up church buildings and financial contributions in our projects. Two groups from California-Pacific and California-Nevada are coming to MEA early next year to help build church buildings and do medical-dental mission in various places. The Methodist Church in Korea has been active in doing similar projects. Lately the Korean Church has put up leadership development program for Asian Methodist clergy to do master’s degree work in Korea, one for every Episcopal area in the Philippines. Hong Kong and Singapore are encouraging us from the Philippines to attend their seminar-workshops on leadership and also to work as missionaries in their respective countries. Negotiations are going on.

9. Church Structure

The Philippine Central Conference in November 2004 has approved the petition of nine out of sixteen annual conferences for affiliated autonomous relationship with the General Conference. Seven were denied because of technicality. All annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area except Pampanga Philippines have ratified the nine petitions. Bulacan Philippines voted for affiliated autonomy, Tarlac Philippines, newly created conference also voted in favor. West Middle Philippines corrected its petition and also voted affirmatively. Pampanga Philippines voted for the present central conference structure. An adjourned session of the Philippine Central Conference is scheduled in November 2006 to act on these petitions. Hopefully, petitions denied earlier on the grounds of technicality would be rectified. Much work and prayers are still needed in preparation for a new structure in Philippine Methodism. Let us pray fervently that God’s will prevail, that we be united in making our decision. Meanwhile additional groundwork is needed in convincing those who have not voted for a change of structure that they abide by the constitutional provision of two-thirds aggregate majority vote. Let us unite in prayer and fasting that the mission of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines continue to prosper for the glory of God. Let us prepare for the future of Methodism and its mission whatever structure it may take shape!


Submitted by:

Bishop, Manila Episcopal Area