Bishop Leo Soriano and Bishop Cerrie Francisco
WELCOME AND TURN-OVER CEREMONY OF BISHOP CIRIACO Q. FRANCISCO
The constituency of the Davao Episcopal Area gave a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco and Mrs. Crestetita Francisco through a “Welcome and Turn-over Ceremony” last January 13, Sunday, at the Cathedral: The United Methodist Church in 104 C.M. Recto St. Davao City.
The more than 350 church workers and lay people who came from places as far as Agusan Sur, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao Oriental, Davao Norte, Davao Sur and Davao City expressed their support to the leadership of the our new bishop not only through their prayers but also their willingness and dedication to join Bishop Francisco and his cabinet in developing the Davao Episcopal Area churches dynamic, fruitful and vital congregations.
Bishop Cerrie Francisco and his family comes from the province of Bulacan so many of the church workers and lay people who were present were meeting him for the first time. Many of them were impressed by the humility and openness of Bishop Cerrie and Mrs. Crestetita Francisco.
The welcome event included a “Covenant Service” where Both Bishop Cerrie and the church workers and lay people promised to work together for the glory and kingdom of God. A part of the covenant made are as follows:
With God’s help, I promise faithfully to hear and to proclaim God’s Word, and rightly administer the Sacraments, as your pastor and servant.
With God’s help we promise to join with you in the life of praise and thanksgiving, and in the faithful use of the means of grace that god has given us.
By the grace of Christ, I promise to be among you as a teacher of the faith, a pastor of souls, and a means to the unity of the body of Christ.
By the grace of Christ, we promise to join with you in the life of learning, in the nurturing of God’s people and in the seeking of that oneness in Christ which is Christ’s gift to us.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, I promise to be for you a means of reconciliation and healing, that all those who are burdened or oppressed may be made whole and able to rejoice in their new life in Jesus Christ.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, we promise to be, with you, faithful witnesses,, serving justice, showing mercy, and in all things proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord
In the name of Jesus Christ, Head of the Church, I gladly assume, with you and among, the ministry of the Word, Sacrament, and Order, of pastoral oversight, government, and service.
Strengthened by the love of God and the remembrance of my consecration to the episcopacy, I am resolved to served faithfully and well the congregations and people of the Davao Episcopal Area as bishop, pastor, and friend.
On behalf of the congregations and people, we receive you, Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, with joy and thanksgiving, as our bishop and pastor. We pledge to you our prayers, our loyalty, and our support as you lead us in the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us all.
The applause and words of welcome that followed this covenant gave Bishop Cerrie opened very good start of his leadership at the Davao Episcopal Area annual conferences.
BISHOP CERRIE’S SCHEDULE
Date Event Place/Venue
Jan. 04 Speaker: Aldersgate Renewal Fellowship Baguio City
Jan. 06 Speaker: Meycauayan Central UMC Meycauayan, Bulacan
Jan. 09 Welcome- Testimonial Dinner Wesleyan University, Philippines, Cabanatuan City
Jan. 10 College of Bishop Meeting UMC Headquarter, UN Avenue, Manila
Jan. 11 Trip to Davao City Manila to Davao City
Jan. 12 Funeral Service for Rev. Eduardo Suyamin Osias UMC, Kabacan, Cotabato
Jan. 13 Preacher: Cathedral UMC (a.m.)
Welcome and Turn Over Ceremony – Bishop Soriano/ Bishop Francisco (pm) Davao City,
Cathedral UMC, Davao City
Jan. 16-17 Medical Mission in Negros Samsung UMC, Siaton, Negros Oriental
Jan. 18 Travel trip to Malaybalay, Bukidnon From Negros to Bukidnon
Jan. 19 Speaker: Festival of Faith Malaybalay, Bukidnon
Jan. 20 Speaker: Malaybalay & Cabinet Meeting of NWMPAC Malaybalay, Bukidnon
Jan. 21 Speaker: EMPAC Church workers and Lay Leaders Covenant discipleship
Mahipus Resort, Matina Aplaya, Davao City
Jan. 24 College of Bishop Meeting Manila
Jan. 26 National Bible Quiz Philippine Christian University, Manila
Jan. 27 Speaker: Kabacan Central UMC Church Anniversary Kabacan, Cotabato
Jan. 28 Cabinet Meeting Minpac Kabacan, Cotabato
Ms. Phebe Crismo of the Board of Christian Education of The United Methodist Church will be conducting the Vacation Church School Teachers Training for Mindanao church of The United Methodist Church at General Santos United Methodist Church on February 12-15, 2013.
The churches are encourage to send their pastors/ deaconesses and their teachers in this training. Those who will attain this training will serve as trainor’s for the district level teachers training. Materials will be made available during the training.
Mrs. Vida Grace T. Sison, announces the holding of the 8th National Bible Quiz to be held on January 26, 2013, 8:00am-12:00 noon, at the Philippine Christian University Auditorium, Taft Avenue, Manila.
She further emphasized the Objectives of the Bible Quiz, which are:
1.To inculcate in the youth of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines a love and zeal for God and His Word;
2. To promote and encourage the young people in memorizing verses and get them involve in regular Bible Study that they may apply the truth of God’s Word and learn how to live for God each day.
3. To bring together young people from different annual conferences to fellowship with one another and engage in the Word of through the National Bible Quiz.
4. To proclaim God’s grace and salvation through Bible Quiz questions so that parents and friends may be challenge to Christ as their personal; Savior and Lord and be encourage in their for him.
5. To give an opportunity for parents and other adults to build and deepen their relationship with the youth and to be able to further disciple and mentor the youth.
6. To present an exciting and positive competitive environment in which the young people can display their Bible knowledge.
7. To stimulate the interest of christian educators and church workers in the value of studying the Bible regularly with the youth and help in the Christian value formation of the youth that they may become better and worthy citizens in this country.
Official Bible Version that will be use will be the Good News (Today’s English Version TEV) Second Edition 1992.
Method of Bible Study:
a. The Gospel of John, Paul’s Second Letter to timothy, and Psalm 119 are intended to be carefully studied, and their content mastered by the contestant;
b. The verses, on the other hand, are intended to be memorized and to be quoted upon demand.
Eligibility of Participants:
1. Must be a bona fide UMC youth between he ages 12-17 in or out of school (Junior 12-14 years old, Seniors 15-17 years old).
2. For the Grand (National) Finals: Must submit written approval of parents and written endorsement from the local church /pastor. certified true copy of the birth certificate or baptismal certificate must be attache to the application form. Application forms will be sent to the annual conference level representatives.
3. children of members of the National Bible Quiz Executive Committee, Quiz Administration committee, Board and Staff of BCEC and their relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity are disqualified to join the contest.
GRAND FINAL QUIZ:
Part 1- Elimination Round- 15 questions each for the Junior and Senior levels;
Part 2-Verses Exposition- Top eight contestants from each level;
- One minute exposition in English or Filipino;
- Criteria message imparted; coherence & clarity, Stage presence.
Part 3- Memory verse recitation- Top five contestant from each level.
Only the top three will be given prizes.
Travel expenses of finalist participants in Manila will be reimbursed. Lodging will be provided for the finalist and their coaches/chaperons. Only one coach/chaperone for each finalist is allowed.
Let us pray for the success of this 8th national Bible Quiz.
The Wise Men: Heroes of the Faith
Yesterday was Epiphany day. So it is good that we celebrate Epiphany Sunday today. The early church celebrated January 6 to commemorate the birth of Jesus and his baptism. Its significance was diminished when Dec. 25 was then celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. However, the Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches recovered this holiday, thus they celebrate Christmas on January 6, and the western church continued to celebrate January 6 as the coming of the three wise men.
So let me invite you today to reflect on the message of the three wise men, the actors of this important Christian holiday. If we are looking for a hero of your Christian faith, the example of the wise men could be an invitation for us to model our Christian faith this year.
They were wise, and I would again say, they were heroes of the Christian faith. How can this be? Let us consider it together.
These wise men saw vision, and acted on it!
They were excited about it, thus they acted on their vision that came to them. It is conceivable that others have seen what they saw. In fact the story of Mathew proves it, when Herod asked the priests if they knew about it; where will it happen, the priest and the scholars of Jerusalem told Herod that the child will be born in Bethlehem. This means that the religious leaders of Jewish faith knew about this vision, but they were neither excited nor interested to have it happen. In fact they were indifferent, they did nothing about it. That is why these religious leaders lost to history while the wise men are remembered year after year and many sermons and messages were given about their vision and faith.
They were wise because they acted on their vision and more so they persevered till it happened and fulfilled. It was not easy for them to realize their vision. They had to diligently search and study the scriptures and the movement of the stars. It took them two years of study and journey together to realize their vision. In fact they were not ashamed to ask Herod and the religious leaders for help about the vision they saw.
Do you have a spiritual vision given to you by the Lord? If you have, you are blessed! But let me ask you, what are you doing about it? Are you acting on it for its realization? The religious leaders at that time also saw the vision seen by the wise men, but they were neither interested nor excited and worse they did not act on it. They lost the vision and missed the blessing. They were supposed to be there in that first Christmas event, but were not present because though they have the vision, they did not act on it.
There is a park in Atlanta Georgia dedicated to a man who had a vision of freedom. During a meeting I had three years ago in Atlanta we visited that park and heard voice tape the Baptist pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. which he delivered during a rally, on August 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners; will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live on a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of god’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
His vision was realized at the cost of his life. Today the Americans consider him a hero of all the faith community in the USA and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day every March 15.
Secondly, the men were wise, and become heroes of the faith, because they realized the importance of worship.
They were not there to see and talk, they were there to worship. Because they gave priority to worship, time and distance were not a hindrance. Not even work and their profession hindered them to realize the worship they had been longing for. History tells us that Christian heroes of the faith have given the same importance to worship risking their lives for it. For what is the meaning of worship? It is the orientation of life God-ward. It is coming just as we are with our limitations, failures, confusions, doubts, fear, grief, and sins, and turning ourselves God-ward, seeking with His cleansing, His light, His love and His direction. Consider yourself and reflect what could be the reasons why we miss worship? Of course you may name a number of them. I know that to you these reasons are important, but if you dig deeper, could it be that the main reason is that you lack the importance of worship in your own life?
Thirdly, these men were wise and became heroes of the faith because they knew the importance of their gift to the work to the kingdom of God.
They did not come to worship empty handed. In fact the wise-men had prepared their gift before starting the journey. These men offered themselves first, then their gold, frankincense and myrrh. That is money and money’s worth. In fact these three gifts were all in support to Christ mission work. The gold I believe was used by his parents for his needs and scholarship to prepare him in the ministry. The frankincense was used as a perfume in temple worship and sacrifice- to signify his priesthood to us. The myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead, thus such gift signifies his death as a sacrifice for all. In short all the gifts given by the wise-men were in support for Jesus all his life. If they were not there, and if they have not given their mission support, Christianity may have remained as just a local sect of the Judaism, and Jesus Christ a local God of the Jews. Because of their presents and their gifts, we are Christian today! In short their gifts were given but it was used to convert their kind to Jesus, gentile like us.
Your gifts to the life and mission of Jesus, is also very important and necessary today. Keep on your habit and desire of giving your gifts to the Lord. The joy that comes to you when you know that God’s vision for the world through Christ is realized may not valued in material things but surely it will be pleasing to God.
Do you have a spiritual vision my friend? If not just yet, catch it on, listen He may be speaking to you, but you have not been listening, when you have it, what are you doing about it? Have your worship and gifts become an instrument to make it happen.
How large a portion of it for things related to God, or to the realization of the vision of God has given to you? When you finish this exercise ponder upon these words of Mathew ‘What does a man benefit, if he gains the whole world but looses his own soul’ (Mathew 16:26)
Think about it my brothers and sisters! 2013 may be a God given opportunity to catch up with your lost opportunities of realizing your vision that God has given unto you!
The three wise-men are good models for us to consider as heroes of the faith. What they did for the Lord and his mission are challenges for us to follow!
by : Rev. Francisco B. Bilog
Bishop Leo Aranda Soriano’s application for retirement was approved during the recent assembly of the Philippine Central Conference of The United Methodist Church held at Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya last December 12-16, 2012. He will leave his office and start his retirement status starting January 01, 2013.
Bishop Leo Aranda Soriano was ordained as an elder in Christ Holy Church on the 17th day of May 1987, at 9:30-10:30 in the morning during the Mindanao Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church at the Spottswood Methodist Center, Kidapawan, North Cotabato.
Brother Leo Soriano was elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church by the Philippine Central Conference last December 15, 2000 and was consecrated as bishop of The United Methodist Church at around 11:30 in the evening of December 17, 2000 at Wesleyan University-Philippines, Cabanatuan City.
He was re-elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and in 2008 giving him 12 years service as bishop of The United Methodist Church assigned to supervise the Davao Episcopal Area.
He retired as an active bishop of The United Methodist Church by the Philippine Central Conference last December 16, 2012, at Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.
Through the grace of God, He has ministered faithfully as local pastor, missionary doctor, district superintendent, administrative assistant to the DEA office in the name of Christ at places where he has been appointed to served and throughout the worldwide United Methodist constituency as member of the Council of Bishop..
The Philippine Central Conference honored him during the closing session of the Philippine Central Conference last December 16, 2012 at Bayombong, Nueva Vizacya.
The East Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference held a memorable worship service in celebration of his ministry and gave thanks to the One who has granted the harvest and to Bishop Leo A. Soriano who has been a faithful and tireless laborer for the Gospel.
The worship service was followed by farewell program as their expression of their prayerful support to his new ministry after retirement. We believe that their is a fruitful ministry for him after his retirement from the episcopacy. God bless his plans, and his family.
Bishop Ciriaco Quintanay Francisco is the new bishop assigned to the Davao Episcopal Area of the Philippine Central Conference of The United Methodist Church for the 2013-2016 quadrennium.
He was elected and consecrated as Bishop of The United Methodist Church during the recent assembly of the Philippine Central Conference of The United Methodist Church held at Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya last December 12-16, 2012.
He was born on July 19, 1952. He is an alumni of Union Theological Seminary-Philippines. He was the Administrative pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Ermita, Manila before his election to the episcopacy.
He will be supervising and presiding over the different annual conferences under the Davao Episcopal Area which are:
1. Mindanao Philippine Annual Conference;
2. East Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference;
3. Northwest Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference;
4. Visayas Philippines annual Conference;
5. Bicol Philippine Provisional Annual Conference.
UNITY: OUR SHARED RESPONSIBILITY
Text: Ephesians 2:1-16
THE EPISCOPAL ADDRESS TO THE 2012 SESSION OF THE
PHILIPPINE CENTRAL CONFERENCE
December 12-16, 2012
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya
Grace to you and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
As I am set to retire this year, let me start by sharing with you my “Faith Journey.”
My Faith Journey
“My faith journey” is no different from the stories of many persons in the bible whom God have called, persons like Moses, Jonah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and many of you. Individuals who doubted, argued and questioned their calling. Theirs was a struggle. Like them, I struggled the first time I heard the call.
Figuratively, I had to be swallowed by a fish, like Jonah, before I could say “Yes” to the call.
When my wife and I were sent to our first church assignment, the Conference passed the hat to raise funds for our fare. We took a boat, whose maximum capacity is 60 people. I estimated, however, that there were almost 150 passengers in that trip. No one met as at the pier. We hired a tricycle that brought us to the church. No one was there. I climbed over the fence, opened the parsonage, and brought in our things. We then went to the market. When Dania was to pay the fish, we noticed that her bag was slashed and all our money was gone. That was how we started our ministry – no one from the church to meet us; no money in our pockets!
The struggle continues. Was I really called?
After serving some local churches, I asked for a study leave for me to pursue my medical studies. The Board of Ordained Ministry was hesitant to grant that leave. Its reason: it feared that if ever I became a physician, I will never go back to the ministry.
But somehow, I was given a chance. While I was at the city studying in a medical school, my wife was assigned in a very faraway town. There she opened a kindergarten class. Her monthly compensation was Ph 120.00. I had four children then, all toddlers. One got sick with whooping cough and had no medicine. The other with measles and almost died.
The struggle continues. Was I really called?
When I became a full-pledged physician my classmates at medical school by this time were now surgeons, internists, pathologists, hospital directors, pediatricians – all receiving no less than ten times of what I was receiving at Ph 10,000.00 a month! They taunt me with the question: “What are you doing, Leo? How can you survive with that salary with four children in college and still rent a house?
The struggle continues. Was l really called?
When someone in his “journey of faith” arrives at the episcopacy, will he continue to doubt the call? Even there, the struggle continues but the doubting now becomes a realization that the episcopacy is not a crowning glory but is a cross to bear.
The episcopacy itself is a journey!
It is not a place where absolute power dwells. Contrary to what many believe, the episcopacy is not full of power. As a bishop I cannot simply dictate what I want to happen. Everything that happens in the Church is by virtue of the actions of the legislative bodies – the General, the Central and the Annual Conferences. Only in appointment making can I make the decision, but even that is not absolute because it is a product of consultation. If I have any other power at all, it is the power of influence that comes from the testimony of my life.
It is a place where I must resist the temptation of letting financial and administrative activities become ends in themselves.
It is a place where I feel like a football, where people love to kick it again and again until it is deflated. But it is also place of inspiration and encouragement when someone appreciates me and says he/she prays for me!
The office of the bishop has always demanded enormous physical strength. Court cases, aside from exhausting the body also drain the mind and spirit.
Being in the episcopacy does not make one holier than a local pastor or a deaconess. Like any other, the bishop must somehow find time to cultivate and preserve his/her own soul.
It could also be a very lonely place. It is where important decisions are made. Many friends would give their advice and opinion. But I must seek not my friends’ desires, not even my own, but God’s will alone. In such moments I literally kneel down in prayer to seek His guidance and forget the friends’ ideas to their consternation! When such moments come, I feel very much alone, with God. A very lonely place to be!
Even in retirement the journey continues. But this journey is not only a personal journey. It is also a corporate one. It is the journey of the church, the body of Christ, where you and I belong through our baptism.
Philippine Central Conference Inter-Agency Summit
The Boards and Agencies of the PCC-UMC took a bold step to conduct a consultation and planning to come up with a common agenda to work with for the next quadrennium. This initiative was done during the Inter-Agency summit held on June 13-16, 2012 at the CCT – Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center, Tagaytay City. Quadrennial performance was assessed and the present structure and functions of PCC Boards and Agencies were revisited. The event made it possible to surface its perennial and challenging pressing issues and needs.
Armed with the tools and resources pooled together by the representatives in five workshop groups, the participants came up with a program aiming to realize a common vision. This piece of work has been made based on a shared vision for the PCC-UMC with vital congregations living out its faith by equipping leaders, ministry with the poor, environmental and social concerns, global health, nurture and discipleship, mission and evangelism. Anchored on the UMC’s quadrennial thrust to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the Coordinating Council, has adapted a four-year program direction which was collectively done by the Boards and Agencies.
This piece of work will be “guideposts” in tracking down our mission. All of us feel that our ministries are wanting. This piece of work by the 2009-2012 Coordinating Council sets the direction of our mission in the next quadrennium. Implementing this program is our common responsibility.
Our Wesleyan Heritage
The torrents of forgetfulness and complacency are drowning the memories of our great Wesleyan tradition. It will be inevitable that the present generation may not be able to recall the strict discipline of our forebears by which they got the name “Methodist.” It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to make that discipline our own not only in memory but in deed. We must hold high the light of lives as a beacon for the youth of today and as a reminder to us – flame to rekindle in our hearts and minds the same zeal and fervour of saving people “from the wrath to come.” This will be the sword and shield against the onslaught of beguiling philosophies and ideologies slowly creeping into the minds of the present generation. We must continue to cultivate our rich Wesleyan heritage, our distinct contribution to the Christian faith.
Evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian responsibility. John Wesley has always emphasized wholistic ministries: body and soul, evangelism and social action.
When we look at the other evangelical and charismatic churches we sometimes wonder why their growth is so rapid. One reason is their religious expression of choice is Pentecostal. And because Pentecostalism is growing, even in the midst of overall declining interest in Christianity as we see happening in the world today, suggests that people are still looking for something. They are crying out the question of old, “Is there a world from the Lord.” And the evidence right now says that the Pentecostals have the answer. They are the ones to whom the people flock. As a United Methodist sometimes I am dumbfounded when I see the growth that is taking place in the Pentecostal/ Charismatic Movement that is not taking place in our churches because the major tenets of Pentecostal Theology and Practice are nothing new to Methodism. Much of what we have come to associate with Pentecostalism was taken part and parcel from the teaching of John Wesley.
The emphasis on Holy Living – - – — – - – - – - — – - – - – - – - – John Wesley
The emphasis on prayer and fasting – - – - – - – - – - – - – - — John Wesley
The development of a spiritual accountability system whereby individuals meet regularly for prayer, bible study, and mutual encouragement – - – - – - John Wesley
The emphasis on missionary zeal – - – - – - – — – - – - – - – - John Wesley
The emphasis on the works of the Spirit – - – - – - – - – - – - John Wesley
The emphasis on sanctification – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – — – - John Wesley
All along it was the Methodist who had the key to real discipleship. It was the Methodist who had the key to church growth. It was he Methodist who knew how to help people experience God in meaningful ways for themselves. It was the Methodist who knew how to live out the dynamic prophetic role that spoke truth to power.
But somehow we became too educated. We became too enlightened. We wanted to be modern and contemporary. We mastered the Book of Discipline. We go to the Judicial Council. We go to civil courts. We blame each other. Our Wesleyan traits are slowly slipping away from us. And while these are happening to us, the Pentecostals are becoming everything that we used to be. They are becoming everything that we stood for.
A predicate of our social creed reads, “God in Spirit, revealed in Jesus Christ, calls us by grace to be renewed in the image of our Creator, that we may be one in divine love for the world.” Our Creed tells us of God’s wants, and God’s will. It commands our acceptance of His desires, and surrender to His will. It elicits our promise to make God’s reign visible in our homes, churches, communities, nations and the world.
“And so shall we.”
The life of Jesus Christ himself who, not only proclaimed the good news but in addition practiced it, as He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended the friendless, raised the dead and gave his life that others may live. Indeed, in John 20:21, He tells us “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” In short, he served because that is the will of his Father, and that is also his will that we do.
“And so shall we.”
The profession of our Christian faith is an oath to do just these. They are in the fields of, but not limited to the following social issues:
*Justice and the rule of Law
*Stewardship of wealth
*Rights of women and children
*Sanctity of the family
*Rights of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities
*Rights to safe and sound environment
- Sendong (one year now); Pablo (last week)
- August floods in Metro Manila
- Landslides in many parts of the country
*Issues on crimes against humanity like extra judicial killings and involuntary disappearances
- Father Fausto “Pops” Tentorio
- Maguindanao massacre (three years)
- Many other church workers
*Plight of O.C.W.s
- Annie Rose, sister of one of our deaconesses, who right now is still in prison in
Dubai, accused of a crime, she did not commit
*Issues on Health
- the case of the 43 health workers who have been illegally detained. I could
have been one of them for I do precisely what they were doing and was with
them before I became bishop
Our evangelistic and prophetic roles have been distracted by our wrangling and quarrels. We are more concerned about issues that divide us rather than that which enable us to pursue our mission. For instance, in an Episcopal forum for prospective bishops one of the questions asked was, “What is your opinion about those who have left the United Methodist church?” If I were to respond to that question I would say, “That does not concern me at the moment. We have a more urgent responsibility to do ….”
- Until the last orphan and widow are no longer in distress ….
- Until the last hungry child is fed ….
- Until the last prisoner has been ministered to …
- Until Malaria and HIV/AIDS have been eradicated …
- Until the needs of the last OCW have been met …
- Until the last victim of human rights violations has been served justice …
- Until the last unsaved person comes kneeling with a contrite heart beneath the cross
of Jesus …
… then I am prepared to talk about that which divide us.”
The plan of God for presenting Jesus to the world depends upon our unity. When we, as the church of Jesus Christ stand divided, we are nothing but a nuisance, a distraction to the world around us, and are powerless. But when we stand as one, we become a transforming presence with power to alter history and change the world.
Paul has defined oneness that Jesus referred to as the reality between him and God when he prayed that we will be one. Paul has defined the oneness that when lived out fully will fullfil the SO THAT of Jesus prayer – “that the world may know that you sent me.” That the world may know the hope, promise, abundance and life that can only be found in Jesus.
When we live the reality of being one with Christ and with one another, it is then that we are at our best sharing what love can do. When we accept fully all that God offers us in Jesus and then allow the attitude of Jesus to own us – we become the church God has called us to be.
Unity is not the absence of disagreement. We must continue to engage in hard conversations as a church. We must continue to wrestle together with how we best live the mission to which we have been called. Unity is not achieved from being uniform in all aspects but rather by the combinations of parts.
But we must do that from our place of reality, the place we have in common – sinners forgiven through the grace of God, sisters and brothers seeking to live into the depths of discipleship with one another and people inviting others to know and experience God’s promise and claim upon their lives. People who orient our lives to Jesus Christ in every moment of every day. It is then that we will experience the true result of unity – an experience of God’s diversity in all it’s fullness and design.
We stand in a tradition with a deep and abiding sense of grace, because our God is rich in mercy. There is …
• God’s prevenient grace: that we are created in the image of God, every one of us, and that sin mars this image but never destroys it.
• God’s justifying grace: that we are saved by grace through faith, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and e kneel there with open hands and hearts to receive the gift – even remembering the language of Paul in Galatians 2.20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
• God’s sanctifying grace: once we have claimed a common dignity toward each other, and once we have embraced a common humility within ourselves, before God, we are moved to continue he journey, towards holiness, perfection, the restoration of the image of God. This holiness, we know, is personal, (not impersonal.) It is social, (not antisocial.)
At our worst we always want to divide the gift, as if we could, as if this were an option to create …
- a personal holiness camp and a social holiness club
- a right wing and a left wing
- a progressive group and a conservative group;
- a group who wants a worldwide church and a group who wants an autonomous church
- two groups of the same local church claiming in court ownership to church property
- two groups of the same local church worshipping one after the other because they cannot worship together
What if the fullness of the gospel is my own personal experience of a grace that saves me and takes me from the old life to the new life (Ephesians 2:8?) What if the fullness of gospel is my inescapable participation (Ephesians 2:14) in the breaking down of the dividing wall of hospitality that separates me from my brother and my sister?
This is more than “let’s just get along.” It is more than tolerance. It is more than inclusivity. It is the fullness of the gospel. It is the fullness of grace. It is the plea we make each time we say the epiclesis:
Make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.
Let us allow the prayer of Jesus to become our reality. “May they be one, SO that the world may know that you set me.” That is our shared responsibility.
On November 30, 2012 there was a National Revival Gathering at the Phil Sport Arena, Pasig City. At least 9,000 United Methodists from all over the country attended this event. It was a “heart warming” experience. It was a Pentecost experience for those who attended.
From 8:00 in the morning ’till 4:00 in the afternoon the participants were engaged in praise and worship; listened to speakers; and watched video clippings. There was a lot of singing provided by a 700 voice unity choir, an accomplished soloist, and the participants themselves. There was much prayer, and prayer, and more prayers! Participants prayed individually and silently. They prayed in groups. They shouted their prayers at the same time. As they raise their voices together it brings an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit hovers all over the place! The music and songs lifted our spirits right into the very presence of God! There was dancing and shouting the name of Jesus! Wounded and broken spirits were RENEWED; Strained relationships RESTORED. We will RELIVE our Wesleyan and Pentecostal traits.
There was revival. We are revived.
Revived. Shout with me, R-E-V-I-V-E-D. R-E-V-I-V-E-D. R-E-V-I-V-E-D.
As a physician elected to the episcopacy, allow me to indulge in my prerogative as a practitioner of the healing arts to guide me in my pronouncements, as I step down as one of the captains of the ship.
Our church right now is suffering from occasions of cynicism, disunity and disharmony. Its capacity to respond to the challenges of the present time is refractory because idiosyncrasies and diverse viewpoints prevail over that which we should be doing as a church. Christianity teaches us to be like Christ – humble and loving. I know that petty differences in opinions and interests will be overshadowed by the mere fact that we all have accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour and heavenly parent. We are all brothers and sisters, and “citizens of heaven.”
I speak of a malignant disease that has evolved into a cancer of intrigues, factionalism, and discord. One need not be a physician to diagnose what ails our church. Friends, you are aware of these problems. The prescription is a bitter pill. One that may be difficult to swallow.
As bishops, we “are called to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the Discipline of the whole church.” I do not propose or boast that the bishops alone possess the ability to cure this malady that has befallen us. The task is a Herculean one – that which cannot be carried on the bishops’ shoulders alone. The affliction confronting our church cannot be left solely to the bishops. It is a shared responsibility of all those who bear the distinction of being called the “children of God,” and therefore, “peacemakers.” The bishops will be needing your assistance and sincere cooperation in this great endeavour. This heavy task laid upon their shoulders will no longer be called a burden if you share the load with them. Coupled with the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s presence that revives all of us, we will become the church again. Each one must paddle his/her own oar, contributing our talents and resources if need be to insure a safe journey towards recovery and healing! That which is beyond our power, God will complete! God will revive us!
“Revive” could yet be the first dose of a therapeutic regimen that would bring healing to our wounded and broken spirits, and restoration to our strained relationships.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we shout Revived, Revived. Revived…
… there is no holding back. With the new captains of the ship, you can now board the M/V United Methodist Church – Philippines, in its voyage into the new quadrennium. Cast off the rope that holds us to the harbor of shortcomings, cynicism, disunity, and fear of the future. We see strong headwinds of our hope unfurl our sails. Together we sail towards a new horizon of faith, expressed in love, and manifested in good works.
Onward, children of God! Sail on!
Bishop Leo Aranda Soriano
Grace to you and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
We have reached the season of Advent. It is the first season in the Church Year and it is also the season that leads up to Christmas season. This is the season of preparation, penitence and expectancy. This season lasting for four weeks is for contemplating the meaning of the coming of Jesus, not only to the world but to every individual’s soul.
This coming could be seen in three ways. First, the coming of the Son of God to the world in human form as the babe in the manger. Second, the coming of Jesus into the lives, hearts and actions of those who accepted him as their savior. And third, the future coming when Jesus will return to all of creation as the sovereign God.
Advent heightens the senses and emotions and sets the stage for the wonder of Christmas. When presented in the proper way, Advent also plants the spiritual seed that grows into an understanding of the reason for this special season. Advent puts Christmas into the proper perspective.
As we prepare for the joyous season, I pray that the meaning of Christmas be made real in our lives. Merry Christmas!
Yours in Christ,
LEO A. SORIANO