Report to the Coordinating Council
Harris Memorial College, Barangay Dolores, Taytay, Rizal
February 16-17, 2007
Strengthening Partnership in Mission and Establishing New Mission Outposts
The Manila Episcopal Area continues to be faithful to the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations, strengthen the partnership between clergy and lay and reach out uncharted areas by establishing new mission outposts for the transformation of the Church and the world. We will try to present to you a glimpse of what is happening in various conferences, districts, local churches and agencies in our Area.
A. Mission Updates
1. Strengthening our ministry with the toiling OFWs outside the country
a. While the MEA-Innovative Ministries Partnership Program sets its focus on organizing/planning programs with OFWs and their families through the district migrant desks and committees, we continue to reach out to OFWs themselves particularly in Asia. The ministry for OFWs of Rev. Egmedio Equila is flourishing in Barker Road Methodist Church in Singapore, a total of 504 members and visitors. The pastor’s wife, Dr. Noemi Equila and their 3 children have joined Rev. Equila in his missionary work since September last year; he started his ministry five months earlier. We witnessed the growing number of OFWs joining the Filipino worship service when we were invited to the anniversary celebration of the Barker Road Methodist Filipino Ministry on November 10-12, 2006. The missionary pastor from MidPAC is not only ministering to the spiritual needs of OFWs but also advocates just wages, fair labor treatment, and implementation of government policies that are beneficial to migrant workers such as the right to a one day off per week. Rev. Equila visits the Philippine Consulate regularly for referrals.
b. We had an opportunity during the World Methodist Conference in Seoul, Korea last July 2006 to consult with Korean Methodist Church leaders regarding the possibility of setting up a migrant ministry in Korea. Mr. Pastor Galang, a Filipino migrant-worker/organizer who is connected with the Korean Presbyterian Church, offered to help in establishing a partnership in ministering to the needs of documented and undocumented Filipino migrants working in Korea. We plan to hold a consultation on February 28, 2007 with Korean missionaries serving in the Manila Episcopal Area to facilitate the mission partnership of MEA and the Korean Methodist Church for OFWs and other migrants in Korea. We will study the possibility of expanding our ministry in countries where many Filipinos are present such as Israel, Taiwan, Italy, and the Middle East.
c. Knox UMC Ministry for OFWs is a daring new mission outpost of the local church starting next month. Knox is sending Pastor Nathaniel Letana as a missionary to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to open mission work among Filipino overseas workers. An initial three-month budget of Php270,000 has been approved and a mission team of five members headed by Dr. Carlito S. Puno (Chair of the Dubai Committee) and the Administrative Pastor, Rev. Carlos Onilla is scheduled to go to Dubai and do the initial evaluation and follow-up work. Other members of the team are Engr. Gamaliel de Armas and Mr. Jovito Sermonia, Jr. The Dubai Mission seeks not only to minister spiritually to OFWs, but they have also coordinated with the president of Tarlac State University, Dr. Priscilla Viuya to conduct continuing education and skills training to OFWs. This is the first time that a local church is sending a missionary to the Middle East with full financial support. Praise God!
d. Learning from a BulPAC GBGM missionary couple serving in Japan, ministering to seafarers the Rev. and Mrs. Lamberto and Angelita Valino, have been working with Seafarer’s Mission in Kanagawa District, Yokohama City, Japan. The program, “Christian Coalition on Refugee and Migrant Workers’ Ministry” is a GBGM funded program in cooperation with UMMO - United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ). The missionary couple shared their experiences and work strategy to some members of the MEA staff and volunteers who are committed to continue and enhance the seafarer ministry in the area that was started last quadrennium. Rev. Valino is also willing to give orientation workshop for church workers who are interested in maritime/seafarer ministry.
2. Strengthening Our Ministry to Indigenous People
There are 996,468 indigenous people in Central Luzon, Mindoro, Palawan, and Rizal in 1989, according to Philippine Statistics. Indigenous Peoples (IP) within the scope of MEA include the Aetas, the Mangyans, the Dumagats, and the Bataks/Tagbanuas. We are reaching out these people through our Filipino Persons-in Mission (PIM), pastors, deaconesses and lay workers assigned to IP congregations. You will appreciate their various ministries to the Indigenous people. Literacy and health programs are among the regular services jointly sponsored by churches and PIM.
Livelihood programs, such as mushroom production, get favorable market and income for the Aetas in Camachile UMC in Camachile, Florida Blanca, Pampanga. Building and production materials totaling Php110.000 were given as loan by friends, and they pay back the amount after each harvest. The Aetas’ need to construct another building for the same project as the market demand increases. Pastor Lesley Casupanan-Dela Cruz and her husband are committed to empower the Aetas in Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales and Tarlac.
A worship center for the Dumagats in Sitio Nayon, Tanay, Rizal will soon be started as a project of PACE Board of Church and Society. Aside from health and literacy, Ptr Dexter Ceballos, the PIM for the Dumagats in Rizal Province is doing organizing work among them. Together with the PACE-BCS, they continue to lobby against the construction of Liban Dam that will displace not only hundreds of Dumagat families but also inhabitants of neighboring Barangays.
Mangyan women in Mindoro have developed their skills in handicraft, and are currently earning from the sale of their beads and durable hand-woven clothing. The PIM, Ms Candy Cayat Ruedas, a Mindoro born Igorot, has trained para-teachers and tapped Mangyan youth who are graduates of education courses to teach in the literacy classes. The PIM serves and ministers to the indigenous people in several towns of both Oriental and Occidental Mindoro.
Encroachments upon the ancestral lands of the IPs, militarization, and development aggression (mining and dam construction by foreign investors) continue to work havoc in the lives of IPs in different areas. Candy Ruedas, the deaconess PIM in Mindoro, reported that even during calamities, church people cannot bring relief goods such as food to the affected tribal communities because the military suspects them of providing support to the NPA. The Church has to respond to the needs of Mangyan tribal people in the midst of military food blockade done in places where malaria and tuberculosis are still prevalent.
3. Solidarity with People who suffer
a. MEA responds to Victims of calamity. MEA churches regularly respond to victims of calamities. Rizal District/PACE Board of Church and Society, through the leadership of its chairperson, Rev. Zosimo Mabuti, gathered 200 plastic bags of relief goods including medicines before Christmas. They transported the goods to Naga City and Albay. The Quezon City District brought their relief goods to the province of Aurora, while Laguna-Quezon Mission District chose the victims in San Francisco, Quezon as recipients of their gifts. South Nueva Ecija District was the first group to send financial assistance to the family of slain Pastor Isaias Sta Rosa in Bicol. The special offering amounting to Php5,000 was sent to the family via MEA office. Church workers and lay people also got involved in the Fact finding and mercy mission to Barangay Conversion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. The three districts of Nueva Ecija, South, Central and North, and Wesleyan University-Philippines participated in gathering relief goods for victims of calamity in Aurora province. The District Superintendents of PAC sent their relief assistance to Bicol Peninsula through DS Denis Laguardia, who is based in Legaspi, Albay. Asuncion Perez Memorial Center reported that as of January 31, 2007, PAC churches have contributed Php53, 619.75 for BICOL aside from the dry goods given by 8 local churches. Bringing the gathered relief goods to Bicol had been a problem because we do not have transportation facilities. There is a need to support Asuncion Perez Memorial Center, our relief agency in the Central Conference level, in its effort to acquire at least a truck that will be used for relief operations.
b. Another fact finding and mercy mission was organized last October 9, 2006 to respond to the expressed need of North Nueva Ecija District through DS Antonio Cleto. The actual FFMM was done last November 2006 with 43 participants composed of MIDPAC DSes, church workers, para legal volunteers, a dentist, a medical doctor, UMYF/UMYAf, Social Workers and a representative of The Commission on Human Rights. Mr. and Mrs. Librado and Martina Gallardo, of Conversion UMC in Brgy Conversion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, were driven to suicide because they could no longer bear the torture and harassment of the military unit that has set up camp in the Barangay Hall since Oct 2006. Mr. Gallardo was the church council chairperson. Other members of the church, including a son of the Gallardos, experienced severe torture from the military. They were brought to Manila for temporary sanctuary, financial assistance and psychological help. Part of the mercy mission was a medical-dental relief operation. 350 families were given relief goods and medicines. We acknowledge the participation of a lone lawyer, Atty Rey Cortez, district lay leader of Quezon City District, who led the legal/fact finding team. He also participated in the Bicol Fact Finding Mission last August 2006.
Result of the FFMM: Tortures/harassments among UMC members were reported to have stopped. After staying in Manila for a few weeks, members of Conversion UMC including Gallardo’s son were able to go home, with no report so far of experiencing any form of human rights violation.
c. A pre-Christmas visit to Domus Dei. Domus Dei is a Roman Catholic sanctuary for internal refugees and/or victims and for families of victims of torture and/or killings in Central Luzon. With this visit, some of my Cabinet members and church workers were able to listen to the cries and agony of people who suffer because of displacement, loss of loved ones, torture, and physical assault. We saw the faces that are behind the statistics that we read in the newspapers – the victims of extra-judicial killings are children, widows, young people. In conversing with them, they ceased to be mere numbers. We also discovered that some of them, a couple who were accepted into the sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Church, are United Methodists.
B. Intensifying Our Task of Disciple-Making
1. North Nueva Ecija District has set an example of effective partnership between the laity and church workers in disciple-making. For the last 3 years, through the leadership of DS Antonio Cleto, Jr, the number of preaching points reached 82. Ten (10) were already recognized as local churches and another 6 will be recommended for recognition this conference year. All the 16 congregations have either purchased or donated lots, buildings, assigned pastors with salaries/allowances ranging from Php1,500.00 to Php9,000.00.
2. The Southwest Metro Manila District through the leadership of DS Johann Osias is doing mission expansion as the district formally launched its mission work in the town of Rosario, Batangas on October 21, 2006 at a mission rally in Laurel Park. Prior to this, the MEA bishop led in the dedication of the new sanctuary of Zion Pamplona UMC last September 30, 2006 in Pamplona, Las Piñas. The cost of the building is Php1.1M. Present during the dedication service were Honorable Cynthia Villar, Congressional Representative of Las Piñas, Rev. Weon Sik Yi, Mr. Gamaliel De Armas, PAC BOT Chair, Architect Antonio Naval, project supervisor, SWMMD church workers and members of Zion Pamplona UMC and Yang-Mun KMC. Another thanksgiving service was held for the construction of Parola UMC Chapel, sponsored by the Korean Central Methodist Church of Manila.
3. The Northwest Metro Manila District held a mission rally at Calatagan, Batangas last August 26, 2006. About 200 people participated, with a motorcade parade around Calatagan town. The district held 2 mission caravans held in Balayan, Batangas last October 14, 2006 and in Lipa City last November 11, 2006. The Mary Johnston medical and dental team joined the last caravan and were able to serve 200 patients, many of whom accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.
4. New mission work in Sitio Pukanin, San Roque, Bulalacao, started by members and leaders of Blessed Christian UMC in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. This is the first congregation in the town of Bulalacao. They have built a worship center made up of light indigenous materials (coconut leaves, bamboo, bakawan).
5. Pila UMC in Laguna adopted a new name, “Jesus Reigns UMC,” with a new constructed building amounting to nearly 2 million pesos. This is part of the District’s congregational revitalization program.
6. Quezon City District: Lagro UMC has started its mission in Mt. Heights, Camarin and Amparo Subdivision; Kamuning First UMC, in Laura Hills and Batasan Hills; John Mark UMC, in Passacola area D abs Dona Rosario. Part of the district’s program for mission is the holding of Sowers’ Training for Evangelism and Mission and Evangelistic Revival Services held at Bagong Silang UMC on November 4, 2006 and at Maligaya UMC on November 25, 2006.
7. South Nueva Ecija district started its new ministry to and with disabled persons. Dr Jonathan Salting, district lay missioner committed the use of his dental clinic for training of deaf and mute persons. They are being taught livelihood skills that generate regular income and at the same time join cell groups for spiritual and social growth. The Risen Lord UMC in General Tinio has started its ministry to Aetas and Dumagats by sponsoring some of their children to school and attending to some of their basic needs. Part of the mission priorities of Bethsaida UMC is responding to the health needs of mountain people in Sitio Sabangan, Nazareth, General Tinio. A worship center made up of local indigenous materials was built as venue for Bible study. Two new outreach points were opened and now serving Igorots from Abra, Cagayan and Baguio.
8. Two preaching points in Acli, Sta. Theresa, and Remedios, Lubao, Pampanga of West Pampanga District have grown into regular worshiping congregations. They will be recognized as new churches in the next Annual Conference session. The District also established a Trust Fund for workers’ welfare and is now ready for SEC registration.
9. Sta. Cruz Mission in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro has grown into a regular worshiping congregation with a church building and a parsonage. It is recommended for recognition as a new local church in the Annual Conference session next month.
C. Capability Building
1. The clergy of South Nueva Ecija District (SNED) appropriated some amount for the continuing education/capability building program. Thirty two pastors attended a Church Administration Seminar last September 27-29, 2006 at the Institute for Religion and Culture (IRC). IRC is a network program institution of MEA-Innovative Ministries Partnership program.
2. Forty four church workers of Palawan Philippines Annual Conference held their workers convocation at Maranatha Bible School in San Manuel, Puerto Princesa City. Church workers were joined by bible school students in their biblico-theological studies and review of the Book of Discipline’s provision on the Ministry of the Church.
3. PACE church workers held their Workers’ Convocation in Daet, Camarines Norte, October 22-26, 2006 with an attendance of 104. Topics included: Review of the UMC Social Principles, Preaching, Evangelism and the New Family Code. Other districts held their own continuing education with themes and discussions relevant to the needs of church workers.
D. Healing and Wholeness Ministries
The Rev. David Sablan, Jr., newly appointed pastor to the very first Healing & Wholeness Ministry, his wife, Mrs. Melba Jocelyn Sablan, together with their five member team (Sister Tess Abdon, Sister Janet Baguio, Sister Evelyn Ruiz, Brother Pol Penetrante, and Pastor Marlon Diaz) went to different local churches, districts, annual conferences, and schools to conduct healing and wholeness retreats, seminars and conferences. Most of the events were held in Central Luzon churches particularly in West Middle Philippines Annual Conference. Some of the major events were done during the Laity Congress of the West Middle PAC held at Subic Bay Arts Central in August 12, 2006, and during the Clergy & Laity Convocation of West Middle PAC in Sept. 6-9, 2006 at National Power Corporation. The team also went to Palawan Philippines Annual Conference to hold a Conference wide Healing & Wholeness in Aug. 24-26, 2006 in Narra, Palawan. They also held Healing Spiritual Retreat for the faculty and Staff of big schools like Olongapo Wesley School, which is operated by Wesley UMC in Olongapo City.
E. Developing our Stewardship for Mission
1. Part of the nine-hectare district farm of Oriental Mindoro-Romblon District is being developed into an Agro-Reforestation and Ecological Rehabilitation Project. 2000 calamansi, 1500 citrus fruit trees, and 3000 trees (narra, mahogany and gemelina) are among the growing trees added to some coconut, rambutan and bananas that were grown a few years back. The farm is expected to draw income that will help the mission work in Romblon and Marinduque provinces.
2. A work camp participated in by church workers and some lay in Laguna Quezon district was held last October 13-14, 2006 at Kalingan UMC, Tinambulan, Calauag, Quezon. A multi purpose building was started. The whole area of the Tinambulan property is 37 hectares. Some areas are productive with some coconut and mango trees, ginger and cassava.
3. Puerto Princesa Methodist Children’s Shelter, Inc is located in Sitio Barimbing, Bgy. San Manuel, Puerto Princesa City. The Shelter deals with persons who are very indifferent in terms of behavior, specifically, street children and minors. The Shelter continues its coordination with partner agencies with regards to the management of sheltered children and minors. It also accommodates and counsels clients referred to it by their partners and by parents and barangay officials. It continues to enhance its linkages with partners. The hired social worker facilitates the release of minors back to their parents and relatives after months of guidance counseling. The staff also conducts ocular survey of bars and clubs operating in the city proper to look for exploited working minors.
4. Nasugbu UMC Radio Program is now RN-UMC 87.7. In 1998 our local church in Nasugbu, Batangas pioneered a radio ministry through the efforts of one of its members, Mrs. Pricila B. Ferrer and her son, Oliver, a licensed electronics and communications engineer. They bought a franchise from the Manila Broadcasting Company and started a five kilometer-radius radio ministry. In 2006, Mr. Ferrer, together with Nasugbu UMC pastor, Rev. Buenavista, met with DS Johann Osias and BCEC representatives to plan the revival of the program that closed down in 2004. Through BCEC, the United Methodist Communications promised to support the radio program. The radio station in Tuy, Batangas began its test broadcast in October 2006 using the old equipments and bearing the call name RN-UMC 87.7 in the FM band. It was dedicated on December 29, 2006. We thank the Lord for church members who continue to share their talents and resources for mission.
F. Episcopal Visits to the Philippines
1. Bishop Minerva Carcaño and her team of a dozen clergy and lay, including two district superintendents from Desert Southwest Conference in Arizona, USA visited some selected local churches of MEA in Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and in Baguio Area on December 5-12, 2006. They interviewed the pastors and lay leaders of these growing churches and noted the various methods and principles the said congregations applied specifically in the mother-daughter and sister church relationship. They also got some information on the extra-judicial killings happening in the Philippines and promised to help by writing their political leaders in the USA. Foremost is their desire to learn from our own experience of church growth and how they can apply it in their conference and local churches in America.
2. The Team of Bishop Beverly Shamana of more than twenty clergy and lay with some district superintendents (Rev. Dr. Benoni Silva-Netto included) has arrived early this week for two purposes: first, to do medical-dental mission work in the Baguio Area; and second, to do some fact-finding mission on extra-judicial killings by interviewing victims, families of victims, government officials and the military authorities. The team will divide into three and go to Central and Northern Luzon, and Mindanao. A dialogue with us is also scheduled on February 22, Thursday, at a dinner in Central UMC in Manila. Bishop Shamana will preach at Central UMC on Sunday, Feb. 18; other members of the team will mount the various pulpits of other UM churches in Metro Manila, such as, Knox, Good Samaritan, Kamuning and St. John.
G. Church Structure and Judicial Council Meeting
1. The issue on Church Structure is an on-going discussion not only in the Philippines but in the Connectional Table and in the Council of Bishops. A proposal to make The United Methodist Church in the U.S.A. a central conference is again being studied and discussed thoroughly by both the Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops. This may be presented for deliberation and debate to the General Conference next year.
2. The Judicial Council is meeting in Manila on April 25-27, this year, to deliberate and decide on the question: who are qualified to vote on the issue of affiliated autonomy, the manner of voting and ratification. The College of Bishops requested for a declaratory decision on the right interpretation and application of Par. 602.1, a), b), c), and d) in relation to Par. 572. Any member of the annual conference within the Philippine Central Conference may submit a brief to the Judicial Council on or before February 28, 2007. Atty. Rodolfo Beltran, the only Filipino member of the Judicial Council, requested that Chief Justice Reynato Puno of the Philippine Supreme Court, and two Filipino bishops address the Judicial Council in their three-day meeting.
H. A Cause of Rejoicing
For the first time in the history of the Philippine Judiciary, two United Methodists occupy the highest positions in the Supreme Court and in the Court of Appeals: Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Presiding Justice Ruben Reyes, respectively. Let us pray that more of our lay brothers and sisters occupy positions of authority in the government that they may become the salt and light in our society, as Jesus said, and in their faithful Christian witness be agents of transformation and new life. They can create new mission outposts in the government and other non-government institutions for the betterment of Philippine society.
Strengthening clergy and lay partnership in mission and establishing new mission outposts here and abroad require total commitment and dedication. With God’s guidance and help, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us continue to be faithful disciples and witnesses of God’s saving grace until the Church and the world shall have been transformed under God’s rule and reign. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, and reign in our hearts and lives! Amen!
Bishop Solito K. Toquero
Manila Episcopal Area