Monday, July 25, 2011

Autonomiya o Pagka-Pilipino?

Ang sigaw ng autonomiya sa iglesya metodista sa Pilipinas ay matagal na nating naririnig. Paminsan-minsan, kada apat na taon ay mas lumalakas ang ungol nito. Totoo nga na ito ang bukambibig ng mga layko at Pastor lalo na ang mga gustong maging Obispo kada apat na taon. Ngunit, bakit natin hinihingi ang autonomiya?

Bakit nga natin hinihingi ang autonomiya?

Isa sa mga dahilan ng hiling ng autonomiya ng Metodista sa Pilipinas ay ang struktura ng ating iglesya kung saan naka-concentrate lamang sa Amerika ang kapangyarihan at ang mga proyekto ng pandaigdigang iglesya sa Metodista. Tama nga naman, dapat may representasyon din ang mga Pilipino sa usaping pandaigdigan ng Iglesya Metodista. Bakit, wala ba?

Ang isa pang dahilan ng paghingi ng autonomiya ay ang hindi angkop na mga batas at alituntunin ng Book of Discipline at programa ng General Boards sa konteksto ng Pilipinas. Dapat na tayong magsarili at gumawa ng sarili nating patakaran, alituntunin at mga programa na naaayon sa ating kultura at pangangailangan.

Ang Struktura ng Pinag-isang Iglesya Metodista (UMC) ay base sa ating Theology o pananampalataya at hindi lamang isang political structure.

Ang isiping ang Pinag-isang Iglesya Metodista (UMC) ay isang iglesya ng Amerika at ng mga Amerikano ay pananaw lamang ng isang hindi lubusang nakakaunawa ng istruktura ng ating simbahan. Dahil sa Amerika lumago at doon nabuo ang karamihan ng mga ahensiya ng Iglesya Metodista, kaya doon nakabase ang karamihan ng mga programa at gawain. Isipin mo na lang at ihalintulad sa Iglesya ni Cristo (ni Felix Manalo) na itinatag at lumago sa Pilipinas. Bagama't may mga kapilya ito sa Amerika, ang naging sentro ng kanilang gawaing simbahan ay sa Pilipinas pa rin dahil andito ang karamihan ng kanilang ahensya.

Ang struktura ng Pinag-isang Iglesya Metodista (UMC) na mula pa sa orihinal na konsepto ng mga Wesley ay nabuo dahil sa ating pananampalataya. Ang UMC ay hindi nahahati sa bansa kung saan ito napapaloob sa simpleng kadahilanan na ang ating pagiging Kristiyano ay hindi limitado sa ating pagiging Pilipino, maging sa kasarian, edad o ethnicity. Sabi nga sa Philippians 3:20, "Sapagka't ang ating pagkamamamayan ay sa langit..." (Our citizenship is in heaven). Marami pang theological implikasyon ang ating struktura, tulad halimbawa kung bakit ang mga Obispo, bagama't lider, ay hindi naman sila 'angat' sa ibang mga elder na Pastor. Ang ating pananampalataya rin ang dahilan kung bakit lahat ng obispo ay pantay-pantay at walang iisa lamang na pinuno tulad ng Santo Papa sa Romana Katolika.

Bagama't ang ating istruktura ayu naaayon sa ating mga paniniwala, nagkakaproblema tayo sa pag-angkop nito sa ating lokal na setting. Halimbawa na lamang ang Book of Discipline na karamihan ay hindi angkop sa Pilipinas. Bagama't ito ay totoo, hindi hadlang ang Book of Discipline na gumawa tayo dito sa Pilipinas ng mga bagay na naaayon sa ating kultura, klima at iba pang pangangailangan. Pinapayagan ito ng Book of Discipline ayon sa panuntunan tungkol sa mga Central Conference. Isang magandang halimbawa nitoy ay ang masigla at matagumpay na Kapatiran ng Nagkakaisang Kabataang Metodista sa Pilipinas (UMYFP). Ang istruktura at mga gawain ng UMYFP ay iba sa nakasaad sa Book of Discipline o UMYF sa America. Ang tagumpay ng UMYFP ay patunay na puede nating iangkop ang gawain ng Iglesya ayon sa ating pangangailangan.

Kung gayon, kailangan pa ba ng autonomiya?

Ang mas malayang paggalaw ng mga central conference sa mga gawaing simbahan at iba pang mga bagay na direktang nakakaapekto sa kanila ang isang malaking dahilan ng paghingi ng autonomiya. Ang tawag ng affiliated-autonomy ay isang paraan para makamit ito. Liban sa mas malayang paggalaw, may mga ibang bagay pa na kailangang mabago sa kabuoang istruktura ng UMC. Kabilang dito ang hinihingi na pagtugon sa lumalaking bilang ng mga kumperensya, ahensya at mga programa. Kung may mas magandang solusyon na sasagot sa lahat ng kailangang pagbabago, kabilang na ang autonomiya, ngunit nananatiling tapat sa ating theology at paniniwala, mas mainam siguro ito kaysa affiliated autonomy. Kung ano ito... Abangan...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An open Letter to the people of The United Methodist Church of the Manila Area, Philippines

July 20, 2011

Dear friends in Christ:

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has followed with heavy hearts the struggle within the Manila Area over the last year. We have been in constant prayer for all of you and have sought throughout this time to find a just resolution to the divisions that have occurred.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church, upon election, agree to uphold and abide by The Book of Discipline of the church in all matters. Your former bishop, Lito Tangonan, has continually violated the principles and expectations of a person who is elected to this office. While repeatedly claiming that actions taken by the Philippine College of Bishops were illegal, even though The Book of Discipline and Judicial Council decisions confirmed their actions, he continued to attempt to function as a bishop in clear violation of his suspension. Efforts on the part of the whole Council of Bishops to mediate and achieve a resolution were met with resistance and noncooperation on the part of Lito Tangonan.

The actions of your former bishop, Lito Tangonan, related to the formation of the Methodist Church of the Philippines have now led to a withdrawal of membership in and service in The United Methodist Church. We know that he was present at the May 7, 2011, gathering at Carmen United Methodist Church, in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, that established this independent church. We also know and have evidence that he has presided at a session of the Methodist Church of the Philippines, and has appointed pastors to these dissident churches. Therefore, his involvement with this schismatic church, in accordance with Judicial Council Decision 696, means that he can no longer be treated as a bishop of The United Methodist Church. His participation and leadership in this break-away church is tantamount to withdrawing without notice. In essence, he has forfeited his membership and position as a bishop.

In response to this unfortunate sequence of events, the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, acting on behalf of the Council of Bishops has declared that the position of Bishop of the Manila Area of The United Methodist Church has been vacated by Lito Tangonan’s actions. In accordance with Paragraph 407 of The Book of Discipline, Bishop Daniel Arichea has now been assigned to serve as interim bishop of the Manila Area until the election of a new bishop is held at the regular session of the Philippine Central Conference in 2012.

All of this reflects the disciplinary reasons for the current situation in your Area. The bishops of the United Methodist Church encourage you to be faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. With you, we seek the unity of Christ’s Church. Such unity is often difficult to affirm in the midst of human differences. However, your spiritual history gives evident testimony of your zeal for bringing others to Christ, and we are assured that this will continue to be the mark of your own discipleship. Whatever disagreements may exist among those in the church, let us together struggle to fulfill the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “for he (Christ Jesus) is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

John Wesley, in his Sermon on the catholic spirit, called for unity among the people called Methodist by quoting King David’s words in II Kings 10:15, “If your heart is as my heart, then take my hand.” These words are a summons to all of us in the United Methodist Church to let our hearts and hands be together, even when our minds may be divided over issues in the life of the church.

We trust that the United Methodist people in the Manila Area, in the care of the bishop appointed over you, may find the way forward that will strengthen the mission of Christ and the witness of the United Methodist Church.

Copies e-mailed to:

Philippine College of Bishops
Judicial Council
Council of Bishops

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Heart Breaker

My wife asked me if I am affected by the current crisis in the United Methodist Church in the Philippines. I said, " I am affected because I am saddened with how it affects and destroys the church and the innocent people." No Christian in his/her right mind would enjoy the crisis in the church that has been dragging on for months now.

One only needs to look and read in the Facebook page of Pinoy Metodista to see the picture of a broken church. People throwing mud at each other. Reminds me of the woman and the crowd who wants to stone her to death. When the crowd was challenged that whosoever who has no sin cast the first stone, no one dared. I thought, if that challenged was uttered today, the poor woman may have died in just a few seconds. (Considering there are too many self-righteous Methodist Christians today)

The never ending Open Letters from different parties has now become an exciting drama that thrills the spectators of the next scene. We now await for another Open Letter response. I can only pray that there will be a good ending for this sad story.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why Celebrate a Birthday?

Today is my wife's birthday. We celebrated it by spending the whole day in a place that rejuvenates the body. A place where there is plenty of life giving water. We went to a place where we can celebrate life. I thank God for the gift of life that she gave to my wife. She has been a blessing not only to me but also to her family, her friends and to countless other people. If only for that, there is more than enough reasons why her birthday should be a big celebration.

I have always wondered why some people do not celebrate their birthdays. I often asked them if they ever understand the meaning of celebration... if they ever appreciate their life... if they were grateful to God for the gifts they received. I guess too many people take for granted the precious gift that God gave them. If only for that reason, then that is enough to celebrate birthdays.

Life is a precious gift. God gave his only begotten Son, to die on the cross, that each one of us may have life. Life itself is a reason for celebration. You may say, that is spiritual life. The birth of a person may seem to be a biological life different from the spiritual life. (Again, the dichotomy.) The life at birth and the life offered in the cross was given as a gift from God at the moment of inception. We may choose to throw away this gift but it will remain precious to God.

If only we can learn to see from God's perspective how precious our lives are, then everyday, we have a reason to celebrate... to celebrate Birthdays.