THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
PHILIPPINES CENTRAL CONFERENCE
Davao Episcopal Area
Leo A. Soriano Francisco B. Bilog
Resident Bishop Administrative Assistant
In Memoriam . . .
Grace to you and peace from our lord Jesus Christ!
The quadrennium is ending and this is our last Annual Conference. We could not deny that, even though, we experienced conflicts, troubles, had fears, doubts, and sufferings this quadrennium we have been sustained by God’ grace that enabled us to meet again as an Annual Conference. It is therefore in the spirit of gratitude and praise, coupled with hope and deepening of faith that we assemble here today for the 2012 session of our Annual Conference.
Some of those doubts, fears and sufferings were brought about by natural calamities which hit the country particularly in our Episcopal Area.
During the early morning of Thursday, December 15, the Philippine Weather Bureau forecasted a low pressure from the Pacific Ocean. Late evening of the same day, Pag-asa announced that the low pressure has turned into a tropical storm giving its name “Sendong” and forecasted that it will land in Davao Oriental and passes through Agusan Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis provinces and Zamboanga del Norte. Pag-asa issued a signal number 1 for typhoon Sendong and warned of heavy rains on the affected provinces.
Typhoon Sendong brought heavy rains on its tracks starting late evening of Thursday, Dec. 15, and continued the whole day of Friday, Dec. 16. At 1:00 o’clock in the early morning of Saturday, Dec. 17, the heavy rains, strong winds, and rushing water from the mountains and higher grounds flooded both cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Water rose to more than 10 feet within minutes especially along the riverside, or coastal and low lying areas.
Flash floods in some places rose to as high as 30 feet. The flood carried with it big logs from the mountains. The logs hit houses, demolishing not only light material houses but concrete ones, too. Several villages were literally washed out, especially communities at the bank of the river. There were 9,193 houses totally destroyed, 18,873 houses partially damaged with a total of 28,030 houses destroyed and damaged. Thirty six thousand families were affected, more than 500 thousand individuals, 1,200 were accounted dead, 1,603 injured, and close to 800 still missing. In both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities 45,000 displaced persons are in evacuation centers, while 266,000 persons stays outside temporary shelters, with a total of 311,000 persons being assisted daily. The cities severely hit were Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Debris from houses, buildings and other structures that had been destroyed was all sweep out to the sea, leaving huge areas devoid of all traces of habitation. It was also noted that for the first time in the history of Mindanao, an appeal was made urgently for casket and body bags as a priority in the relief needs. For the days that followed, in many places, there was no drinking water. Disease in evacuation centers also became a problem. Many were affected with Leptospirosis and some of them died.
We have a United Methodist presence in both cities. Twenty United Methodist families in Cagayan de Oro City were affected. Two houses were completely washed out. The homes of the others were submerged in the floods and damaged. At the height of the flood our members have to climb to their roof tops to avoid being drowned. In Iligan City 10 United Methodist homes were affected and one whole family drowned: father, mother 2 children, together with a relative and a helper.
There were other places too, that were affected but were not highlighted by the media. We have a record of reported deaths from the following places affected by typhoon Sendong: Bukidnon province 77, in Negros Oriental and Dumaguete city 44 persons, Compostela Valley 5 persons, Lanao del Sur 4 persons and in Zamboanga del Norte 3 persons.
In Sta Cruz, (Misamis Oriental) where our church is beside the sea and the where Christmas Institute was being held, the activity was aborted because the sea water rose to hide tide. Logs floated, 4 dead human bodies were seen floating and there were cows and other animals, too, that drowned. In San Francisco (Agusan Sur) the Christmas Institute was also aborted because water rose up to the waist line as session was going on. In Vintar (Bukidnon) the Christmas Institute continued in spite of the flood that went in the church. The Visayas, particularly Dumaguete City, was also severely affected.
While those affected by Sendong were still recovering from shock and trauma, another calamity took place. An earthquake with an intensity of 6.9 on the Richter Scale on February 6 hit the Visayas, particularly the Islands of Negros and Cebu.
None of our members were casualties but our church buildings were affected. Altar cross fell, walls collapsed, floors cracked, ceiling fell. Hardest hit was the Church in Jimalalud.
A team from Asuncion Perez went to Jimalalud. They distributed relief goods. Funds from the Episcopal Areas of Bishop Juan and Bishop Arichea were given to help in the repairs of the damages.
We want to express our deep gratitude to those who showed their concern and love at the height of the disasters. Many individuals took initiative in this endeavour: District Superintendents, pastors, deaconesses, lay leaders, and bishops. Local churches and various organizations, religious and otherwise, both locally and from afar, got involved. The list would be long. They prayed. They visited the affected areas. They talked to the survivors. They organized disaster response committees. They gathered and distributed relief goods. They raised funds. These deeds are an expression of faith manifested in love. We thank God for these things. “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”
AREAS OF FOCUS
In spite of all these, we continue our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our activities are an indication that our churches are full of vitality.
Last October Mindanao Central District through its Board of Church and Society sponsored a “Sayaw Awit.” This was a celebration for a good harvest. It started with a parade around the town and continued in a gymnasium for a worship service and a program. There were songs, dances, and speeches that focused on the hopes and aspirations of the farmers.
Similar events took place in some local churches as they celebrated a “Harvest Festival.” The bishop in his Episcopal visits was able to attend celebrations in: Manikling, Banaybanay, Isulan, Lambayong; while Rev. F. Bilog also spoke at the Harvest Festivals at Bannawag, Kalilangan and Bulacanon churches.
Festival of Faith
There was a celebration of Festival of Faith” all over. The bishop was able to attend some of them.
Mindanao Central District: Midsayap, North Cotabato
Bukidnon District: Laguitas, Malaybalay
North District-EMPAC: San Francisco, Agusan Sur
Mindanao South District: San Emmanuel, Tacurong
Leap of Faith
The “Leap of Faith” was celebrated to be an avenue of Christ’s believers to gather and celebrate the greatness of Christ to everyone’s lives. The “Leap of Faith” activity was suggested Mr. & Mrs. Paul Ryamn Ferrer who was at that time in Oslo, Norway and has experienced an abundant life because since they followed Jesus Christ. They believed that everything you have, is not yours to keep, but it’s for you to share.
The “Leap of Faith” was conducted last November 5, 2011 and spearheaded by the Alegria United Methodist Church, San Francisco, Agusan Sur. It has two parts. The first part was the spiritual encounter facilitated by the board of discipleship led by Rev. Janeth L. Rufino with Rev. Hector Guzman as the resource speaker attended by the United Methodist Church Members from Alegria, San Francisco, Patin-ay, San Andres, Wasian, Anuling, and del Monte. The second part was an evangelistic service where the Rev. Kevin Nebran preached a powerful gospel message with the support of the singing band of Bihsop Hand theological Seminary and the Central United Methodist Church. Estimated attendance is more or less 500 participants coming from the United Methodist Churches – Alegria, San Francisco, Patin-ay, San Andres, Wasian, Anuling, and del Monte and the members of the different ecumenical churches – Free Methodist Church, Jesus is Lord, UCCP, Assembly of God, Four Square Gospel Church and others.
One of the highlights of the event were the testimonies of brothers and sisters whose lives was totally changed when they offered their themselves to God.
It was an excellent opportunity for Christ’s believers to renew their faith or even make a great leap in their faith. It was also a way to fellowship with fellow believers whose purpose is to serve God.
Developing Christian Leaders
Christmas Institutes, a youth gathering during the Christmas season normally take place in every district from December 26 to December 30. Davao Area has 14 districts. It is physically impossible, due to our geographical situation, to visit all Districts during these gatherings.
The visit in West Visayas District actually took place before the institute began. It was a visit to the district Lay Leaders, Youth Officers, District Superintendent in Iloilo City to help prepare for the event.
That which was scheduled in Cagayan de Oro City for MOLDEN District was cancelled due to the calamity that hit the city as a result of Typhoon Sendong. We proceeded to Vintar in Bukidnon and arrived there just before midnight (11:45 p.m.) but the youth were still in the church having “Fun and Talents’ Night.” After a few hours, early dawn, flood waters entered the church.
East-Mindanao South District held its CI in an inland resort in Bansalan, Davao Sur. North District held theirs in San Francisco , Agusan Sur. The activity was aborted as flood waters continued to rise in the midst of the activities. CIs in Mindanao Conference were held at local churches: Central District was in Gayonga, Kabuntalan, Maguindanao. Central-East District was in M’lang, North Cotabato and South District was in Marbel, South Cotabato. Zamboanga Peninusula District was in Ssta. Cruz, Plaridel, Misamis Occidental.
The Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) remains to be the most active, powerful and alive organization. MinPAC-WSCS Execom held a seminar-retreat in Lake Sebu on March 17-18. They report that they have fully paid their apportionment for the Conference year.
The UMMO is also active. They want to hold joint gatherings with the WSCS. In EMPAC, their Annual Conference was held at the same time and the same place on January 21. In MindPAC a joint celebration together with the WSCS and Youth was held Midsayap.
The Elders’ Order of MindPAC had a Continuing Education on February 27-28 in Palumbe.
Bishop Han Theological Seminary Graduation
The Bishop Han Theological Seminary in Laguitas, Malaybalay, Bukidnon held their first Master of Divinity Degree program graduation last March 20, 2012. The graduates are the following, from EMPAC: Josephine Abilar, Jerson Sango and Joel Sarmiento; from MinPAC: Marcelino Juayang, Richard Romero, Jezreel Saceda- Cum Laude; from Northwest Philippine Annual Conference: Grace Baoas and Rodel Hipolito.
The Rev. Dr. Pedro M. Torio III, the District Superintendent of NWPAC, spoke during the Baccalaureate Service, while Rev. Dr. Mariano Apilado, President of UCCP Union College in La Union was the guest speaker during the graduation ceremony. Dr. Anselmo Lupdag also came to present the accreditation of the Philippine Central Conference University Senate on the Master of Divinity degree program of BHTS. This accreditation also includes the recognition that the BHTS is an affiliate UMC institution in the Philippines.
BHTS. is expecting to accept 15 for the Master of Divinity degree program this coming school year. Scholarship are available to qualified applicants from the United Methodist Church. Enrolment Period: May 28-June 8, 2012. Regular Classes start: June 11, 2012.
Southern Philippines Methodist College.
SPMC held its 15th graduation on March 23 with baccalaureate in the morning and commencement in the afternoon at a nearby city gymnasium. This year 243 completed the Certificate for 21 units in Early Childhood Education. Teachers aspiring to teach in kindergarten can be qualified by taking the 21 units SPMC offers.
This year we had two who earned the honor of magna cum laude – both were Bachelor of Elementary Education students, Eunice Grace Domingo and Bernadette Louise D. Pacia.
The graduates included 4 Bachelor in Elementary Education, general major, and 2 preschool major, and 29 theology graduates.
All of the theology students will be appointed by the Bishop during annual conferences in May to serve in local churches. This year was a transition year for our deaconess students from the four year course to the five year course so there were no graduates.
The Rev. Melissa Maher, pastor of Chapelwood UMC, Texas, USA and one of the Volunteers in Mission at SPMC was the guest speaker during the graduation last March 23, 2012.
Mindanao Methodist Bible School
Our Mindanao Methodist Bible School who trains pastors and recruits student for Bachelors degree scholarship under the Lay Leadership program of the Rev. & Mrs. Choi Yong Hee graduated 11 students who completed the Certificate of Christian Leadership last March 21, 2012. The senior Pastor of the Anyang Global Methodist Church in South Korea who sponsors the MMBS and Lay Leadership Program, the Rev. Dr. Rim, YongTack, preached during the graduation service.
The eleven graduates will now enrol at the University of South Eastern Philippines to take up a Bachelors degree or a vocational course under the sponsorship of the Rev. Choi, Yong Hee and his sponsoring church in South Korea.
The Director of MMBS, the Rev. Janeth L. Rufino, has announce that they are now accepting a minimum of 10 applicants for the Certificate of Christian Leadership this coming school year.
New Church Start and Reviving Local Congregations
Tupi, South Cotabato
In Tupi, South Cotabato, Grace UMC for sometime appeared to be a dead church. For sometime there was no activity and the church building is dilapidated. Starting this year, when Central UMC in General Santos took the challenge to revive it, worship service now continues. In any given Sunday, no less than 30 persons are now back in worship. The church building is being renovated. Four new pews made of hard wood have been added.
Bindoy, Negros Oriental
In Bindoy, Negros Oriental two new church buildings have dedicated. One is in Barangay, Matubato which was dedicated on January 25. The other was in Barangay Canluto which was inaugurated last February 21. The construction of these buildings was made possible through gifts of our Korean friends (individuals) who shared part of their financial blessings.
Since we organized the local church in Tacloban City, Leyte, some seven years ago, the congregation has worshipped in many different places. At present our members worship in a house church where the pastor also lives. It is a small house where an average of 35 people worship every Sunday. Last January I met a pastor of one local church in Maryland, whose family roots comes from Leyte. After discussing with her the mission work in Leyte the pastor immediately gave a substantial amount, which became part of a down payment for a lot we are purchasing for a future church building. The lot where the future church will rise is immediately opposite (across the street) the new Medical Center (Tacloban doctor’s Hospital).
The lot has already been visited by prospective partners to build the church.
Garden Island City of Samal
The Youngwoollim World Mission Society Inc. through its chairperson, the Rev. Young Sun Choi, a Korean Missionary working in Samal Island, Davao del Norte, offered to donate to the East Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church Inc. two church lots consisting of 1366 square meters with two church buildings having a total floor area of 247.5 square meters in Samal Island, namely “Samal Methodist Church and Grace Methodist Church.”
The Bishop together with the Rev. Reuel Miguel (District Superintendent) and Rev. Francisco Bilog (Administrative Assistant) had an ocular visit on the intended donation and found it a very good place for church mission. We have recommended for the acceptance of the donation, the papers of the donation, is now being processed by the lawyer hired by the Rev. Young Sun Choi.
The team of 10 persons from the California Pacific Filipino Caucus arrived in Dagumbaan last March 3, and worked for one week for the completion of the construction of the Dagumbaan United Methodist Church. The coming of the team is an on-going program of Volunteer in Mission from our partner United Methodist churches in the USA. They contributed $10,000 for the completion of the church and came personally to work one week which concluded during inauguration service for the church building. The local pastor commented, we “experienced one of the best expression of our “connectionalism” in The United Methodist Church.
The church building of the Compostela UMC is nearly completed. We must remember that the construction of the church was first sponsored by the First United Methodist Church in Davao City, then last year the VIM team from Texas United Methodist churches came to work for one week and contributed money for the materials but the construction was not completed. The Chapelwood VIM team from the Texas Conference was able to raise $8,571 for the completion of the church building.
Valencia City, Bukidnon
A new church building has been built in Valencia City, Bukidnon. The congregation started worshipping there since September last year.
Victory United Methodist Church
A new church building of Victory United Methodist in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur was inaugurated last Feb. 7, 2012. The new church building of this church started as a local initiative project and supported by the local church members but due to lack of funds construction was very slow. The Rev. Choi, Yong Hee, a south Korean Missionary and Associate members of the East MIndanao Philippines annual Conference offered to help in the construction. The construction then that completed the building was sponsored by Senior Deacon, Mr. Byun, Jae Byung, a member of the Sihwa Emmanuel Methodist Church, Sihwa City, South Korea under the leadership of the Senior Pastor, the Rev. Kim, Ju Young.
The only United Methodist Church in Bohol, which is located in Sagbayan Sur, is one of the fastest growing church in the Eastern Visayas District. There was a significant increase in the church membership, the church building was refurbished, and improved like new building. They have increased their pastor’s support to Ph. 3,500 with 13 month plus travel expenses. Their stewardship giving was very significantly increased, manifested as example their February income amounted to Php. 23,467.00. This conference year as of February 2012 their total income is Php. 107,913.60.
Health and Poverty
We have regular medical and dental clinic. The latest were done in Negros Oriental.
February 17 – Siaton
February 18 – San Jose
February 19 – Valencia
February 20 – Zamboanguita
February 21 – Canluto
There was a lecture on “Theology and Medicine, the Concrete Manifestation of Holistic Salvation.” This lecture is based on John Wesley’s concept of Holistic Medicine. It is also the theological basis of our Community Based Primary Health Care Program. The lecture was prepared and delivered by Rev. Neki Soriano, M.D. at Bishop Han Theological Seminary on March 3.
We have a ministry that caters to the needs of indigenous children. One component of the program is to teach pre-schoolers. Last March 23 in Tacul, Magsaysay, Davao Sur thirty eight children graduated from pre-school.
General Conference Decisions
The General Conference 2012 which met in Tampa Florida USA just concluded, and the following are some of the approved petitions which have bearing in the life of our church are the following:
Preamble to the Social Principle
Delegates affirmed the preamble to the Social Principles which affirms “our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel.” “We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all — that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Restructuring the General Agencies
The General Conference approved a new church structure of the UMC by reconfiguring the general agencies and downsized their boards.
The plan establishes a General Council for Strategy and Oversight that will oversee the work of The United Methodist Church’s four program agencies — the Boards of Discipleship, Global Ministries, Church and Society, and Higher Education and Ministry. Those agencies would still have their own boards but be accountable to the general council.
• The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History becomes a committee within the General Council on Finance and Administration.
• The church-wide Commissions on Religion and Race and Commission on the Status and Role of Women will be combined into a United Methodist Committee of Inclusiveness that reports to the General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
• The General Council for Finance and Administration remains separate and collaborates on budget matters with the General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
• The Board of Pension and Health Benefits, the United Methodist Publishing House, United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women also are separate agencies amenable to General Conference.
• United Methodist Communications (which includes United Methodist News Service) is in the same position it is now — answering to General Conference, but its budget would be determined in consultation with the General Council on Finance and Administration and General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
• The plan reduces the number of agency board members from 669 to 308.
The new general council, with 34 voting members and 11 nonvoting advisers, replaces the Connectional Table that since 2004 has coordinated the denomination’s resources, mission and ministry. The new body will elect an executive general secretary, who cannot be a bishop, to coordinate the work of the top executives of other agencies.
The Judicial Council, however, unanimously declared during the closing hours of the General Conference that this newly approved restructure plan for the church is unconstitutional. The establishment of the General Council for Strategy and Oversight in the approved structure intrudes into the constitutional authority of the Council of Bishops for general oversight of the denomination, and also creates an overlapping authority between the two bodies.
The restructure plan also “unconstitutionally delegates” the General Conference’s authority for distributing funds to the General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
This means that the church structure approved by the General conference 2008 remain intact.
Philippine Central Conference Theological Education Fund
In another action, the General Conference approved the creation of a Central Conference Theological Education Fund, with the amount of $5 million in funding coming from the World Service Fund, to assist with clergy training in central conferences. Central conferences are located in several areas of Africa, the Philippines, and continental Europe and Eurasia. .
World Wide Nature of the Church
The creation of a new global Book of Discipline was approved by making clear which parts of the book of church law can be adapted by Central Conferences outside the United States and which are not open to adaptation.
The action approving the global Book of Discipline concept lists the sections of the current Book of Discipline that cannot be adapted by Central Conferences. .
The list includes the first four parts of the Discipline: the Constitution, Doctrinal Standard and Our theological Task, the Ministry to All Christians, and the Social Principles. That makes these areas binding worldwide.
A “Covenant for a Worldwide United Methodist Church” will be placed in the denomination’s upcoming new Book of Discipline. It includes a litany that can be used in gatherings to help build greater mutual respect and understanding among various geographic regions of the church. It begins with the words “United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission.”
Incidental to the approval of a global book of discipline is the approval of a petition enabling central conferences to make changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, with some exceptions. They are not allowed, however, to change the Constitution, Doctrinal Standard and Our theological Task, the Ministry to All Christians, and the Social Principles. These areas of the UMC Book of Discipline is binding worldwide. This implies that central conferences have the privilege and mandate to make their own book of discipline that is effective in their our own context and mission. .
Women’s Division Became Autononmous
The General Conference voted to make the United Methodist Women an autonomous agency. Previously, the Women’s Division was part of the General Board of Global Ministries. Such action of the General Conference is an affirmation of the effective result of the mission work of the women of the church.
Criteria in the Creation of Episcopal Areas.
A criteria proposed by the Standing Committee on Central Conference, to assist in considering the proposals for new episcopal areas has been approved. Factors to weigh in addition to membership include the number of congregations and active clergy, geography, and church structure in the region.
Clergy Judicial Trial Process
Approved a revised judicial trial process for clergy that removes the Committee on Investigation step. Delegates also called for open trials unless the presiding officer decides the trial should be closed. The trial itself is unchanged.
The General Conference voted down a proposal that would have allowed clergy to be eligible for ordination as elders and deacons as soon as they complete their educational requirements and after serving a minimum of two years as a provisional elder or deacon.
If our Philippine Central Conference makes her own Book of Discipline, ordination for local pastors maybe included, since we are not prohibited to do so. But in the absence of a Book of Discipline of the Philippine Central Conference we are obliged to follow the global book of discipline.
Guaranteed appointments, a long-standing tradition within The United Methodist Church, were legislated out of existence.
Guaranteed appointment, a term that many point out does not officially exist in United Methodist legislation, refers to a tenure-type agreement that promises full time pastoral employment to ordained elders. The practice was instituted in 1956 as a way to protect female and minority clergy, who some churches might have been reluctant to accept as pastor.
Under this new legislation, bishops and cabinets will be allowed to give elders less than fulltime appointment. The legislation also would permit bishops and their cabinets, with the approval of their boards of ordained ministry and annual (regional) conference’s executive session, to put elders on unpaid transitional leave for up to 24 months. Clergy on transitional leave would be able to participate in their conference health program through their own contributions.
Under the legislation, each annual conference is asked to name a task force to develop a list of criteria to guide the cabinets and bishops when an elder’s effectiveness in full time appointment is being questioned and as they make missional appointments.
The cabinets shall report to the executive committees of Board of Ordained Ministry the number of clergy without fulltime appointments and their age, gender and ethnicity. Cabinets also will be asked to report their learnings as appointment-making is conducted in a new way.
This means then that when this provision is implemented clergy elders in full membership of the annual conference attends the annual assembly without a guarantee of an appointment.
This action of ending the practice of guaranteed appointment was referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on its constitutionality. The Judicial Council will take it up during their Fall 2012 meeting.
New Churches In full Communion with UMC
General Conference celebrated the decision to enter into full communion with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. The denominations, which already cooperate on issues such as children and poverty, will now have an opportunity to pursue a broader mission agenda together.
As we end the quadrennium, we move forward into the next. Our journey into the future is no different from those who started the work in our Area. We have to increase our faith to revitalize our churches as we sail into the uncharted waters of the approaching quadrennia. For those of us who have courage to take this venture, we can never return to the way things were. We cannot afford to wallow in the status quo. The church will never be the same again. As we move towards that change, the journey will not be easy.
In spite of all these, let us be inspired by Wesleys’s famous qoute, “the best of all is, God is with us.”
Yours in Christ,
Leo A. Soriano
Davao United Methodist Mission Center
104 C.M. Recto St. Davao City, Philippines 8000
Tel. No. (063-82) 222-4474