2006 Episcopal Address:Mission Possible
Fellow United Methodists! Grace and peace to all in the blessed name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We give thanks to God who has blessed us with many blessings, material and spiritual, in our witness and service to Him through the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit!
The Manila Episcopal Area continues to be faithful to the mandate of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Since last conference year, we have planted new churches and new preaching points as reported by the various districts and local churches in the Area. Membership of young, as well as old local churches has increased, and so has their financial stewardship. We have intensified our ministry to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and their families through the seminars we conducted. We have strengthened our ministry to indigenous peoples. We have undergone various seminars on our Social Principles and participated in Social Witness. We have held evangelistic services in various districts and local churches inviting people to commit their lives to Jesus Christ and be a part of the local church. We have held and participated in Leadership Development/Seminars here and abroad. In all of these, we praise God and give Him all the glory!
I. Prayer, Healing, Evangelism and Church Growth
1. Prayer Groups/Warriors/Intercessors, Prayer Rooms,
Prayer is part and parcel of our ministry of Evangelism and Church Growth. Our campaign for local churches to give emphasis to prayer has borne some results. Fourteen churches in Zambales District have organized dawn prayer meetings adopted from the Korean Methodist Church, with prayer warriors/intercessors. Some local churches have built their own prayer rooms and become active in praying for their pastors and deaconesses, especially the mission and ministry of the Church. PACE has its weekly Aldersgate Prayer and Praise meeting every Wednesday morning. It was organized by lay people and is well attended by both lay and clergy.
A monthly prayer and fellowship with the MEA bishop is also held regularly at Central UMC every last Tuesday of the month, from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, attended by 20-30 people, both lay and clergy, coming from Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija. This is sponsored by Aldersgate United Methodist Renewal Ministries. These prayer fellowships have strengthened the local churches and empowered them to witness for Christ and serve Him more effectively.
2. Healing Ministry
It is time for us to restore the healing ministry of the Church. The pastor or deaconess not only prays for the sick during a hospital call or home visitation but also during regular Sunday worship in the local Church. The local church schedules a worship service specifically for healing, or a time in the service to pray for all who needed healing, anointing them with oil (see James 5:14-16). Mature and spiritual members (elders according to James) can help the pastor in praying for the sick. If there is a separate prayer room, then those who needed prayer for healing (physical, emotional or otherwise) might proceed to the prayer room for individual prayer by the elders of the local congregation. We are not the healer but the Lord, through our prayers. I have personally experienced God’s healing power through prayer in my ministry in various local churches. Let us restore the healing ministry of the Church by holding regular healing services in the local church.
3. Personal and Mass Evangelism
All the districts in the MEA have their mission outreach and evangelism programs done in various ways. PACE Quezon City District has scheduled Wednesday to Friday nightly evangelistic crusade since October, 2005 until April, 2006. DS Lito Tangonan has assigned its own clergy members as evangelists. As a result of these evangelistic crusades, membership in the local church has increased. They commit their lives to Christ after hearing the Good News preached to them. Moreover, Quezon City District has a comprehensive and encompassing ministry which they call as JERICHO and a training of its participating members under the STEM (Sowers’ Training for Evangelism and Mission).
West Pampanga District of PamPAC through the leadership of DS Lesley Danan and the Board of Discipleship has trained their church workers on the ministry of evangelism. Six selected church workers attended an OJT (on the job training) Evangelism Explosion Leadership Clinic and in turn trained others for thirteen (13) Sunday afternoons. The lay people who were trained brought eighty-two (82) persons to a decision for Christ. The UMYF leaders were also trained. The ensuing evangelistic crusades netted many decisions for Christ. 200 young people accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior during an evangelistic crusade of the Christmas Institute held at the new site of Aldersgate UMC in Angeles City.
4. Evangelism through Pastoral Care, Small Group/Cell Group Ministry and Lay Partnership
A Research group from the MEA Cabinet and Staff conducted a study on the qualities of pastors, deaconesses and church members of twelve fast growing local churches in Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Zambales. They found out that the pastors and church workers of these congregations, both young and old, are dedicated, caring and industrious. They have cell groups with trained lay leaders helping the pastor in visiting and inviting people, and leading in small/cell group ministry. They have also a strong social witness and care for the needy in the community. Members help one another and they have a clear understanding of the mission of the Church. The small/cell group ministry is particularly effective in a large congregation where the members are divided into small, caring and studying groups, led by lay leaders trained by the pastor. Whether in an urban or rural setting, a dedicated lay person in partnership with the pastor and deaconess, really makes the difference in calling people to follow Jesus Christ.
Zambales Distrist has adopted the small group ministry through the leadership of their district superintendent, Rev. Mario Badua. Other districts have been doing this type of ministry in their local churches.
5. Social Concern and Church Growth
Towns and villages devastated by typhoon and floods in eastern Luzon two years ago have risen new UMC congregations after a team of church workers ministered to the families of victims. Those places with existing UMC congregations have added new converts. An example is the experience of Laguna-Quezon Mission District (LQMD). By the end of the year 2005, LQMD has added five new local churches in the towns of Masapang, Villarin, Cabuyao, Infanta and Nakar. They have been organized through the leadership of DS Igmedio “Bong” Domingo with the dedicated workers of the district, both clergy and lay. Quezon City and Rizal Districts have been supporting LQMD in its efforts toward becoming a self-supporting full district. PACE Lay Leader, Dr. Edna delos Santos, is doing her best for LQMD to reach its full district status.
II. Church Workers Convocation and the Mission of
the Connectional Table Representatives
1. MEA-Wide Workers Convocation
More than 700 church workers, pastors and deaconesses, gathered for three days on Oct. 24-26, 2005 at Wesleyan University—Philippines, in Cabanatuan City. The three-day activity tackled the theme, “Accountable Leadership for Today’s Challenges.” Dr. Isaac Lim, former President of the Trinity Annual Conference of Singapore Methodist Church, served as the main speaker and delivered three lectures on leadership. As the MEA bishop, I gave the keynote address and the closing message. Workshops on Lectionary Preaching, Church Administration, Stress Management, Campus Ministry, Social Principles, Community Organizing, Multiple Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Counseling, Healing and Church Growth. It was a continuing education experience for those who participated because the workshop leaders and lecturers were experts in their own field. Ms. Framer Cristy Mella facilitated the discussion on Conflict Management that drew much interest among the participants. More seminars and workshops will beheld in the future for the annual and district conferences to use as modules in the Continuing Education of both Lay and Clergy leaders in the local churches. This training would make them more effective witnesses and servants of the church in the community.
2.Mission of the Connectional Table Representatives
Bishop John Hopkins of the East Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and presiding bishop of the Connectional table headed a ten-person delegation that visited the Philippines on January 3-7, 2006. The purpose of their visit was to investigate alleged human rights violations in the country and appeal to the proper authorities to do something to stop the killings.
The group is composed of four general secretaries of the general boards: GBGM, GBCS, GCCUIC, UMCOM, namely, Randy Day, Jim Winkler, Larry Pickens and Larry Hollon, respectively, with Asian-American Caucus representative, Inday Day, and Hispanic-American Caucus representative, Christina Gonzales. Levi Bautista, Associate Gen. Sec. of GBCS, the only non-Connectional Table member, acted as coordinator. They were able to interview victims of human rights abuses and their immediate families. The team also went to the US Embassy and dialogued with Acting Deputy Chief of Missions, Scott Douglas Bellard on pressuring the Philippine government “to distinguish between armed terrorists and church and community workers” who are working among the poor peacefully. The perennial problem of visa applications of Filipino delegates to the General Conference was also discussed. Mr. Bellard promised to help UMC delegates secure US visa. DS Johann Osias was the first recipient of such a promise.
Our delegation also went to Malacañang and met with Maria Isabel Gonzales-Tobias, Undersecretary for Religious Affairs of the Philippine government. She promised to bring our human rights concern to the President. Moreover, the group held a dialogue with high-ranking members of the Military that in Camp Aguinaldo. The latter denied they have a lists known as “order of battle,” but did not deny that military officers in the field (local level) might “identify known troublemakers.” They emphasized though that respect for human rights is a part of the military training curriculum. The meetings with various groups concluded with a press conference.
III. MEA-Innovative Ministries Partnership Program
1. Migrant Ministry
a. Migrant Seminars
The launching of this program was held at KKFI on Aug. 31-Sept1, 2005 with thirty-six participants. It is an episcopal-wide migrant ministry program through a “Seminar-Workshop on Basic Orientation on Migration. The seminar sought to enable UMC leaders to study and reflect on the root causes and effects of migration to Filipino migrants and their families, learn about the experiences and situations of migrants, plan relevant programs and projects that are responsive to the needs of migrant workers and their families.
We invited resource speakers from the Church, peoples’ organizations (POs), non-government organizations (NGOs), and government organizations (GOs) that are working on the issues of migration. Their sharing enlightened the participants about the real picture of the OFWs in the different host countries as they provide them with legal, psychological, socio-cultural and spiritual assistance. Result of the first seminar workshop was a plan of action per annual conference.
A follow up seminar-workshop on “Counseling, Para-Legal and Putting Up Migrant Desk was held at Bishop La Verne Mercado Ecumenical Center, NCCP, EDSA, Quezon City on January 12-14, 2006. There were 38 participants composed of District Superintendents, Pastors, Deaconesses, and lay leaders from the different annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area. The main objective was to help participants become more effective in responding to the needs of OFW’s and their families. Topics discussed in the seminar-workshop were the following; a). Biblico-Theological Reflection on migration; b). National and migrant situationer update; c). Psycho-social and cultural effects of migration; d). Identifying children and adolescents with psychological problems as effected by migration; e) counseling and para-legal skills; and f). putting up migrant desk.
We have tapped UMC members as resource persons for the seminar, some of whom are working in the academe as counseling professors. We have asked the help of UGAT Foundation of Fr. Nilo Tanalega, of Migrante International and other NGOs doing ministry with migrants in many countries where there are Filipino OFWs.
2. Church Workers’ and Lay Leaders’ Continuing Education
a. Laguna-Quezon Mission District
One of the districts that followed up the MEA-wide Workers Convocation held at Wesleyan University in Cabantuan City last October 2005 is Laguna-Quezon. The Christmas Institute became the vehicle in their continuing education program. Biblical studies were held simultaneously with the UMYF CI program at Los Banos, Laguna. Thirty-eight church workers studied and reflected on the Synoptic Gospels and the Book of Genesis. The church workers, with their DS, felt the need of a regular in-service training after undergoing an in-depth study and reflection of the Bible. They believe such study would help them in their pastoral and diaconal responsibilities. March 16-18, 2006 is set for the continuing education of clergy, deaconesses and lay leaders as partners in ministry.
b. Palawan-Wide Church Workers’ CI and Continuing Education
Brookes Point National High School in Brookes Point, Palawan was the venue of 200 UMYF leaders who attended the annual conference-wide Christmas Institute. MEA-IMPP staff led in the study of the UMC Social Principles. Most of the participants were first timers to CI and new to the UMC. Thus, the activity has become learning experience for them. The participants related that they learned to connect their faith with the day-to-day life. The interplay of faith and action through this study was very much appreciated.
Fifty church workers also took the opportunity to study Wesley’s social teaching with the MEA-IMPP, including workers’ spouses and seminarians. They also gave an orientation about MEA-IPP quadrennial program and the new statistical form prescribed by the GCFA. It is expected that all annual conferences would fill up accurately this new statistical data for permanent record purposes of the UMC membership, programs done, and total assets and resources. Palawan Philippines Annual Conference District Superintendents, Revs Roger Marquez, Noli Saranilla and Joel Dillozon, promised to update church records especially membership audit following the new statistical form.
c. Rizal District Innovative Ministries Trainors’ Training Workshop
Rev. Ray Sison, new DS of Rizal District, has adopted the NIMPP module for implementation in his district. Fourteen Council on Ministries’ officers in his district attended a series of study last January 16, 19, 31 and February 7, 2006 at Kaytikling, Taytay, Rizal. UMM, clergy, UMW and UMYAF leaders studied the UMC Social Principles. Migrant Ministry orientation was led by Fr. Nilo Tanalage of UGAT Foundation and Professor of Ateneo U on Counseling. Ms. Darlene Caramanzana, Executive Director of the Board of Women’s Work led in the orientation on “Violence Against Women and Children.” Ms. Ping Almario (now Mrs. Anonuevo), deaconess assigned to the Dumagats of Tanay, Rizal shared her experiences and ministry with the Dumagats.
Orientation on community organizing was handled by Dr. Angelito Manalili, dean of UP College of Social Work, and Paul Muego, KKFI’s program director. The latter discussed Participative Project Management and Development.
This trainors training of Rizal District, hopefully, would result in a workable District Master Plan to be worked out in a visioning seminar on Feb. 13-14, applying the principles learned in a series of training the leaders have attended. A CPE program has also be started by Rizal District and is being planned to extend its services to the entire annual conference. A CPE Center is now in place at Kaytikling conference site.
3. Uniform Statistics for the Three Episcopal Areas
The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) has given us an statistical form to be used by all UMC congregations throughout the world. We urge all our statisticians to study it and use it for this conference year. We have already held seminars in various districts and conferences. This statistical form is in compliance with the new provision of the United Methodist Book of Discipline on baptized members and professing members of the local church. MEA has requested the services of Mrs. Vida Sison of PACE, trained statistician, to help annual conference and district conference statisticians by holding training sessions with them. She has held seminars with the MEA Cabinet and with other conference officers. Accurate statistics helps us see the real picture of our denomination in terms of numbers, finances, etc.
IV. Cross-Cultural Leadership Training and Other Mission
1. District Superintendents’ training and exposure
Three of our district superintendents in the Manila Episcopal Area have undergone cross-cultural leadership training in various countries: 1). DS Egmedio Equila, Jr went to Singapore and Indonesia last year for a three-week Advance Leadership Program at Haggai Institute participated by Christian leaders from several countries and denominations, and one week seminar on Human Rights, respectively. He is being invited by Bishop Robert Solomon of Singapore Methodist Church to minister to Filipino Overseas Workers in Singapore. 2). DS David Sablan Jr. of Cavite District attended a two-week seminar on leadership in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 17-31, with 30 participants from 21 countries in Africa, United Kingdom, Poland, Brazil, Myanmar, to name a few. He will soon share his training with other leaders in the Philippines. 3). DS Johann Osias of SWMM District went to Washington DC for a three-day seminar on Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum with 82 clergy delegates. He had the opportunity to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York and also meet his father in a nursing home in New Jersey whom he had not seen for 23 years.
2. Ecumenical Meals and Mission
In a span of four days on February 1-4, 2006, I have had three meals with three different groups that express true ecumenical spirit. The first is a breakfast meeting of Evangelical Leaders, both Lay and Clergy, sponsored by Franklin Graham Festival Crusade organizers headed by Bishop Ephraim Tendero of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) at the Manila Hotel. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was with us and we prayed for her, Bishop Fred Magbanua, leading. Associate Justice Puno and I shook hands with GMA after the prayer. I led in the opening prayer during the first day of the Crusade at Rizal Park and witnessed the response of thousands of people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior during the altar call.
The second meal is a dinner the following day in the lair of the NPA in Central Luzon. Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a Roman Catholic Priest and I, ate with our bare hands with a group of rebels who released to our custody a military officer of the Philippine Air Force they have captured in July last year. I had the opportunity to read a one-page sermon in Tagalog based on John 3:16 and 10:10 to this group. Senator Biazon took the freed army officer to the Department of National Defence at Camp Aguinaldo for a press conference. His wife and children and friends were so happy to see him freed and in good health. I excused myself from the press conference. It was a breaking news that evening in all major TV networks.
The third one is a breakfast meeting, the following morning, at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in Intramuros, Manila. We celebrated the beginning of a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Newly installed President of CBCP, Archbishop Lagdameo welcomed us from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Breaking bread in our table were Archbishop Lagdameo, Bishop Lazaro of IEMELIF, Bishop Bolocon of UCCP and myself a UMC.
These three meals are expressions and experiences of love, salvation, freedom, reconciliation and unity. I hope we can have more of these in the grassroots.
3. Ministry among the Chinese Community
Our dream has come true with the opening of a ministry among the Chinese community in the City of Manila as it was formally launched at the Central United Methodist Church T.M. Kalaw, Manila, last March 26, 2006 and attended by Chinese missionaries from Taiwan, Filipino church workers and laypersons from different local churches. Previous to this, bible studies and fellowships among the Chinese community in Manila have been conducted regularly by the ministerial staff and lay persons from the Central United Methodist Church. I believe that this effort can be duplicated in other places where there are substantial numbers of Chinese and even Indian communities. Let us envision the establishment of a Chinese district in Manila and for this to become an annual conference someday for the glory of God!
4. Mission and Church-Related Institutions
We envision our church-related institutions to be our partners in mission and ministry to the world in the training of lay and clergy, in finances, and in sending them to mission fields, “to make disciples of all nations.” WU-P, PCU, WDS, UTS, Harris Memorial College, Mary Johnston Hospital, etc, are and have been our partners in mission. Let us strengthen this partnership with intentional programs and projects. Let us strengthen the curricula of these institutions so that they would geared to mission. WDS, for example has to find a new place at Palayan City. I recommend that the annual conference (MidPAC) provide a two-hectare lot from the seven-hectares now being administered by the Rev. Samuel Padolina. Let us dream of a Conference Center at Palayan City. Let each annual conference develop her own conference center. And all existing centers be developed further for income generating purposes, such as Tagaytay Mission Camp, PACE Conference Center in Kaytikling, Taytay, Rizal, John Wesley Center in Bataan, Tinambulan UMC Center in Quezon, etc.
Mary Johnston Hospital Jose Valencia Cancer Center and WU-P Heart Center are being developed for healing ministry and service not only to the wider community but also to our church workers.
5. Mission and Church Structure
The Adjourned session of the Philippine Central Conference is fast approaching. Annual Conferences which have technical deficiencies in their petition for an Affiliated Autonomous structure are supposed to submit their corrected petition. Based on the result of the voting in the eight annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area, we have one remaining annual conference, Pampanga Conference, that affirmed the Central Conference structure and rejected Affiliated Autonomous relationship.
Where do we go from here? I learned that one annual conference also did the same in the Davao Episcopal Area. Shall we proceed for the preparation of a new structure for Philippine Methodism? Or shall we reach out to our brothers and sisters in these annual conferences to convince them to join the large majority of annual conferences? I believe, we can do both. With open hearts and minds, let us have a dialogue with them in the spirit of love and sisterhood (and brotherhood) and have a joint-study committee with both clergy and laity in the local churches to seriously consider church structure for the future generation. Even with those who have already made a decision must seriously study the consequences and prepare for the future. Structures are not permanent. They are instruments in the ordering of the life and mission of the Church. If the structure has outlived its usefulness, there is no other remedy but to change it and replace it with a new one that is more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission. I still am for an affiliated autonomous structure. I have not changed my mind. It is still my conviction that this is what the Lord is leading us for the future. Let us pray and convince our brothers and sisters to join us in this journey.
6. Discipleship and Mission
Christian discipleship is simply following Jesus. And to follow Jesus is to commit ones life to Him. To commit your life to Jesus is to love and serve Him. To love and serve Him is to do what Jesus wants us to do, to meet the needs of others. As followers of Jesus we are called to form a community of servants, the Church, to be in mission to the world. The Church therefore exists for mission. The mission is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, so that people may experience the transforming love of Christ, be reconciled to God and to one another, live in a community of love and peace and justice. We may suffer, be persecuted and even martyred in the process of fulfilling God’s mission, as Jesus and the early disciples experienced. For the servant is not greater than his master. Let us continue to be faithful disciples of Jesus no matter what.
God’s mission is always possible. For with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27), and all things are possible to him who believes (Mark 9:23). Jesus’ call to discipleship demands our complete allegiance to Him-- our time, talents, treasure—our whole life. There may be opposition, struggles, heartaches and even setbacks in our commitment to move forward. Jesus Christ, however assures us the He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb13:5; Deut 31:6,8), that we are more than conquerors though Him who laved us (Rom 8:37), that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13)! Let us therefore unite and move forward in fulfilling God’s mission; for God is with us! Amen!
Solito K. Toquero
Bishop, The United Methodist Church
Manila Episcopal Area
2006 Episcopal Address