Report to the Coordinating Council
Philippines Central Conference
Manila Episcopal Area
Brokenshire Resource Center, Madapo Hills, Davao City
August 25-26, 2006
Partnership in Ministry and Mission
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, it’s again a privilege for me to share with you what is happening in the Manila Episcopal Area since my last report to the Coordinating Council in February this year. Mission partnership in 2006 commenced with the coming of the representatives of the Connectional Table on January 2-6, to Manila. I shared this in my last report to the Coordinating Council and in my Episcopal Address to the annual conferences.
II. Partners in Prayer, Evangelism and Church Growth
1. Prayer Ministry in the Districts and Local Churches
Bataan District of West MidPAC has developed and organized a prayer movement they call “Operation 5, 3, 9,” through the use of cell phones, forwarding prayer requests. The specific time of praying is 5 a.m., 3 p.m., and 9 p.m. Other local churches have designated a prayer room in the local church and assigned the lay organizations for specific time and day to pray. Churches who can afford to build a new prayer room have done so, like Grace UMC of PAC. Church workers who have organized their local churches into clusters have also organized themselves in sharing of concerns, needs and problems and praying together, strengthening each other in ministry.
2. Evangelism and Church Growth
Local churches in various districts have pinpointed mission points to start a new congregation. East Pampanga District is an example. One of their veteran pastors who is due to retire next year, the Rev. Elias Talavera, volunteered to open a new congregation in the town of Sta. Ana that has no single United Methodist Church yet established.. In West Pampanga in Lubao. A new congregation has been organized last Aug 13, in Barangay Remedios. Bataan District, in partnership with Zambales District, is opening a new work with indigenous people in the mountains of Morong. Many local churches organized into clusters have adopted the Evangelism Explosion method, combined with Medical-Dental Mission. They have shared the Gospel on the job training, resulting in the harvest of souls, people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior and becoming new members of the church.
III. Partners in Mission from Without and from Within
1. From Without, Coming to MEA
a) Bishop Mary Ann Swenson Group. More than a dozen members of Bishop Swenson’s team including one district superintendent from California-Pacific Conference came over to MEA in February and spent one week at Dipaculao, Aurora, building a new UMC chapel. They promised to help the local church put up a kindergarten school building in the future. They also visited various UMC institutions such as Mary Johnston Hospital, Harris, Wesleyan, WDS and UTS. Bishop Swenson pledged to help UTS put up a campsite in its vast track of land.
b) Rev. Paul Cabotaje Team. They arrived during the last week of January, one week earlier than Bishop’s Swenson’s group. Tarlac Central UMC was the host. They conducted medical-dental mission with the Aetas at Immanuel Bible Institute. They proceeded to the Baguio Area for their continuing ministry in the Philippines. Every other year Paul Cabotaje’s team partners with Good Samaritan UMC conducting medical-dental mission giving free medicines and vitamins to indigent patients.
c) Rev. Noah Panlilio Volunteers. The next VIM (Volunteers In Mission) that came to MEA in June was headed by the Rev. Noah Panlilio, from Chicago. They repaired and painted the Rizal District Office Building with local counterparts for one week. Noah Panlilio has been coming here every other year helping local institutions such as Concepcion Christian School, IBS, WDS and UTS.
d) The Agtaraps Mission Teams. The Rev. Fred Agtarap with fifteen members from Colville UMC, Colville, Washington came to Manila last month and spent three weeks of putting up a new dormitory at Immanuel Bible Institute in Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. The team is composed of children, young people and adults, three or four families. They also conducted medical-dental mission and didn’t leave IBS until the dorm was finished. They enjoyed their rainy days in the Philippines. The second Agtarap is the Rev. Bener Agtarap and his team from Wisconsin that visited our mission work in Lakeview UMC, Barangay Halang, Lipa City, Batangas. They helped renovate the parsonage and church building, put up a fence around the church lot with their local partners, at a cost of $3,300.
e) Two teams from the East Coast, New Jersey and New York. Only last week two VIM teams came from the east coast of the USA. The Rev. Hemie Ares with his Filipino American team headed by Dra. Rosalina Abesamis. More than a dozen of them with their local counterparts conducted medical-dental mission and finished painting the church building of Macatbong UMC in Macatbong, Cabanatuan City, a beautiful sanctuary with new Narra pews. We dedicated the new church building with all the new pulpit, lectern and pews. The children in the team promised to help put up a children’s playground for the kindergarten school.
The second team came from Marn Baek Sung UMC, Korean American church in New York City, headed by the Rev. Sung Chan Kim. They did medical-dental mission work in Tambak UMC in Albay, in Bautista UMC in Dasmarinas, Cavite and in Smokey Mountain UMC in Tondo. They have put up the most beautiful church sanctuary in Cavite District, a three-storey multi-purpose building; the chapel is in the second storey with first class hardwood pulpit, lectern and pews. Cavite District gave a certificate of recognition to Korean American Missionary of the Smokey Mountain Mission, Ms. Sun Sook Kim, who has been doing mission work among the poor relocated families from Tondo for twenty years. Her home church in New York also acknowledged her fruitful work with a plaque of recognition.
2. From Within, Who are Serving in Other Countries
a) Rev. Igmedio Equila, Jr. He started serving as Associate Minister of Barker Methodist Church in Singapore in May this year. He is in charge of the church’s ministry to Overseas Filipino Workers. In a span of three months he has baptized a dozen new Filipino members and has started the mission to OFWs in Singapore. His wife, a medical doctor, and children will join him by the end of August to help him minister to OFWs. He is inviting the MEA Cabinet for a three-day consultation in Singapore in February 2007.
b) Rev. Rosemary Rapanut. She has been serving in Korea for more than five years. She has put up an English speaking congregation of Filipinos and other nationalities. She has helped OFWs who have problems with their employers by referring them to the Philippine Embassy. The Korean congregation under Rev. Park, former district superintendent, has been working with her in her mission to OFWs.
c) GBGM Missionaries. We have many lay and clergy missionaries stationed in different parts of the world. To mention a few, we have the Rev. and Mrs. Lamberto Valino in Tokyo, Japan. They have been there for more than five years ministering to seafarers, many of whom are Filipinos. They work ecumenically with chaplains of other Christian denominations helping seamen and seawomen cope with life far from their families and countries. We have our medical missionary to Nepal, Dra. Elma Jocson, who has saved many lives using crude medical instruments (for lack of modern equipments) in that war torn country because of civil war.
d) OFW “Missionaries”. They are “unofficial” missionaries who have been trained to share the Good News of salvation to others, especially to their fellow overseas Filipino workers. We have trained such workers in Hong Kong in the TEE program of UTS. Fifty of them enrolled; only fifteen were able to obtain their Bachelor of Ministry degree. They have put up an additional Filipino congregation in Hong Kong, in Fortress Hill with English, Tagalog and Ilocano Services, apart from our three Filipino worshiping groups in Wan Chai (Filipino Fellowship), Kowloon (Ward Filipino Mission) and Shatin in the New Territories. Worshiping groups have sprung up in Italy, Israel and other parts of the Middle East that want to be organized and recognized, requesting for a seminary trained and ordained minister.
IV. Consultations, Seminars, Conferences and FAMB
1. MEA Cabinet Consultation.
The MEA Cabinet held its first consultation after the annual conference sessions on June 20-22 in Baguio City. The Rev. Dr. Jose Sotto who teaches at UTS on Conflict Management shared with the Cabinet his expertise. The Cabinet has requested Dr. Sotto to do a seminar-workshop in the districts and local churches in order to help them resolve conflict. It was also decided that the MEA Cabinet be divided into clusters for an overnight consultations. Cluster 1 is West Middle PAC and Pampanga PAC, meeting overnight on Aug. 6-7, East Pampanga District Library; Cluster 2, MidPAC and BulPAC, meeting on Sept 10-11 in Bulacan; Cluster 3, PAC, PACE and SWPAC, meeting on Oct 8-9, Kaytikling; Cluster 4, Palawan PAC, Oct. 15-16. Narra.
2. Seminars and Conferences
One of our district superintendents, Rev. Cerrie Francisco attended Haggai Institute for three weeks in Singapore. He returned to his district in Bulacan last week with renewed vitality in serving the Lord. Rev. Menchu Manalac-Cunanan has gone to Chicago last week as the official women clergy delegate of MEA to the golden anniversary celebration of Women Clergy Rights. Four lay and clergy delegates from MEA also attended the World Methodist Conference in Seoul, Korea, Atty. Ester Dalisay, Rev. Zep Canlas, Rev. Victor Layug ,and Rev. Igmedio Domingo Jr., with their counterparts in DEA and BEA, on July 19-24, 2006.
3. FAMB (Fellowship of Asian Methodist Bishops)
Right after the close of the World Methodist Conference in Seoul, Korea on July 24, the Fellowship of Asian Methodist Bishops started its meeting. We shared each country’s mission and ministry, how we can work together as partners by sending missionaries and fraternal workers, observing protocol within the structure of the receiving church. I mentioned specifically the plight of overseas Filipino workers and other contract workers from the poorer Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Shri Lanka, Vietnam, etc. Officers of FAMB requested that the next meeting of the Asian Methodist Bishops be held in the Philippines. We have to prepare for this three-day meeting in Manila next year.
V. Innovative Ministries Partnership Program
1. Migrant Ministry
Some districts and annual conference have put up their own Migrants Desk in order to concentrate on Ministry to Migrants and their families. Our MEA Volunteer Worker-Deaconess is Ms Josie Sanchez. Local churches are now aware of the plight of OFWs especially in the recent evacuation of OFWs from Lebanon. Seminars on Counseling migrants and their families are being done in various districts in order to help OFWs cope with stress and long separation.
2. Indigenous Peoples
Several consultations with the indigenous pastors and church workers have been done after the annual conference sessions. Potential leaders were selected for leadership development. Some have been sent as scholars to study at UTS, Harris and other institutions of higher learning. IBS plans to put up a branch in Zambales District. The latter plans to put up an Indigenous Center for the Aetas. A vision of an Aeta District and District Superintendent is being worked out eventually becoming an annual conference in the future, coming out of WMPAC, PamPAC, TarPAC, and CeLPAC.
Meanwhile in the mountains of Tanay, Rizal a new congregation of Dumagats is being organized. Fourteen Dumagat children and adults have been baptized, five Dumagat couples have undergone Christian wedding, daily vacation church schools have been organized and were conducted this summer. Our new outreach worker is Pastor Dexter Ceballos. Antipolo UMC is helping him in establishing a new congregation.
3. Music and Liturgy
A consultation on producing Filipino Music and Liturgy has been held recently by the IMPP. The plan is to gather our theologians, artists and musicians in order to produce Filipino hymns and liturgy that would express Filipino culture and spirituality. It is also suggested that the Granadosin Brothers be invited to hold a series of concerts next year for mission purposes and to coincide with the celebration of Charles Wesley’s tercentenary.
VI. Church Statistics, NSO and Archives
1. Church Statistics
Manila Episcopal Area through IMPP conducted a seminar on church statistics at UMHQ on July 17-18, 2006. The statistical form prescribed by the GCFA was discussed thoroughly under the guidance of Mrs. Vida Sison, an expert in statistics. An echo seminar is expected to be conducted in the districts and local churches in order to produce an accurate statistics for better programming, budgeting and evaluation.
2. National Statistics Office Seminar on Registering and Recording
The government through NSO has conducted seminars in different regions in the country to orient Solemnizing Officers, such as priests, ministers, Judges and Mayors on getting the proper documents from the Office of the Civil Registrar and filling up properly the Marriage Certificate form obtained from the government. New guidelines from the NSO and the manner of getting Authorization to Solemnize Marriage are discussed thoroughly to avoid mistakes that may result in penalizing or imprisoning of the Solemnizing Officer. The place and manner of getting marriage, birth and death certificates for legal purposes and the amounts to be paid are elaborately explained by NSO officials. These seminars are an eye opener to many of us. I urge the pastors to attend such seminars in the future.
3. Archiving and Applying for Historic Sites and Historical Landmark
The National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) is conducting seminars on Archiving jointly with the Society of Ecclesiastical Archivists of the Philippines, Inc. (SEAC) of the Roman Catholic Church. They have invited the Mormons, IFI, the UMC and NCCP to share experiences in archiving. Rev. Anacleto Guerrero and I shared our UMC archiving. The next seminar is on Oct 23-25, 2006 at St. Thomas Aquinas University in Legaspi City. Bishop Soriano is expected to give greetings and share DEA’s experience in archiving (if any) with Rev. Anacleto Guerrero. Those planning to attend have to prepare a P3,500 registration, free board and lodging. It is very educational and you will learn much, especially the Mormon’s way of preserving and microfilming ancient documents of genealogies of our ancestors from old Roman Catholic Churches and Municipalities in the Philippines. I am distributing some materials from the General Commission of Archives and History (GMAH) on starting Archives and History work in your annual conference, district and local churches. I have also forms in applying historic sites in your annual conference. NCCA (a government entity) has approved Harris Memorial College site (now Times Plaza) as Historical Landmark; also Mary Johnston Hospital. The latter was issued a commemorative stamp celebrating its centennial year in 2006. UTS, too, can apply with the NCCA for its old building at PCU compound as a historical landmark, and in the annual conference as a historic site.
VI. Our Social Witness: Natural, Man-made; Human Rights Victims
1. Natural and Man-made Disasters
The onslaughts of typhoons triggering floods and landslides have exacted a heavy toll on human lives and resources. In partnership with local churches, institutions and UMCOR, we have mobilized our people through the revived Asuncion Perez Memorial Center. We have distributed clothing, food, seeds in disaster areas, in Southern Leyte, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon and Laguna. Thanks to God and to our people who generously gave and shared their resources to help the victims.
2. Human Rights Victims
The killings of activists, lawyers, journalists, radio commentators and church people ministering with the poor have triggered series of protests and letters of condemnation against the perpetrators of such crime. One of the victims is a local pastor’s son and a former local pastor of the UMC, Brother Isaias Sta. Rosa. The three of us, incumbent bishops have formed a fact-finding committee that went into the crime scene. They interviewed eye witnesses to the crime. We are helping the victim’s family cope with the tragedy and pleading with the powers –that-be to arrest the culprits and be brought to trial. GBCS and GBGM are working together to mobilize churches, individuals and government officials in the USA to pressure the Arroyo Government to stop the killings, and that the alleged perpetrators be tried and convicted.
VII. Issues on Church-Related Institutions, Church Structure and
1. Church-Related Institutions
a) PCU-UTS. There is a need of convening PCU corporation members to accept the nominations of the two churches for the BOT membership. The date that I have proposed is September 15-16, 2006, Friday and Saturday. We have to reorganize the BOT and make some important decisions on the latest audit, on the PCU President, on the VPTE, and other appointments and recommendations.
b) Old Episcopal House and the Proposed Diagnostic Center. The Central Conference BOT has yet to act on Mary Johnston’s Board of Trustees recommendation of the proposed Diagnostic Center. The plan is to convert the old Episcopal residence to a diagnostic center, a ten storey building to house the latest equipments in cancer treatment in consortium with Manila Doctors, Manila Medical and Mary Johnston Hospitals, the later managing the Center.
c) WU-P and WDS. Wesleyan University wants to sell the property WDS now occupies and buy a lot adjacent to the Cushman Campus, fronting the highway. The necessity of transferring WDS to Palayan City and putting up a new building. WU-P is also putting up a tertiary hospital, a heart center; hence the need of more money to start the heart center’s building construction.
2. Church Structure and Incorporation
a) Postponement of Central Conference Special Session. In a previous meeting of the College of Bishops, it was discovered that the three Episcopal Areas have difference manner of conducting the votes on Affiliated Autonomy, as well as in the ratification of the same. A request for declaratory decision of the Judicial Council as to the right manner of voting and who are the qualified voters on this issue is yet to be resolved.
b) Proposed Synchronized Voting of all Annual Conferences in one conference year; the same is to be done in ratification. So as to avoid questions on technicality, it is being proposed that after the Judicial Council shall have ruled as to who are the qualified voters and the right manner of voting, that the conferences that failed to follow the right procedure shall vote in one conference year; so shall it be with ratification.
c) The Need of Constitutional Amendment on Annual Conferences within a Central Conference in one Country in Deciding for Affiliated Autonomous Relationship. That the Central Conference in one country be given the authority to decide for affiliated autonomous or autonomous relationship with the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, provided that the two-thirds majority of the aggregate votes of all annual conferences within the Central Conference shall have voted for affiliated autonomous or autonomous relationship.
d) Incorporation of Schools and Local Churches. There is a need to review the incorporation papers of our existing schools in our local churches, districts and annual conferences. Part of the Constitution and By-Laws of the incorporated institution is a provision that the said school is owned by The United Methodist Church under the Annual Conference and is subject to the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. The Thrust Clauses in the Book of Discipline should be incorporated in the By-Laws. Local Churches desiring to incorporate should follow the procedure provided for in the Book of Discipline. In order to avoid conflict in the local church, permission must first be secured from the district and annual conference of that local church. It must also be approved by the Charge or Church Conference duly convened and presided over by the District Superintendent or the Bishop’s authorized representative.
Partnership in ministry between clergy and laity, among churches and institutions, GOs and NGOs, within and without, in the spirit of love and unity will surely succeed in the building up and spreading of the reign of God on earth. The United Methodist Church in the Philippines will be a stronger force to recon with in her witness to God’s liberating and reconciling love to humans. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
Bishop Solito K. Toquero
Manila Episcopal Area
August 25-26, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Report to the Coordinating Council